S & J Nursery's guide to growing
in the Northeast Florida Landscape
( Liquidambar styraciflua )
Sweetgum Tree / Liquidambar styraciflua Origins:
- Native to North America, Florida and much of the southern portions of the
Sweetgum / Liquidambar styraciflua Preferred Exposure:
- Sweet gum trees can be grown in a full sun to partial shade location of
the Northeast Florida landscape.
Foliage | Bark of the Sweetgum / Liquidambar styraciflua:
- Deciduous foliage of the Sweetgum tree tends to hold its foliage late
into fall and winter. Branches have an alternate leaf pattern with palmate leaf venation and 4 - 7.5 inch
star shaped leaves that are a glossy deep green on the surface. Fall color can vary by selection from
red to orange yellow and even shades of purple.
- Bark on the sweetgum tree is smooth when young and a grayish brown
color but will age over the years and develop a deeply ridged trunk.
- Little pruning is needed as the sweetgum tree tends to grow with a single
trunk and develops a strong central leader with little to no guidance from the grower. Strong branches are
resistant to breakage.
Soil Preference / Salt tolerance of the Sweetgum ( liquidambar
- Tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and a wide PH tolerance including
slightly alkaline. Great to plant into areas that tend to be exposed to prolonged flooding, but also easily
grows in drier landscape settings.
- Moderate salt tolerance.
Sweetgum / Liquidambar styraciflua Size Variance:
- Sweetgum trees are usually found in the Northeast Florida landscapes at
sizes of 60-75+ feet H | 35-50+ feet W
- Upright narrow almost a Christmas tree shape when younger, taller than it is
wide but spreading out to eventually form a more rounded or oval canopy with age.
Growth Rate of the Sweetgum / Liquidambar styraciflua:
- Moderately fast growing, expect Sweet gum trees to grow a foot or more each
season when planted into drier areas of the Jacksonville and St Augustine landscape. 2-3 feet of
growth each year can be expected in wetter areas of the Northeast Florida landcapes.
Blooms on the Sweetgum / Liquidambar styraciflua:
- Yellow/ green inconspicuous flowers are not showy and add no
esthetic interest to the tree. The Fruits however, provide much needed food for wildlife and make an excellent
addition to bird sanctuaries or can help attract wildlife for nature enthusiasts.
Caution - Be sure to locate your sweetgum tree where the fruits will not fall onto paved
surfaces or patio areas, they can create a tripping hazard and would require cleanup when it is time
for them to drop each year. They will fall easily into grassy
areas without creating so bad of a mess for you to step on or cleanup so it is often best to locate them in a
more remote area of the landscape. As with many large growing trees the root system is most often shallow and
wide here in Northeast Florida, and for that reason should be planted a minimum of 8-12 feet away from any paver
or hardscape to avoid surface lifting from the roots with age. If you go ahead and move that tree25 feet
from any hard surface, you will avoid fruits dropping on any hardscape and eliminate much of the routine
maintenance of these otherwise beautiful trees.
Water Requirements of the Sweetgum / Liquidambar styraciflua Tree:
- Sweetgum trees are moderately drought tolerant and may need a weekly
supplemental irrigating during times of prolonged droughts. Prolonged drought periods are thankfully rare
here in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area landscapes. ( Basically,
that's when burn bans are all over the news and fires begin to break out)
Butterfly or Bird Attracting:
- Sweetgum tree fruits each contain two seeds that are food for squirrels and
birds, and chipmunks! They are also occasionally browsed by deer, and even an occasional forager or herbalist.
The forager may decide to chew on the sap, it is said to have some antiseptic qualities. An herbalist
may, apparently, use unfertilized seeds to make a tincture to help fight influenza!
Best Uses For Sweetgum / Liquidambar styraciflua:
- Sweetgum trees are excellent when planted into flood prone
- Moderate salt tolerance makes them ideal for coastal landscape areas that do
not come into direct contact with salt spray from the ocean, but still get exposure to some salt air.
- Moderate drought tolerance, and strong resistance to limb breakage make
these trees, when planted into lawn areas away from hardscapes, virtually maintenance free!
- Perfect for attracting wildlife to the landscape.
Care of Sweetgum / Liquidambar styraciflua:
- Water every day during the establishment period. See watering your newly planted trees for more information.
- May need weekly irrigating during extreme drought conditions.
- Provide a 1 ft diameter circle of mulched area where grass is kept from growing
for each inch of caliper (or diameter) of trunk measured 4 inches from the ground level.
- Fertilize each spring with a mixture of Milorganite and a slow release poly
coated plant food such as Osmocote or Stay Green general purpose plant food, sprinkling the fertilizer around
the mulch circle underneath the foliage of the tree
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