A small group of highly attractive, deciduous trees, grown for their rich displays of autumn colour. The tree is named after the amber-like resin that exudes naturally from the trunk.

Family: Hamamelidaceae
Botanical Name: Liquidambar
Common Names: Sweet gum

Foliage: Deciduous, glossy-green, 5 lobed leaves (similar to that of a maple). Brilliant autumn foliage, in shades of orange, crimson and purple. Attractive corky bark on mature trees.

Blossom: Inconspicuous green-yellow flowers, followed by decorative spiky fruits.

Flowering Period: March

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (loam, clay or sand). Acid or neutral pH.

Conditions: Full sun or partial shade, in a south, east or west facing aspect.

Habit: Rounded or conical.

Type: Tree.

Origin: North America

Hardiness: Fully hardy in the UK.

Planting and Growing Liquidambar

Easy to grow. Thrives in moist but well-drained, lime-free soil, in sun or semi shade. Plant in full sun for the best autumn colour. 

Makes a good a specimen tree. Ideal for woodland gardens.

Taking Care of Liquidambar

A robust tree that needs very little care or attention once established.

Pruning Liquidambar

Not neccessary, except to remove any crossing, rubbing, dead or damaged wood when dormant (between autumn and early spring).

Pests and Diseases

Can be affected by honey fungus.

Propagating Liquidambar

Increase from semi-hardwood cuttings.

Varieties of Liquidambar

Liquidambar styraciflua forms a large tree with maple-like leaves. Brilliant autumn colour. Height to 60ft (18m) or more. Cultivars include: 

  • 'Afterglow' has attractive three-lobed leaves, that turn violet-red in spring and scarlet in autumn. Height to 60ft (18m), spread 45ft (13m).
  • 'Andrew Hewson' has finely lobed leaves that turn various shades of dark orange and red in October. Height 60ft (18m), spread 40ft (12m).
  • 'Burgundy' has good red and orange autumn colour. Height to 60ft (18m).
  • 'Fastigiata' has a fairly narrow, upright shape. Suitable for smaller gardens. Orange and red autumn colour. Height to 50ft (15m).
  • 'Festival' rich burgundy-red autumn colour from September to November. Height to 40ft (8m).
  • 'Lane Roberts' produces glowing, blackish-red autumn colours. Smooth-barked and more pyramidal in habit. Height to 60ft (18m).
  • 'Moonbeam' is a compact slow-growing variety with golden young foliage in spring, turning pale green and then to fiery reds, pinks and oranges in autumn.

Liquidambar orientalis (Oriental sweet gum) slow growing and suited to smaller, sheltered gardens. The finely divided foliage has excellent maroon-red autumn colour. Height to 8m (26ft) or more.