Oxydendrum arboreum, Sourwood

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic 

Though native to parts of the Mid-Atlantic Region,* Sourwood is more common in the South, including Virginia’s southern half. In residential landscapes, this decorative tree offers year-round appeal: lily-of-the-valley-like flowers, breathtakingly brilliant fall foliage, persistent fruit capsules and reddish color twigs.

Print Version: Oxydendrum arboreum, Sourwood

Oxydendrum arboreum, Sourwood, TreeHeight: 20–50 feet Spread: 10–25 feet Bloom Color: White   Characteristics  Slow-growing, deciduous tree with straight trunk and irregular, somewhat pyramidal habit Finely-toothed, oblong glossy green leaves Showy, fragrant white bell-shaped flowers on 6- to 8-inch spikelets from June to July Persistent light yellow to grayish fruit capsules Brilliant fall foliage from shades of red to eggplant Green and red twigs; drooping branches; deeply furrowed and ridged gray bark on mature trees    Attributes Intolerant of dense shade, lime soil, compacted soil, root disturbance, poor drainage, flooding, drought, and air pollution; no serious pests or diseases; deer seldom severely damage except for new growth Winter interest Ethnobotanic uses; bees produce a choice, highly valued honey from the flower nectar Attracts bees, wasps & sometimes butterflies, moths Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Acidic, well-drained soil Light Requirements: Sun, Partial Shade Water Requirements: Moist  More prolific flowers/colorful foliage w/ more sun Use as ornamental specimen, patio tree Hardiness: USDA Zones 5–9  Excellent Replacement for  Acer ginnala - Amur Maple Ailanthus altissima - Tree of Heaven  Paulownia tomentosa - Princess Tree  Vitex agnus-castus - Chaste Tree  *Though not native to DC or NoVA, it is indigenous to a few counties in MD and PA, besides the southern half of VA. ** A honey bee and bumble bee are foraging among the flowers.

Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets.