Stag’s Horn Sumac is a popular shrub because of its brilliant autumn colour. It can be an effective landscaping shrub that can grow into a tree as it matures. It received the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 2002.
Native to a wide swath of eastern and central North America, Rhus typhina has been grown in British gardens for 350 years. Rhus typhina is a tough shrub that grows abundantly in the wild, and it can bring that same toughness to your own landscape. Almost immune to pests and diseases, it provides year-round interest through its foliage and structure. It gets its common name stag’s horn sumac from the velvety covering on the branches.
Each spring, Rhus typhina produces yellow-green spikes of flowers amongst its bright-green compound leaves. In summer, the flowers mature to conical rusty red fruits which persist throughout the winter, adding visual interest. The leaves turn a brilliant red in the autumn, making it a stand-out element in the late-season landscape.
Stag’s horn sumac is fully hardy in the United Kingdom and is a tough plant that will survive in almost any conditions. Over a period of 10 to 20 years it will grow from a shrub into a small tree with a height and spread of from 4 to 8 metres. It prefers moist but well-drained soil of any sort, and will tolerate any soil ph. It grows best in full sun. It will tolerate salt and wind, which makes it a good choice for coastal locations (see more plants for Windy Coastal areas).
Rhus typhina must be located with care because it can spread by suckering, as well as by self-seeding. One effective way to contain it is to use it in a paved courtyard. If you place your stag’s horn sumac as an accent shrub or tree in your lawn, regular mowing will control the suckers effectively. If you do plant Rhus typhina in a mixed border, be prepared to have to remove suckers every winter to keep it within bounds. It is an excellent choice for an exposed hillside for erosion control, where it can spread without interfering with other plants and provide a late-season show of magnificent colour.
Rhus typhina makes a great addition to your landscape, with its interesting architectural shape and brilliant autumn colour!