The Q&A Archives: Laceleaf Staghorn Sumac

Question: I have a north facing bed about 13 feet long, 2 feet wide against a wall about 9 feet high. This area gets some sun but not a lot. I had dwarf barberry and dwarf goatsbeard there and they did fine, but I got tired of them because they did not cover up the wall. (I've moved them to other locations). Now I want to put in some shrubs which would have more 4 season interest and more height, color, foliage, fruit, etc. Do you think laceleaf staghorn sumac is a good choice? If so, how many, what size and how far apart. If not, can you recommend another upright growing shrub that has those attributes? I am in Zone 5. Thank you.

Answer: Staghorn Sumac will provide year 'round interest but it might be too large for the area. You may want to consider Mount Airy Fothergilla. It is a hybrid of Fothergilla gardenii (Dwarf Witch Fothergilla, which grows 3 to 5 feet) & F. major (Large or Mountain Fothergilla, 8 to 12 feet), resulting in an intermediate-sized 4 to 8 foot shrub. It responds well to pruning so you can keep it just the size you want. It has a strong upright habit, as wide as it gets tall. The leaves in spring & summer are a wonderful bluish green adding excellent texture to an array of shrubs. The foliage turns the most startling orange, red, purple & yellow in autumn. It flowers best in full sun, and develops more intense autumn colors when it gets plenty of sun, though it is highy adaptable so will thrive in part shade. I think Fothergilla is an excellent choice for the site you describe.

If you decide on Staghorn Sumac, space them 6-8 feet apart; Fothergilla can be spaced 4' apart.

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