Fragrant Sumac low Grow

Gro-Low Sumac (Rhus aromatica

Q: I need a low-maintenance ground covering to install on an embankment that will have a pedestrian bridge built over the top. "Gro-low" fragrant sumac was recommended to me. From what I can tell it will do well in full sun to partial shade, but once the walkway is built, a portion of the embankment will almost always be shaded. I am curious as to how the "Gro-low" will perform in full shade.

— Jay Ridens, Indianapolis

A: Rhus aromatica "Gro-low" is a dwarf selection of a native fragrant sumac made by Synnestvedt Nursery Co. in Round Lake. This woody deciduous plant reaches 2 to 3 feet tall and spreads to 8 feet. It will grow in poor, dry soil, though, like most plants, it will struggle if the planting bed consists of rock-hard subsoil. The spreading branches tend to root where they touch the soil and form a dense mat that will suppress weeds. When grown in full sun, the plant will have a good orange-red fall color.

This fast-growing, durable plant is a good choice to stabilize a bank and requires little maintenance. "Gro-low" sumac is relatively tolerant of road salt. Prune any branches broken by snow piles and the plant will quickly fill back in. Though vigorous, it is not an invader. I think that you have made a great choice.

"Gro-low" sumac will tolerate partial shade but will be less vigorous as shade deepens. In deep shade it will not provide as much stability to the bank. The fall color also will be muted.

Should the sumac fail under the walkway, try filling the bare areas with a shade-tolerant herbaceous ground cover such as creeping lilyturf (Lirope spicata). It will be shorter than the sumac but will hold the soil and help suppress weeds.

Mulch after installation and provide supplemental water the first year to get them established.

Tim Johnson is director of horticulture for the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe ( Send questions to: Gardening Q&A, Sunday, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL or via e-mail to

Part 2

2012-11-13 08:39:45 by Nurseryman75

In North America, the Smooth Sumac (R. glabra) and the Staghorn Sumac (R. typhina) are sometimes used to make a beverage termed "sumac-ade," "Indian lemonade" or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth and sweetening it. Native Americans also used the leaves and drupes of the Smooth and Staghorn Sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.
Species including the Fragrant Sumac (R. aromatica), the Littleleaf Sumac (R. microphylla), the Skunkbush Sumac (R. trilobata), the Smooth Sumac and the Staghorn Sumac are grown for ornament, either as the wild types or as cultivars

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