The sumac (Rhus spp.) gets around. Fast-growing, pest- and disease-free and drought tolerant, it’s the only shrub found in all 48 contiguous states. Sumac are scrappy North American natives, growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 however 9. They spread by root suckers in just about any well-draining dirt and may stabilize problem embankments. Their leaves turn red in the autumn, matching their showy fruiting clusters. Some varieties such as smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) grow to 20 feet tall, while others like fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) stay low and rambling. All the sumac species are tough and hardy.
Harvest seeds in sumac fruiting clusters in fall when they’re dark brown and dry.
Boil water in a pot, then remove the pot from the stove and also toss in the seeds. Leave them in the cooling water for 24 hours to remove germination inhibitors.
Drain and dry seeds on a paper towel. Place them in the refrigerator for 30 days at a temperature of approximately 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plant sumac seeds directly outside in fall. Pick a place in sun or partial sun with well-draining dirt. Plant each seed at a thickness of 1/3 to 3/4 inches, about 8 inches apart. Water well after planting. Sumacs will grow in any soil, such as dry wastelands.
Water your sumacs regularly the first two seasons. Starting with the third season, limit irrigation to warm, dry periods. No fertilizer is necessary for these vigorous, suckering shrubs. Within several seasons, each parent plant will form a thick colony of sumacs about it.
Rejuvenate your sumac colony every few decades. Cut the colony to the ground in the ground. This keeps your sumacs from becoming leggy and prevents them from taking over your lawn.