The Rhus typhina shrub, commonly known as the Stag’s horn sumach, in autumn, has a brilliant array of colour. It’s an understated large suckering, bushy shrub for most of the year. But once autumn arrives it’s probably the most colourful shrub you can have in the garden.
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Along each of the branches hang leaves, like rows of colourful laundry neatly pegged on the washing line. While tiny fine hairs line the branches and give a soft downy feel to the shrub. With the autumnal breakdown of chlorophyll, the combination of colours such as yellow, violet, orange and red turn the leaves into a cornucopia of colours. But they don’t last for long once the wind starts blowing a hoolie.
Male and Female Plants
Each shrub is dioecious and is either a male or a female. The female shrub produces yellowish-green cone-shaped panicles in summer which mature into reddish inedible fruits called drupes. These can last well over the winter months and remain on the branches until early spring. Unlike the male shrub, which only produces tiny insignificant flowers that wither away. When you first buy one of these shrubs you’ll never know if you have a male or a female plant until they start to flower in June! That’s unless you buy a large specimen plant already in flower.
How To Prevent Suckering
I’d forgive its suckering habit any day just to have its showy autumn leaves displayed throughout October. Nevertheless, if the suckers become a nuisance, just tear them off at the base of the plant rather than cutting them off with secateurs. It takes longer for the shrub to produce new suckers when they have been torn off, as the dormant buds are removed from the base of the plant. You’ll never stop the shrub from suckering, but at least you’ll be able to keep the invasive suckers in check. Just don’t plant it too close to a lawn or a patio as those suckers will pop up in between paving or on the grass. However, if you place a barrier (affiliate link) around the roots, that will help to prevent them spreading.
It will eventually grow 6 metres high and 5 metres wide and give you a fantastic display of leaf colours in the autumn.
Finally here are some of my photos showing the different foliage colours!
When I photograph autumn foliage I always use a HOYA PRO1 Digital Filter Circular Polarizer (affiliate link). It really reduced the glare of light on these leaves and enhanced their autumn colours.
Stag’s Horn Sumach In Autumn
You can see some more of my fine art leaves from the male shrub over at my print shop.