Liquidambars (Liquidambar styraciflua) are native to North America, where they are commonly known as sweetgums. They are large, fast growing deciduous trees, which can reach 25 metres (82′) high and spread to around 12 metres (39′). They’re probably best known for their spectacular orange, purple, red or yellow autumn foliage. There are other varieties of liquidambar besides the well known species, for example there is a compact form called ‘Gumball’, and three new varieties are due for release just in time for autumn 2000 – ‘Gold Dust’, ‘Parasol’ and ‘Rotundiloba’.
Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Gumball’
A dwarf liquidambar which can be grown as a dense shrub reaching only about 1-2 metres (3-6.5′) tall, Gumball is often grafted onto an ordinary liquidambar rootstock about 1.5 metres (4-5′) high. The result is a fantastic, tight ball of shrub on a tall stick, which makes a good focal point in a paved area or courtyard. Autumn foliage is a beautiful burgundy-red colour.
Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Goduzam’ – Gold Dust
Gold Dust has foliage with attractive gold and green variegations, turning to pink and burgundy tones in the autumn. It grows to around 15 metres (49′) tall and 12 metres (39′) wide. The amount of light this tree reflects is amazing, and makes it ideal to use in a dark part of the garden.
Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Parasol’
In the juvenile stage Parasol is an upright tree, but as it grows it loses apical dominance and develops a symmetrical rounded crown. It has mid-green foliage which turns rich plum red in autumn. Parasol is a tough, reliable form of liquidambar which will reach about 10 metres (33′) high and 8 metres (26′) wide.
Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Rotundiloba’
Rotundiloba has dark green foliage turning to burgundy red in autumn, and the leaf lobes are rounded rather than pointed. It is smaller than the species at around 13 metres (43′) tall, and narrowly pyramidal in shape.
Best climate: Liquidambars are best in a cool to mild climate.
Liquidambars require an adequate root run. They are large trees with strong roots which can crack concrete. Take care to plant them at least 10 metres (33′) or more from the house.
Liquidambars prefer a position in full sun in a deep loamy soil. Make sure they are watered regularly and well mulched. Pruning will spoil their natural shape.
Grafted ‘Gumball’ liquidambar is very hard to find. You may have to place an order for one at your local nursery. ‘Parasol’, ‘Rotundiloba’ and ‘Gold Dust’ are due for release in autumn 2000.