NewsPlant of the Month October: Liquidambar styraciflua — Sweetgum
Enjoy the colour spectacle of autumn in your garden with the sweetgum...
Our plants of the month all impress with striking blossoms, special fruits or vivid leaf colouring. The plant that we’d like to present this month however, has yet one more distinctive trait: its bark.
The trunk of the Prunus serrula radiates the whole year through with a glittering red-brown colour, which is why it’s also called the Paperbark cherry. The tree belongs to the family of large trees, and generally grows with more than one trunk. If you’d like a single-trunk Tibetan cherry in your garden however you have two choices: either buy a pre-cultivated single-trunk tree, or – if you have something of a green thumb, then you could buy a multi-trunk tree and get to work: as long as all growths competing with the middle stem are cut away, then your tree will grow with a single trunk up to 8 metres high. The important thing to make sure of is that all side shoots are cut all the way back to the trunk. As well as this, the trunk should be supported, for example with a stake, in order to ensure a straight, upright growth.
Similar to other Prunus varieties, the Tibetan cherry has a wide and loosely spreading crown. Its long, light-green leaves underline the gentle appearance of the tree. There’s a particular contrast of colours when the tree blooms between April and May. Then there appears a green crown in the middle of a sea of white blossoms, hanging down in umbels on long stems. Later on small, red, oval fruits will grow from these: the fruits are edible but extremely sour.
Its remarkable appearance means that the Tibetan cherry is well suited as a solitary-standing tree. In order to enjoy this unique tree for as long as possible, make sure to find it a spot that’s between sunny and semi-shaded. The tree also prefers fresh, nutrient-rich soil, although it’s generally quite tolerant. This means that this Prunus variety can also live with sandy-loamy earth, and with pH values from neutral through to strongly alkaline. And after two years’ growth, the roots are deep enough that the tree can survive temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius. For longer cold periods, or with younger plants, the root area should however be covered with bark mulch to be on the safe side.