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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



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


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:

Unknown - Tell us

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


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

Prescott, Arizona

Tallahassee, Florida

Barnesville, Georgia

Bremen, 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

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


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... read more


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.