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Use caution when planting Tiger Eyes® Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac

This is not a plant for small space gardeners
This is not a plant for small space gardeners
Viridis Garden Coaching

First Editions® Tiger Eyes® Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger') lures the buyer in with its bright chartreuse and dissected foliage, stately form and velvety, young branches. It is easy to grow, adapted to many types of soil, except poorly drained. Furthermore, its fall color ranges from clear yellow to fiery orangey-red. Overall, it is a three-season plant with some excellent ornamental qualities. Simply, it is a beautiful plant.

Ms. Ellis of Berwyn thought so when she rescued a misshapen, discounted plant about five years back. Meant to replace a Japanese Maple, she loved the foliage, especially. She received compliments and inquiries from all visitors to her garden. This happy relationship went on for about three years. Then she started noticing it in other parts of her garden. This was not too much of a bother as she simply pruned the growth off slightly under the soil. Next, plants started popping up in the lawn. Well, she thought, the mowers will get it. However, when it snaked under the fence and sent a healthy runner (i.e., slender shoots that root) into the neighboring yard, the happy relationship ended. This was the final …well, runner. Upon closer inspection in fact, there were runners all over the place! This is just another example of why it is always important to research plants before placing them for long-term garden or landscape solutions.

The straight species of this plant, Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), naturalizes to form large colonies. It appears the same is true for the Tiger Eyes® cultivar. Small space gardeners should use extreme caution when planting this shrub. It may stay tidy and neat for up to three years or so, but will surely send out underground runners at some point in time.

According to Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, 'considerable thought should go into proper siting.' His suggestions for use are in mass plantings or river and stream banks, where it can naturally colonize. Avoid using Tiger Eyes® Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac as a specimen (or stand-alone plant), or foundation plant.

As far as Ms. Ellis’ plant? She tore it out in favor of another Japanese Maple.


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