Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Rhus virens:
Evergreen Sumac

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Form: A sparsely branched shrub, or with pruning, a small tree.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Semi-evergreen. It drops all leaves late winter or early spring and replaces them within a week.
Growth rate: Moderate to rapid.
Mature Size: 10-15' high and as wide.
Flowers: Five white petals, very small, clustered on spikes at branch tips, fragrant. The flowers are either male or female and located on different plants.
Bloom: Summer.
Fruit: The small, orange to red, fuzzy, clustered fruit appear only on female plants in the fall, and persist throughout winter. A thin layer of flesh surrounds a hard shell containing one seed. The flesh is edible, with a tart taste, and contains vitamin C.
Leaves: The elliptical to ovate, smooth edged, leathery green leaflets are arranged in groups of 3 to 7. They turn maroon in freezing temperatures. New leaflets are reddish.
Stems: New stems are reddish, turning grey or brown with age. Old bark is shaggy and grey or brown.
Roots: A branched tap root. This plant may occasionally produce new suckers from its roots.
Wildlife: The flowers attract bees and butterflies. The fruit attracts birds and small mammals. Young leaves are browsed by mammals.
Toxic / Danger: The ripe fruit are edible. The plant is not reported as toxic.
Origin: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8b-11.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun to part shade.
Planting: Locate this plant in very well draining, possibly rocky, soil, in full sun, where it has room to grow to its mature size. It can be fast growing in the right microclimate.
Soil: Very well drained, dry, low in organic content, pH 6.1 to 7.8 (slightly acidic to slightly alkaline). Fertilizer is unnecessary because this plant grows well in poor soil. Chemical fertilizers are harmful.
Water after becoming established: Deep water every 4 weeks in summer and winter, allowing for rain. Do not overwater in summer. Wet soils can result in fungal infections, especially in warm temperatures.
Mulch: Never. This plant is susceptible to root rot and the soil must dry quickly.
First Year Care: Do not fertilize.
Prune: Remove weeds by hand within 4' of the trunk. Prune lightly to remove dead leaves and branches in winter and to shape. This shrub does not respond well to heavy pruning.
Litter: Leaf drop during leaf turnover at the end of winter.
Propagation: Scarified seed taken from overripe fruit, cuttings.
Uses: Ornamental, hedge or screen. The edible fruit are used to make a tea.

This plant is a member of the Cashew and Sumac family (Anacardiaceae). It requires little maintenance.

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Latest update: July, 2021
Rhus virens: Evergreen Sumac fruit

Rhus virens: Evergreen Sumac leaves

Homer Edward Price, CC BY 2.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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