What do you think of this substitute for a Japanese Maple?

NettiesgardenAugust 9, 2005

I have followed the threads over the past year or so on growing JM's in Minnesota. I'm a zone pusher too but I don't think I would have the success that Mike and others have had in the cities. So I started looking for oriental looking plants that have the general idea of a JM for my conifer garden and stumbled on this sumac.It has a cutleaf foliage and I'm thinking you could prune it to look like a small tree. See what you think, I'd be interested in comments or other possible JM mimics.

Here is a link that might be useful: rhus typhina 'Tiger Eyes

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firethorn(Zone 4 MN)

We sell these at work, they're very cute. They're a little less orange in real life than in the picture though. I'm pretty sure you can prune it to look like a tree.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 9:58PM
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That sumac is beautiful! Great color and the leaf shape is very interesting. If only it would grow in shade, I'd get one for myself! Should make a vey good substitute for a JM. once its trained to grow like a little tree. If you go ahead with this, please keep us posted on your success. Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 7:31AM
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I found one at a local nursery and got a one year replacement guarantee so I thought it was worth a try. Right now it is yellow and the tips of the leaves are starting to turn red. It has a weeping habit that I like and the stems are a pretty red color contrasting with the leaves. I'll keep you posted on what it grows into.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 9:05AM
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Greenthumb(Zone 5a, MN)

I would use Acer pseudosieboldianum, the Korean maple, instead of Acer palmatum, the Japanese maple, if you're concerned about hardiness.

The Korean maple is hardy to probably zone 3b, with protection, and zone 4a without protection.

Here is a picture of the leaves on my tree last fall, in fall color. This is a small-growing tree that should have no problems being pruned if, and when, it might become too large for your spot. I love the two-toned effect on some of the leaves. The leaves are very "Japanese Maple-like" in their look. Unfortunately, this tree does not have any red-leaved cultivars at this time. Since you are looking at the Tiger Eyes sumac, leaf color probably isn't an issue.

Acer pseudosieboldianum - fall color, 2004


    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 10:42AM
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Thanks Mike, you are right- color doesn't concern me it's the form and effect that I was searching for. I'll look for the Korean Maple, thanks for the tip!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 11:46AM
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glen3a(Winnipeg MB 3A)


Also research the various types of elders,

sambucus racemosa 'sutherland' (Sutherland cutleaf golden elder)

sambucus nigra 'black beauty'

and sambucus nigra 'lacinata'


    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 12:17PM
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julie_mn(z4 MN Henn)

I don't like to toss out these negatives but maybe you want to know....Sambucus 'Black Beauty' croaked for me- It didn't even try to show this spring or summer- and I have heard that the Tiger eyes can be fickle here also-
I do love the looks of them! I found an annual that helps me with the wishin for a Japanese Maple- Look at Hibiscus Sabdariffa! I hope to grow this again and again and again!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 2:41PM
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Thanks Glen and Julie. I'll check into the elders and the hibiscus- it's nice to have a variety of options anyway.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 3:13PM
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I think possibly the hibiscus that Julie mentioned may have been the substitute for JM that was mentioned to a friend and I at Rice Creek Nursery.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 12:11AM
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I planted both the Sutherland Elder and the Tiger Eye Sumac last year. I have been trying to train them both as a tree. Both plants are growing really good. I bought them because the foliage color is so pretty. This spring I thought the Tiger Eye didn't make it over the winter. It was just a little stem. But then it got real "furry" and started growing like mad. Tripled its size this year. I guess it was just a slow starter. My Southerland is a fast grower. I just wish I knew what I was doing training it on a standard. I figure the worst that can happen is I will let it become a bush again if it looks too bad. It has really pretty leaves, I guess it does look like a light green JM at that!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 10:58PM
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I hesitantly bought a cutleaf sumac one year, after being convinced by the nursery owner that this particular one wouldn't be invasive. Next thing, sumac everywhere, even in my flower beds.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 12:14AM
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Interesting Mimi- you are one step ahead of me with both plants.
Grandma Jan- that thing about invasiveness caused me to research a little farther and I found the following link about Tiger's Eye. I hope that the nursery is right and it isn't as bad as the one you got.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link about invasiveness

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 11:47AM
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perennialprincess(z4 MN)


Tiger Eyes definitely suckers, no doubt about it, but I have found they are not difficult to keep up with, whether in a bed, or if they've moved out into the lawn.

It needs full sun to really bring out the chartreuse color, so I wouldn't make any shade recommendations for this plant. The fall color can be spectacular, with shades of orange and fire engine red.

I'm surprised at someones comment on it being fickle as far as winter hardiness - my experience has been that it is rock solid in zone 4. It is late to break bud, and patience is a necessary gardening virtue on this plant.

It will ultimately reach that 5-6' height and spread - nice idea to be pruning it into more of a small tree form - good luck!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 11:59AM
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dentaybow(Z3A MN)

Julie - are you growing Hibiscus sabdariffa as a winter hardy perennial? Or replanting each year? Have you found it to be readily available at nurseries?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 9:34AM
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friesfan1(5b NW-KS)

Hi Nettiesgarden,
I realize this thread is a bit old, but thought I would jump
in. I have wanted a JM forever, but in my hot summers and
cold winters in z 5b KS, I know of no one who has ever grown

I have been reading up on Rhus typhina 'Laciniata'. But the
price tag of $30 is pretty steep.

I am looking to plant a pretty side yard consisting of
a Smoke bush, skyrocket juniper or wichita juniper, laceleaf
sumac, and some type of ornamental grass. I think the
contrasting colors would be pretty year round, and block
my view of the neighbors yard.

I will keep looking for a cheaper price for the laceleaf
sumac. If not I may use ÂDissecta - Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac,
which is not quite what I want, but work in my idea.

To satisfy my need for a JM in my landscape I did purchase
3 amur maples this spring, they are doing great, but lost
amounst my zinnas & cosmos!

Those Korean Maple are beautiful! I need to Google them
as well!

z 5b KS

    Bookmark   September 10, 2005 at 9:07PM
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stefanb8(z7 MD)

Hmm... you haven't actually tried any Japanese maples yet? There's one in my family's garden out in the northwest suburbs, and it doesn't even die back from winter cold (with no protection). I'll grant that the cultivar is not something you'll find locally, but it would seem that the 'Emperor I' types and perhaps others should be about as hardy. I'd buy a small one at a reasonable price (this means you'll have to mail-order it), plant in the spring, and burlap it for the first few winters until you're more comfortable with it. There's no reason to completely deprive yourself of the experience!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 1:40AM
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I am really glad to see someone with a Korean variety. I too have JM envy but would never think to plant one in my rural yard, death would be certain. I did see a Korean maple this summer at a nursery, with a price tag of $130 so I didn't jump on it. After seeing that gorgeous photo above I will now keep my eye out for that little darling to go on sale yet this fall...the nursery still has it at that price.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2005 at 10:21AM
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Greenthumb(Zone 5a, MN)

I also have Acer palmatum Robinson's Red (RR) growing in my yard (a REAL Japanese maple). The tree was planted in 2002 or 2003 and has seen -25°F with NO damage.

Robinson's Red is only available from Girard's Nursery, in Ohio, via mail order. RR is a seed-grown selection from a tree that Girard's imported from Holland in the 40's (I believe) and was the only tree to survive the -25°F temps. that the area sometimes experiences.

My RR is planted in the most exposed location in my backyard and the only protection the tree receives is a 4' tall cylinder of chicken wire that is covered with burlap. I may not use the chicken wire/burlap to protect the tree this winter. I am sitll undecided.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2005 at 8:54PM
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At our last garden club meeting we had an assistant professor from the University of Minnesota, Department of Horticultural Science, as our guest speaker. Looking towards the future, he envisions a Japanese like maple hardy enough for the north! I'm sure this is still a few years away, but at least those folks are working on it.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2005 at 10:43PM
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Yes, (thanks for the recent replies)I am sure that I will eventually stop depriving myself and either try zone pushing or they will come up with a hardier variety. Part of the county that I reside in is actually zone 3b- about 20 miles away and I do see -35 temps in the winter so I might be just a little more cautious than others.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 9:32AM
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newgars(z5a WI)

I'd give Robinson's Red a try. I took shipment on 5 seedlings late last fall and healed them in - with my fingers crossed. All came through a typical z5a winter with no problem. They are however very variable - no real true red in my group but it is a JM.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 6:00PM
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glen3a(Winnipeg MB 3A)

I bought my Korean maple approx 5 years ago at one foot high for $30 (2 gallon pot). Maybe I just lucked out on finding a good one, or maybe I have a good sheltered spot, but it's done well for me (zone 3, though sheltered city lot). It never developed much in the way of fall color until this year. I believe itÂs because itÂs in a shady spot (3 hours sun). Not as brilliant as MikeÂs photo, but it did get an orangy hue to it with some of the leaves on the branch ends reddish. Nice to see as most of my other plants get yellow fall color. As my tree gets taller however (6 feet tall) the top of the plant isnÂt as shaded by nearby buildings.

My only complaint, and itÂs not a big deal, is that here the leaves seem to get frost bitten, then stick onto the plant, instead of falling off. ItÂs just a minor complaint because now I have a tree with crispy leaves ready to fall off into my small pond nearby.

According to some sources, this tree can get quite big, but I am happy that it is slow enough growing (at least here) and seems more shrub like than tree like.

I also have a couple of Japanese maples, though smaller height ones. For winter I take a box, remove the bottom flaps, place around the tree and essentially fill in around the tree with peat moss, then leaves. Once it snows, mound lots of snow. TheyÂve come through 3 winters this way. I know they will never be huge, because any portion of the plant that I donÂt winter protect wonÂt survive, but itÂs kind of neat to be able to grow at least a couple. I know they too can gain great size with age, but I sort of view these as miniature trees.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 3:59PM
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I second the staghorn sumac. It has beautiful red fall color. My sister has grown them for years and years - some in pots - in zone 5 in colorado. Lots of freeze/thaw where she is because the sun is SOOOO strong there. The ones in the ground are in dappled sun and barely grow above 5'. She gave me a couple that made it through last winter in pots on my deck - no protection. They grew quite a bit this past summer. Maybe more tropical than japanese, but very interesting cut leaves too.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 7:19PM
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friesfan1(5b NW-KS)

I know this is an OLD , OLD thread, but just bought
a Tiger Eyes Sumac. I am wondering what plant combinations
to plant with it for year around contrast?

I also just bought a Russian Sage. But I think at maturity
they will end up about the same width/height?

What would make a good plant combo with my Tiger Eyes Sumac?


    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 9:45AM
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friesfan1(5b NW-KS)

I ended up planting "Black Lace" Sambucus in this bed
with my Tiger Eye Sumac. With it I also added Morning Light

Here is hoping that they all grow to maturity and my
bed is all that I am imagining.

z 5b KS

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 3:04PM
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