The Q&A Archives: Is a sweetgum a good choice?

Question: I have an area of heavily compacted soil (clay) which does not drain well in winter, and turns hard and dry in the summer. The area is a full western exposure. I have heard that a sterile sweetgum will survive in that kind of environment. True?

Answer: Liquidambar styraciflua "Rotundifolia" is a huge tree at 75 feet tall, usually too large for the average residential landscape, with a strong and wide heavy root system. It would not do well in an extremely wet or dry location, but it will tolerate clay soil. Ideally it is grown in rich, loamy, evenly moist (not wet) bottomland soil with unlimited root space, but it is fairly drought tolerant once established. The roots will spread as far as twice as wide as the canopy, and the canopy (branches) can spread 50 feet across on this big tree. It does fine in heat and full sun.

Based on your site description I can't tell you whether it is too wet in spring (if there is standing water then it is most likely too wet) or too dry in summer for this tree. I would suggest you work with your local county extension and/or a local, professionally trained and certified nurseryman to analyze the growing conditions where you want to plant and identify trees that will thrive there. They will be familiar with trees that do best in your local climate and local soils. Then select the one you like best from those. Good luck with your new tree!

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