Liquidambar: planting cultivation maintenance and pruning

There are different species of liquidambars as well as a few cultivars including the sublime Liquidambar styraciflua Rotundiloba captivatingly beautiful. Long classified in the family of Hamamelidaceaethey are now part of the Altingiaceae. All take on beautiful fall colors. We are particularly amazed by the remarkable deciduous foliage of American Sweetgum, another name for L. styraciflua which is adorned with amazing colors in autumn. Majestic, it is of course very present in botanical gardens and arboretums, but many individuals have chosen it to take advantage of its shade and because it ranks among the most beautiful decorative trees. Let’s find out how to plant it and what are the best conditions to offer this spectacular tree with a ease of cultivation disconcerting.

Plant a Liquidambar

Liquidambar styraciflua is very rustic since it can withstand up to -20°C. In regions with a harsh climate and which drag on, it is still better to offer it a place sheltered from the prevailing winds and the sometimes very late spring frosts which still rage when the Liquidambar catkins are already quite apparent. Apart from this precaution to be taken, there is no no particular problem : it supports spray and even pollution.

The Liquidambar planting period is between November and May, outside of frost periods. We reserve a clear area for it so that it can benefit from a lot of light because it intensifies its autumn colors, and have enough space, namely between 3 and 6 m. It remains to respect the following points.

  • Dig a fairly deep hole, 50 to 60 cm,
  • Remove weed roots, stones,
  • Decompact the bottom of the hole well,
  • Loosen the extracted soil and mix it with ripe organic manure,
  • Immerse the container in a large basin of water so as to rehydrate the root system of the tree,
  • Leave to soak for about 20 minutes,
  • Remove the root ball from the container,
  • Place the Liquidambar in the center of the hole after filling the bottom with soil enriched according to the height of the root ball,
  • Digging all around the root ball to work the soil well to allow the rootlets to benefit from loose soil on all sides,
  • Backfill with earth, taking care to fill in all the voids,
  • Pack with the foot around the subject,
  • Form a bowl,
  • Pour about twenty liters of water, the equivalent of two watering cans, because the Liquidambar must be watered generously as soon as it is planted,
  • Perform a light refresh pruning to allow new branches to form.

It is recommended to mulch in stride with Fragmented Raméal Wood (at least 6 to 8 cm thick) in order to preserve freshness and limit the regrowth of weeds. In addition, thanks to the mulch, the roots of the shrub will be protected from frost.

Grow Liquidambar

The Liquidambar likes to be installed under the sun and especially appreciate the clay soils (heavy), moderately acidic, deep, cool and very fertile. So that its foliage is adorned with a multitude of flamboyant colors in autumn, it is strongly recommended to cultivate it in a terre not calcareous.

It is of course for its autumn foliage that we choose to cultivate it as it is adorned with various colors: pink, violet, purple, orange, yellow ochre, golden yellow, garnet, red. The Liquidambar seems to set the sky ablaze! This tree with a conical port and precious wood (which is used like walnut) has a trunk which also brings a decorative note. Its gray-brown cracked bark becomes dark reddish-brown over the years. Additionally, she exhales a cinnamon scent very pleasant. From this bark flows a balsamic sap. The name Liquidambar is also formed from liquid et Ambar which is translated as liquid amber. This resin is used, among other things, in perfumery.

True, the tree blooms in April, but its flowers are of no particular ornamental interest. Finally, it should be known that the cultivar Liquidambar styraciflua Rotundilobavery common in our latitudes, is a recent creation (1980), and that it is sterile.

Entertaining a Liquidambar

This tree with spectacular foliage in autumn is suitable for all gardeners, even beginners, because it requires no maintenance once it is well established, that is to say from the fourth year after its establishment.


During the two or three years following planting, it is necessary to water the young Liquidambar very regularly, especially in summer and during periods of drought. The gardener must take care to respect this crucial point because therootingt of this tree can take 36 months.


As we have seen, mulching is essential as soon as Liquidambar is planted. Subsequently, at every fall, the mulch should be renewed. Ideally, Ramial Fragmented Wood (BRF) is used. You can prepare it yourself by grinding the branches from the size of the trees in the garden.


The fertilizer input is useless since the nutrients are provided by the decomposition of the RCW.


We just remove the damaged branches as well as the dead wood and, only if necessary, the badly oriented branches so that the tree retains its beautiful silhouette. Apart from that, no other size is required.

Pests and diseases

The Liquidambar is concerned neither by the parasites, nor by the diseases to which it resist perfectly.

We use this tree in isolation or like alignment shaft. The largest varieties measure between 20 and 40 meters in height with a wingspan exceeding 8 to 10 meters (in their native environment). But even in the garden, a sufficient space should be reserved for them. A large park greatly contributes to their development. However, fans of the genre should be reassured if they only have a moderate outdoor space because they can turn to cultivars that are less impressive in size but just as beautiful as the larger subjects. With its 9 to 10 m height in adulthood, L. orientalis or oriental sweetgum is well suited to a plot of a few acres, and for very small gardens, the cultivar ‘Gumball’ is ideal with a crown that rises to only 3 m.

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