Sumac Care

Growing Sumac

Sumac is a blooming shrub or small tree with unique flowers and colorful foliage. In the spring and summer, cone-shaped flowers known as panicles bloom. Female Sumac shrubs later produce drupes, or fruit, that serve as a food source for animals. Green foliage often turns vibrant shades of yellow, orange, or red during the fall. 

Sumac is a fast-growing deciduous shrub that is a member of the Rhus genus. It quickly spreads and forms dense thickets. Taking care of this North American native is easy as this plant is low-maintenance, but selecting a suitable planting location and providing some care helps Sumac thrive. Sumac grows as a perennial in zones 3 through 9.


Planting Sumac

Plant Sumac in full to partial sun. This adaptable plant can live in various light levels but expect more prolific blooming and intense fall foliage when the shrub receives at least six hours of sunlight. Sumac can live in challenging environments and poor-quality soil, making it easy to grow, but for best results, grow it in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Some Sumac cultivars thrive in damp areas near marshes or wetlands.

Watering Sumac

Water young plants a couple times a week for the first few months. Many Sumac varieties thrive in damp environments, where moisture is readily available to support the shrub. In dry environments, Sumac will need regular supplemental water. These plants become drought tolerant once established, but monitor during a dry spell and give the Sumac water as necessary. 

Fertilizing Sumac

Sumac is a vigorous grower and does not need fertilizer, especially when the plant is grown in fertile soil. Sumac shrubs in low-quality soil will benefit from a balanced fertilizer in the spring. Use a slow-release product to offer long-term nutrition.


Pruning Sumac

Remove dead or damaged growth as necessary. Prune Sumac in early spring to shape the shrub and promote a bushy form. Remove suckers to focus energy into the plant and contain the spread.

Caring For Sumac in Pots

Smaller varieties of Sumac make excellent container plants. Plant Sumac in a pot with drainage, and use an all-purpose, well-drained potting mix to keep the plant hydrated but not soggy. Water container plants when the top couple of inches of potting mix are dry. Situate the container in full to partial sun. 

Winter Care For Sumac

Sumac plants are winter hardy and go dormant when the temperature turns chilly. Landscape plants do not need additional winter care or protection. Sumac shrubs grown in containers may need protection from cold weather. Move potted Sumac to a protected area like a shed or greenhouse, or partially bury the pot to protect the roots from frigid temperatures.


Sources: “Sumac.” Missouri Department of Conservation.