Liquid amber tree is a highly appreciated ornamental cultivar, characterized by attractive fall foliage, sweet sap, and prickly seedpods. You can include it as a specimen tree or in the garden border to protect your privacy.
As the name signifies, liquid amber is remarkable for its sweet tasting resinous sap. Hence, it is also commonly known as American sweet gum tree. Its leaves are very much similar to maple leaves, in terms of their shape and fall foliage color. Also, both these trees are adapted to similar growing conditions. These often confuse homeowners while including landscaping trees in the yard. With close examination, you can surely differentiate a liquid amber from a maple tree.
This tree has its origin in Mexico, Eastern America, and Central America. Today, this cone-shaped tree has become a popular choice for formal landscape designs. Known scientifically by the name Liquidambar styraciflua, it is a deciduous tree that sheds its foliage during the winter months. The leaves turn brilliant yellow, orange, and purplish red before they shed, thus adding color to the winter garden. The following information will help you understand the requirements for growing sweet gum tree.
|Planting Zones||USDA zones 5 through 8 (or 9)|
|Tree Type||Ornamental, deciduous tree|
|Planting side||Full sun to partial shade|
|Propagation Mode||Seeds, grafting, and tree saplings|
|Ideal Soil||Moist, well-drained, fertile soil|
|Preferred Soil pH||Both acidic and alkaline soil|
|Humidity Range||Medium humidity|
|Irrigation||Moderate (depends on the season)|
|Flower shade||Yellow, green (Chartreuse)|
|Blooming Period||Mid spring|
|Growth Rate||Slow in the initial stages|
At maturity, the size of a liquid amber is about 15 m in height, with an average spread of 8 m. Some cultivars are evergreen types, and do not show fall foliage. Hence, if you are growing liquid amber just for the sake of adding color to your garden in winter, make it a point to check whether the winter temperatures in your area are favorable for this tree. Another concern with this ornamental tree is the spiked fruits (gumballs), which take a long time for decaying. So, if you are planting it in a traffic area, select seedless varieties of this tree.
The color of the serrated leaves is rich green during active growth season. They are arranged in alternate fashion. Each individual leaf has five pointed lobes that are arranged in a star-shaped pattern. The foliage is thick, glossy, and leathery, which is not the case with maple leaves.
Even though this deciduous tree has a narrow profile, do not make the mistake of planting it in a limited space, as the deep roots may break and penetrate cement foundation in the vicinity. Decide the planting location properly so that you won’t face any problems several years later when the tree reaches maturity.
For this flowering plant, the seeds are borne in capsules, known as gumballs. They are hard, round in shape, and prickly to the touch. The green capsules turn brownish as they mature, which indicates ripe stage. Liquid amber can be propagated successfully from viable seeds, but the germination time is very long (about two years), after which you need to transplant the seedlings to the selected location.
For growing this tree from seeds, sow viable seeds from a mature pod after frosting is over in your area. If you are not using seeds, select healthy grafted trees or seed-generated saplings that are about 7 feet in height. Choose a sunny location and prepare the planting soil as mentioned above. Dig a planting hole, large enough to accommodate the root ball. Place it gently without damaging fragile roots, and backfill the soil.
Care for liquid amber requires staking the young tree sapling for support, and watering it regularly to promote quick growth of roots. Watering amount depends on the prevailing environmental conditions. Generally, the growth rate of liquid amber is medium to fast. However, it hardly increases in height for the first two years after plantation.
Watch for signs of disease in a liquid amber, particularly leaf scorch and canker disease. The former causes brown coloration of affected foliage, while the latter affects the tree trunk, causing sunken spots and oozing of sap. If such signs are exhibited, follow cultural practices to contain disease as soon as possible.