Rhus Glabra: Growing Smooth Sumac With Ease

Once you’re on the lookout for a panorama shrub with good decorative options, it’s best to take into account Rhus glabra, generally referred to as clean sumac. Curiously, it has separate female and male flowers. These yellowish-green flowers bloom within the early summer time, with the feminine flowers showing smaller in comparison with the male flower. 

The fruits from feminine crops kind right into a drupe, and these reddish brown clusters distinction properly with the darkish inexperienced leaves. It additionally displays lovely golden and crimson fall foliage that brings consideration to any panorama.

Easy sumac can kind thickets that many chicken species and small mammals use for defense. For instance, the red-banded hairstreak butterflies and wild turkeys use the sleek sumac as a meals supply. The fruit is much-needed meals within the autumn and winter for numerous chicken species. You possibly can even make your individual sumac spice from the edible fruit and yellow dye from the inside bark. 

Rhus glabra is native to many wild areas and open woodlands throughout the Northeastern United States to the west and even north to southern Canada. This species isn’t affected by many illness issues, and it’s thought of a medium-maintenance shrub that loves full solar and can tolerate dry soil so long as it’s well-drained. This rising information will assist you decide if the sleek sumac is one of the best species in your panorama. 

Fast Care Information

Scarlet sumac. Supply: Aquila-chrysaetos
Widespread Identify Easy sumac, frequent sumac, Rocky Mountain sumac, crimson sumac, scarlet sumac, western sumac, wild turkeys
Scientific Identify Rhus glabra
Household Anacardiaceae
Top & Unfold 9-15 toes in top and unfold
Mild Full solar, half shade
Soil Tolerates all well-drained soils
Water Maintain moist till established then drought tolerant
Pests & Illnesses Aphids, mites, leaf spot, rust, scale

All About Rhus Glabra

Western Sumac flowering
Western sumac flowering. Supply: tlhowes2012

The botanical identify for sumac is Rhus glabra. There are various different species of sumac, however this information focuses on the sleek sumac. Different frequent names for the sleek sumac are frequent sumac, Rocky Mountain sumac, crimson sumac, scarlet sumac, wild turkeys, and western sumac. 

We take into account this plant a pioneer species, and it’s native to southern Canada, Mexico, and the decrease 48 states – excluding California. Nevertheless, it’s most typical within the Northeastern United States. 

Rhus glabra is a perennial deciduous shrub that’s dioecious – which suggests it produces separate female and male crops. Thus, to get the fruits, you will have to have at the least one male and one feminine plant. Each female and male crops exhibit yellowish-green flowers, with the feminine flowers showing with a three-parted type within the heart; the male flowers are bigger and have 5 yellowed stamens. 

Particular person flowers of the male shrub don’t have an extended bloom time, and the feminine flowers are changed by giant panicles of darkish crimson fruit known as drupes. The fruit ripens within the late summer time and turns to seed within the late fall and winter. The flowers are cherished by butterflies and different pollinators, whereas the berries and seeds present meals to birds all through the autumn and winter.

Different figuring out options are the darkish inexperienced alternate oblong-lanceolate compound leaves which might be odd-pinnated with 9-31 leaflets. There’s a single trunk with a number of main branches and twigs, and it has an intensive root system that helps it kind thickets, making it ultimate for shrub borders. Small twigs are clean, whereas mature bark is horizontally fissured, brownish-gray, and barely warty.   

Easy Sumac Care

Smooth sumac
Easy sumac. Supply: Judy Gallagher

Rhus glabra is a straightforward shrub to develop as a result of it tolerates many sorts of situations. By offering it with ultimate moisture, daylight, temperature, vitamins, and soil, you’ll have a more healthy and extra vigorous plant with loads of bloom time for the butterflies to take pleasure in.  

Solar and Temperature

A mean of 6-8 hours per day of full solar is right for one of the best flower manufacturing and delightful fall foliage. Nevertheless, it would tolerate partial shade however could not showcase the great decorative options as exuberantly. The perfect USDA rising zone is 3-9, which suggests it’s hardy sufficient for the chilly winters and can survive summer time warmth. Since we discover it in lots of areas of the USA, it could possibly stand up to dry climates in addition to humid. 

Because the yellowish inexperienced flowers spring into bloom within the spring, you could wish to plant it in a protected space should you reside in a local weather that surprises you with frost so you possibly can benefit from the fruit from the flowers later within the season.  

Water and Humidity

Youthful crops must be watered as soon as per week till established. Water from the underside of the tree and permit the water to seep in and hydrate the roots. The very best time of day to water is within the morning, so the shrub is hydrated for the warmth of the day. There is no such thing as a must water within the winter when the plant is dormant. 

As soon as clean sumac is established, it’s drought tolerant and can solely want 18-20 inches of water per yr. As a mature shrub, it doesn’t wish to be overwatered and thrives in dry soil.  


Properly-drained soil will hold your plant wholesome and vibrant. It will probably develop in a wide range of soil sorts, from clay loam to sandy loam, so long as there is no such thing as a standing water close to the bottom of the plant, and it truly prefers dry soil. It should survive in poor-quality soil and is adaptable to a large pH vary of 5.5-7.5. 


Rhus glabra forming fruit
Rhus glabra forming fruit. Supply: tlhowes2012

Upon planting your Rhus glabra, apply compost or a balanced slow-release fertilizer. After that, there is no such thing as a must fertilize this plant. You possibly can fertilize within the fall, simply earlier than the shrub goes dormant, however consider an excessive amount of fertilizer will make it vulnerable to pests and illnesses. 

Pruning Rhus Glabra

It’s good observe to prune any useless, diseased, or overgrown branches and twigs in late winter or early spring so long as it’s earlier than the plant comes out of dormancy. This deciduous shrub requires medium upkeep to maintain its form by trimming decrease and facet stems. To stop your plant from being invasive, trim off any root suckers that pop up regularly.  

Easy Sumac Propagation

Easy sumac crops will be propagated by seed, root cuttings, and divisions. Since it would unfold aggressively after getting one shrub, you possibly can simply separate crops. Simply dig up the sucker in autumn and transplant it to a different location. 

Stratify and scarify the seed earlier than planting within the late spring. Or you possibly can sow the seed outdoors in late fall or early winter to present it the stratifying interval it must germinate. Present water as wanted to maintain the soil moist till germination and place them in a spot to obtain the heat from the solar. 

Cuttings from stems are probably the most dependable and straightforward methodology that offers you a bigger shrub in a shorter period of time. Within the early summer time, lower a wholesome department that’s at the least 15 cm lengthy and has leaf nodes on the bark, then place it in a ready space outdoors or a pot with potting soil. Maintain the soil moist till roots have fashioned. 

Troubleshooting Rhus Glabra

Autumn color on Rhus glabra
Autumn colour on Rhus glabra. Supply: wackybadger

Total, the sleek sumac is straightforward to develop and also you received’t run into many considerations. Nevertheless, there are a couple of it’s best to know as a result of they’re vulnerable to leaf spot, rust, aphids and mites. This troubleshooting part ought to assist with any illness issues. 

Rising Issues

The first concern when rising Rhus glabra is the root suckers that unfold aggressively. That is good whenever you wish to kind thickets and shrub borders, however not so on different events. To stop this deciduous shrub from changing into invasive, you will have to take away any suckers that present up. Simply lob them off the younger shoots with shears or dig them up. This can be a yearly course of however one which doesn’t take a big period of time. 


Aphids are ‌discovered on many ornamentals, and sadly, the sleek sumac species will be attacked by an aphid known as the Sumac gall aphid (Melaphis rhois). These aphids produce bladder-like galls (that incubate a brand new aphid inhabitants) on the underside of the leaves alongside the mid-vein and close to the stems. The gall is gentle inexperienced and may measure as much as ½ to 1 inch in measurement. The gall could trigger early coloring and shedding of the leaves however doesn’t have an effect on the general well being of the shrub. 

You possibly can take away and destroy any stems that exhibit galls, however one of the best plan of action is to rid your shrub of the aphids. These tiny inexperienced or brown bugs hang around on the underside of the leaves and feed on the juices from the shrub. Appeal to useful bugs reminiscent of woman beetles and parasitic wasps. Neem oil, diatomaceous earth, and pyrethrins are good decisions for controlling a big aphid inhabitants. 

Broad mites are associated to ticks and spiders, and so they feed on chlorophyll within the leaves, inflicting them to discolor and die. They will present up mid-summer when the climate turns sizzling. These pests are troublesome to see and are solely in regards to the measurement of the interval on the finish of this sentence. They’ve a sac-like physique with no distinct head and eight legs. 

Use a magnifying glass to determine, and additionally, you will discover eggs, webbing, and stippling. To manage mites, it’s best to not use chemical compounds as a result of this kills the useful bugs that hold the mite inhabitants underneath management. As an alternative, introduce predatory mites and blast the shrub with water to take away the mites. 


Leaf spot and rust on Rhus glabra are brought on by fungi. Darkish spots kind on the leaves, and you could discover raised areas on the affected leaf if affected with leaf spot. With rust, you will notice plenty of spores on the contaminated leaves. For each illnesses, the leaves could fall prematurely and it hardly ever causes injury to a wholesome shrub. 

It’s greatest to forestall fungal illnesses from attacking by eradicating any particles on the bottom surrounding the shrub and to water from the bottom. Having well-drained soil can even stop fungi from rising in standing water. Fungicides usually are not really useful until a extreme an infection has affected all of the leaves a number of years in a row. 

Ceaselessly Requested Questions

Smooth sumac
Easy sumac. Supply: Judy Gallagher

Q: Are you able to eat Rhus glabra?

A: The crimson berries on the Rhus glabra are edible. The fruit has a bitter taste and has been used to make a drink just like lemonade or to dry and floor right into a spice.   

Q: Is Rhus glabra toxic?

A: No, the Rhus glabra species will not be toxic, although another sumac species are. They each have compound leaves however toxic species desire moist soils and produce white berries, whereas innocent Rhus glabra thrives in dry soil and has crimson fruit.   

Q: Are sumac bushes messy?

A: Since it’s a deciduous tree, the leaves will be messy within the fall. The berries can even fall to the bottom, and be carried away by birds. Nevertheless, the fruits are small and never noticeable till they develop a brand new tree. 

Q: Is clean sumac invasive?

A: Sure, Rhus glabra will be an invasive tree even in wild areas. They unfold aggressively by rhizomes, which permits a brand new plant to develop from this root system. That is good if you’d like thick shrubs, however they are going to want common upkeep should you don’t need it to unfold. You possibly can simply separate crops to skinny out a patch that’s turning invasive. Additionally, the seeds from the fruit can unfold by birds and trigger new crops to start in areas you could not need it to develop.  

Q: Do birds eat sumac berries?

A: Sure, many chicken species like to eat sumac berries. Particularly as a result of many bugs make their properties within the berries, so the birds discover these fruits tasty. Even wild turkeys take pleasure in consuming the berries. The fruit is a vital meals supply within the fall and winter.

Q: Is sumac quick rising?

A: Sure, the sumac is a fast-growing tree and can develop as much as 12 inches per yr if it receives loads of moisture and solar. They develop slower partially shade. 

Q: When ought to sumac be pruned?

A: It’s best to prune your sumac crops within the early to late spring earlier than the leaves are current and the tree remains to be dormant. 

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