Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Sourwood, Sorrel Tree, Lily of the Valley Tree
Oxydendrum arboreum

Family: Ericaceae (er-ek-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Oxydendrum (oks-ee-DEN-drum) (Info)
Species: arboreum (ar-BOR-ee-um) (Info)

Synonym:Oxydendron arboreum

8 vendors have this plant for sale.

10 members have or want this plant for trade.


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 32 photos.
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8 positives
3 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive bobbieberecz On May 20, 2014, bobbieberecz from Concrete, WA wrote:

I don't agree this tree needs consistently moist soil. It's a tough and beautiful little tree.....even without the gorgeous fall color. Three years ago the neighbor's cow got loose and ran right over my 6-foot sapling, breaking it off by half. I was heart-broken, as it had just started to bloom. I tossed it in the debris pile to take to our dumping grounds. No tenderness here. Just ripped it up by the roots. There it lay for a week or more in the hot summer sun. Then I noticed new growth starting on the broken trunk! My heart skipped a beat and I quickly stuck it into a border where it would get regular water with the other shrubs and flowers. Our sandy/loam soil dries out quickly, though my nutritious mulch helps keep it fed and more moist. This tree isn't a "fast grower" but 2 years later it's coming right along. The new leaves are tinged with shades of pinks that make this tree one of the prettiest in my large garden. It gets a couple of hours of bright morning sun then bright or filtered shade after that. When I brought it home from the store I watered it faithfully but there was a lot of landscaping going on at the time and as the summer wore on I was less faithful. It had no mulch at that time and I KNOW the soil dried out. This tree is soooo easy and forgiving I just bought another one yesterday. It's pretty as a princess from the earliest spring leaves until the last brilliant leaf falls. BTW the leaves start turning early (as in late August for me) and stay on the tree for a l-o-n-g time.

Positive coriaceous On Feb 25, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

One of my favorite small ornamental trees. Fragrant summer flowers, long-lasting red fall color, picturesque winter architecture---the seed tassels are attractive through winter...In droughty years, I've seen the leaves color as early as August and then hold their color till Halloween.

In Great Britain, this slow-growing tree is often grown in mixed borders as a shrub.

Commercial growers have told me the price is high because these trees often die for no clear reason when the trunks reach 2" diameter---but once they've passed that age they're long-lived.

The national champion tree is 96' tall, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Positive brew314 On Oct 5, 2009, brew314 from yardley, pa
United States wrote:

i bought a house in yardley, PA 3 years back, and have been trying to find out what is the name of a 50 foot tree in the front yard. After visiting Longwood gardens, i finally saw what i had....a sourwood tree. My sourwood was much taller than the one at Longwood, and the experts keep telling me that sourwoods are not that tall. Anyway, I love it. The bees are all over it in the summer time, and it is beautiful with tassles covering it all summer long.

Positive TuxedoWarwick On Jul 26, 2008, TuxedoWarwick from Greenwood Lake, NY (Zone 6a) wrote:

I LOVE this tree, which I discovered as a crimson "what-the-heck-is-that???" one Sunday last autumn, tucked away alongside a busy road. I kept looking into winter, noticing the gorgeous branching structure. Spring came, and with the Andromeda-like flowers, I was once again wondering, what the heck is that? I finally couldn't help myself and pulled into the nearest restaurant parking lot, trespassed onto the person's yard, and was blown away by the scent and the dozens and dozens of bees. I have since planted my own sapling, which is growing slowly and seems to want to grow as a wide-spreading shrub. I hope it survives winter, as I'm further north and higher up than the tree. I'm in zone 6A, whereas the tree was probably at the cusp of zones 6 and 7.

Positive plantaholic186 On Jun 10, 2008, plantaholic186 from Winnetka, IL wrote:

My Oxydendrum scared me silly this spring. Its branches looked scorched, literally as if someone had taken a match to them. Lo and behold, it leafed out and looks happier than ever, despite heavy cicada damage (last year was the 17 year cicada infestation here).

The fall color is gorgeous: in full sun, it turned bright scarlet, a wonderful partner to the Franklinia nearby.

Mine is planted in a raised bed constructed specifically for Ericaceous plants, as it is happiest in those conditions (moist, well-drained, acid soil).

Positive scentasia1 On Dec 30, 2007, scentasia1 wrote:

I am in zone 5B and have two--doing well for the last five years. The one in partial shade is about two-thirds of the size of the one in full sun, even though they were almost identical in size when planted. I love the fall coloring.

Negative mike3764 On May 7, 2007, mike3764 from Stewartstown, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

I tried two of these in my backyard (clay/rocky soil) as they were said to grow in my area (Zone 6b) as its northermost range. They are beautiful trees, especially in the fall, but did not survive into their second year. Either a harsh winter or poor soil conditions killed them both off...would not try again.

Neutral TREEHUGR On Dec 26, 2004, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Listed as a good fall/winter color plant for Florida through zone 9b. Native range is the extreme western pan handle of the state though. Small tree to 30 feet.

It likes dry sites.

Positive woodspirit1 On Jul 17, 2003, woodspirit1 from Lake Toxaway, NC (Zone 7a) wrote:

I love this tree. The flat sprays of blossoms are small and urn-shaped, but beautiful and the calyx stays on so long, it appears to still be blooming. I have one in my yard that has the most incredible brilliant dark red autumn colors. We almost cut it because they tend to grow tall and leggy with most of the bloom at the top. Today I saw one in someone's yard that had been trimmed to make it bush out and it was spectacular with a lovely shape and many more blooms.
The prized honey is almost water-clear and has a less sweet, almost nutty flavor.

Neutral smiln32 On Jul 31, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Very nice ornamental tree but does not do well in environments with much pollution.

Positive darius On Jul 28, 2002, darius from So.App.Mtns.
United States (Zone 5b) wrote:

This slight but showy tree is found all over the southern Appalachians. The flowers do resemble Lily of the Valley and the bees love them. No visit to see the mountain fall 'colors' is complete without obtaining a jar of the highly prized Sourwood Honey. In the fall, our roadsides and hillsides are covered with the showy mostly dark red, but some orange to yellow, sourwoods.

Neutral mystic On Sep 2, 2001, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

This is a slow growing(often twisted)deciduous tree,that grows from 25 to 30 feet in height and has a 20 foot spread.Can be grown in sun or partial shade and prefers a slightly acid,moist,well-drained soil but tolerates dry soil.The white,fragrant,bell- shaped flowers form drooping graceful clusters that look much like Lily of the Valley. That bloom from June to July.The fruit is a capsule found in a drooping clusters that persist into winter.This makes a excellent ornamental tree.The fall color can be yellow, red,or purple you get the best color show when grown in full sun.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Prescott, Arizona
Tallahassee, Florida
Barnesville, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Winnetka, Illinois
Des Moines, Iowa
Clermont, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Zachary, Louisiana
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Wyoming, Michigan
Panama, New York
Pittsford, New York
Sloatsburg, New York
Fuquay Varina, North Carolina
Hickory, North Carolina
Lake Toxaway, North Carolina
Cheshire, Oregon
Dayton, Oregon
Lansdowne, Pennsylvania
Morrisville, Pennsylvania
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
Bristol, Rhode Island
Conway, South Carolina
Christiana, Tennessee
Morrison, Tennessee
Bellingham, Washington
Concrete, Washington
Lake Stevens, Washington
Seattle, Washington

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