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Immense Staghorn Sumac needs some love

Hi.  We have just moved into a house with a lovely established staghorn sumac in the back garden. It is probably too bit, had a fair number diseased Upper branches and is at least 15ft tall, maybe more. 

We don't want to cut it down as it is beautiful, but it needs some love.  I keep reading that they can handle severe pruning and wonder if anyone has experience dealing with this. 

Main trunk 8" a cross splits off into 3 6" branches at 5ft, these go up for another 4ft before starting to split up into the traditional patterns, but the main leaf layer is 10-15ft up.

I don't want to kill it, but it needs help! 



  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,124
    The problem with pruning sumach is that it tends to make it sucker, and it then pops up everywhere, sometimes quite a distance from the tree.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • LG_LG_ Posts: 4,302
    edited August 2019
    @JennyJ is a paragon of understatement. You may find that if you prune it, it will result in suckering that your new neighbours won't forgive too easily. Approach with caution!

    You may find these threads interesting: 
    'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.'
    - Cicero
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,997
    I would leave well alone ... even knocking a branch off whilst carrying a ladder past a sumacs can cause uncontrollable suckering, as a friend found out to his cost.

    The suckers ruined his lovely lawn for years 

    I love sumachs ... they’re elegant and the autumn colour is to die for ... but I daren’t plant one. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • LG_LG_ Posts: 4,302
    I have one in a (big) pot, Dove. It would be happier in the ground, but like you - I daren't.

    @Mc_114 don't let this scare you into removing the tree. If it's not suckering then good! 
    'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.'
    - Cicero
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,124
    But if it's not suckering, then best not to prune it!  If it's really too big it might be better to take it out and plant something the right size.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • TenNTenN Posts: 184
    Is that part of the garden raised next door too? What have they got in that bit if it is because you might avoid vicious suckering.
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    I had a young (~3yo) which was killed by Honey Fungus, something you would have thought would have completely finished it off?  Nope, still finding the odd sucker in the general vicinity, 5 odd years later.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Mc_114Mc_114 Posts: 3
    Thanks everyone.

    We are trying hard to avoid taking it out, but form reading all these threads it's pretty much unmanageable at this size :(  it's particularly sad, because anything we replace it with will take at least 5 years, if not 10 to grow to this size.   We'd love to put an Acer in, but who knows if it would survive in that spot.

    But as lots of posts point out, they are pests at this size, it's probably best to get a smaller replacement in a large pot, which is more controllable.  

    @nickten the neighbour's side is 3ft lower, and there's a concrete wall in between so it's not too much of a problem yet.  It does sucker up, but I've been aggressively pruning and spraying the cut ends with root killer which is helping keep it under control.  

    We are hoping to do the whole upper garden in a few years, so maybe i'll just leave it alone :)

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,997
    Wait until you’ve seen it’s autumn colour ... it may well be sooooo glorious that it won’t matter to you how big it is ❤️ 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Dave HumbyDave Humby Posts: 1,145
    They are one of the most nightmarish plants out there. IMHO they should never be planted in the ground. I’m about 5 years in to my program to rid myself of them on our property - and the grass verge and pavements outside our property! If you want evidence of their impact take a drive around the Paris orbital motorway.

    An absolutely horrific plant. I would say leave well alone. I bet with a tree your size you will have underground suckers to a radius of at least 5m probably significantly more. They will kick into life with vengeance if anything is done to the parent tree. You have my sympathies in advance. 
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