Local Native; Mojave Desert
Full Sun; Part Shade
Required minimal pruning except to train as a small tree
Sugar Bush or Sugar Sumac is an evergreen shrub to small tree with large, bright-green, leathery leaves and dense, white flower clusters. Berries are reddish and sticky. The twigs are thick and reddish in color.
Sugar Bush is tough and easy to grow, and very fast growing once established. It tolerates a wide variety of soils including clay. It grows fastest with full sun, and just a little slower in part shade. The biggest downside of this plant is that it can get huge, often more than 30 feet wide, and can aggressively crowd out nearby plants. Give sugar bush infrequent deep irrigations in low desert landscapes for best response. In higher elevation landscapes, no supplemental water is needed after establishment. It is said to be fire resistant, especially if given supplemental water.
You can use as a screen, hedge or specimen. Attracts quail and other songbirds making it a great addition for a bird garden.
Prune lightly and infrequently and only as needed to maintain a natural shape. Sugar bush DOES NOT respond well to significant crown reduction, canopy thinning, or shearing.
Growing Plants in the Desert — Important Information
The information presented here is, to the best of my knowledge, accurate and based on my research from reliable sources, observations I have made of plants growing in my, and other gardens I have visited, and observations of the plants in their native habitats. I would appreciate your feedback and experience to help me educate others!
Cacti: In my experience, cacti are much happier in the filtered shade here in the low desert of the Coachella Valley. Colors are more vibrant and they bloom more profusely, especially the non-native varieties. If you pay attention to how our native barrel and beavertail opuntia grow in the wild, it is frequently tucked in the rocks under creosote or another shrub.
Light Requirements: I have found that in our desert (Sonoran/Colorado) “full sun” plants can take and appreciate the late afternoon filtered sun, especially in the hot summer months.