Need help to try to grow sorrel (sourwood) tree, please

Stewart, TN

My father had such a beautiful sorrel tree in his yard that turned scarlet each fall. Now he is gone and the people that bought the house let the sorrel tree die of thirst. I have tried twice to grow a sorrel tree here in Middle Tennessee (zone 6) in my father's honor. The first time, the tree was doing well but then we had a 1,000 year flood. I kept trying to trench out the tree to save it, but it drowned. The second time I planted a smaller tree in a raised bed, but I think I must have put it in too much shade. I am going to try again. Does anyone have any suggestions to give the tree the best chance possible?

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I have had lots of trouble also. I've killed more than 2 in my attempts to get it established.
I've tried every imaginable siting.
All the more frustrating that it's supposed to be native around these parts!
I recall VV said he grows it with no trouble (I think it was VV).
So maybe he has the magic touch.
I thought I finally had a sizable survivor this year,
but the beastly late summer heat coupled with drought has done it in, I think.
I'm not completely sure it's dead, but it's at least on life-support.

Stewart, TN

Oh, dear - I thought it was just me! If you've had trouble getting one started, they must be difficult, indeed. The first one I had was doing quite well actually, and might have made it, before the flood of 2010. But you also think they're worth the effort, right? Was it the fall color you are most interested in?

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Who knows...? I guess it's just the oddly insistant idea that you ought to be able to grow a native plant.
It just galls at you to see you can't do it.
By golly, sooner or later, a sourwood will be flourishing in my yard.
Just haven't quite figured out how yet.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

I have 3 beautiful Sourwoods out of 5 I planted. I planted them basically like I do other Ericaceous plants. But I think the other two would have done better if I had used more loam in my planting mix. I planted them in roughly I part loam, 1 part peat moss and 1 part pine fines/soil conditioner which I put on top of the ground.
Keep trying! They are so worth it and once they catch hold they grow vigorously. One of mine grows between 1 and 2 feet a year. And they start blooming at a young age.

Thumbnail by killdawabbit
Stewart, TN

killdawabbit, I'm quite grateful to you for this information - though I had to look up Ericaceous plants. Interestingly, I have a couple here. The blueberry has done well, and two out of four rhododendrons are surviving (not really thriving but surviving, mostly because of the heat, I think). But what gives me renewed hope is the fact that we found a native strawberry tree, also Ericaceous, growing wild when we retired and moved here. We transplanted it to save it when we built the house, and now the strawberry tree has multiplied. So if those plants grow here, a sourwood should survive.

I am going to follow exactly your formula, and put it in a raised bed where there is enough sunlight. Hopefully, but next fall I may have a few red leaves!

If you don't mind one more question, do you think I should put it out now (like, October) or in the spring?

Stewart, TN

killdawabbit, I'm quite grateful to you for this information - though I had to look up Ericaceous plants. Interestingly, I have a couple here. The blueberry has done well, and two out of four rhododendrons are surviving (not really thriving but surviving, mostly because of the heat, I think). But what gives me renewed hope is the fact that we found a native strawberry tree, also Ericaceous, growing wild when we retired and moved here. We transplanted it to save it when we built the house, and now the strawberry tree has multiplied. So if those plants grow here, a sourwood should survive.

I am going to follow exactly your formula, and put it in a raised bed where there is enough sunlight. Hopefully, but next fall I may have a few red leaves!

If you don't mind one more question, do you think I should put it out now (like, October) or in the spring?

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

I would plant it now as long as it can't dry out before fall and winter rains set in. Are you sure you don't mean 'strawberry bush'/Euonymus americanus? I didn't think Arbutus unedo was native in this state. I do plan to try one eventually though. :-)
Oh yea, don't forget to mulch with pine needles. Your option, of course.

Stewart, TN

You're quite right - strawberry bush, not tree (also called hearts'a-burstin',) though ours was a six-foot sapling.

Pine needles, aye. I think there's a nursery in McMinnville that has sorrel trees. Please wish me luck, and thank you so very much for your help.

Christiana, TN(Zone 6b)

Well, there should be a nursery in McMinnville that has them. That's where I got mine. ;-) Mail-order from Vernon Barnes though I would not recommend them because I ordered two sweet cherries from them and they sent the wrong plants. I live about 50 miles from there now but I grew up in Morrison which is closeby and I've been to many Warren Co. nurseries over the years.

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