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American Sweet Gum Is Autumn Star

AMONG THE BEST THINGS ABOUT FALL are all the rich and beautiful foliage colors. As leaves change color, they are as beautiful high up in the trees as they are when they fall to the ground. Not all trees have beautiful fall color, so always do a little research if this is important to you before planting.

THE AMERICAN SWEET GUM, Liquidambar syraciflua, has good to excellent fall color. The large lobed, almost star-like leaves can be 4 to 7 inches wide. The leaves are dark green and glossy in the summer and turn yellow, purple, red, or a combination of all three in the fall.

THE SWEET GUM CAN GROW 60 to 75 feet tall and can be 30 to 40 feet wide when mature. It prefers to grow in an area with full sun and rich, deep, moist soil. When planted in an optimal location, it can grow 2 or more feet a year.

THE FRUIT PRODUCED BY THE SWEET GUM can be a nuisance and a hazard underfoot when in large quantities. The fruit is a 1- to 1.5-inch ball with spines. The dried fruit falls from autumn to spring, making it impossible to rake them up all at once. Because of the fruit, use great care in selecting the planting location.

SOME OF THE MORE UNUSUAL or columnar cultivars don’t produce as many fruit. There is also a fruitless form called Rotundiloba, which has smaller lobed leaves that are more rounded on the tips. The mature tree is equally beautiful in shape and fall color.

Shelly Nold is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.


ASK THE GARDENER

by: Angie McManus

I have peace lilies. The leaves on the end turn brown and break off. Also, the leaves turn yellow and then brown. Why are they doing this?

Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) are an easy-to-grow houseplant. When the tips of our houseplants turn brown, it is usually an indication of too much fertilizer, uneven moisture levels, or inadequate light levels. They should be fed no more than once a month.

Browning tips are common in peace lilies, even in their native environment. In other houseplants, this can be a sign of fluoride toxicity, which makes sense because tap water has fluoride added to it. The good news is that it won’t kill the plant; it just makes it look a bit ratty. Use a sharp, clean pair of scissors to remove the brown tips. You want to remove the brown tip but also create a new one, so cut at an angle in the shape of a V.

As far as the yellowing goes, this is a different situation. It could be too much moisture, but it could also be a magnesium deficiency. If you have not fed your plants recently, do so now with any well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10.

Your plants should be watered on a schedule, about every 10-14 days. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes and that they are not clogged. For now, remove any yellow foliage.


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