Though staghorn sumac is known as a weedy, suckering shrub often seen along roadsides, the cutleaf form of this species is more refined and highly ornamental. This medium-sized shrub produces bold, upright stems with a spreading branching pattern. Cutleaf staghorn sumac has deep green, compound leaves. The individual leaflets are finely cut and slightly drooping, giving the plant a graceful look. Cutleaf staghorn sumac develops stunning fall color, with shades of yellow, orange, and fiery red in early to mid autumn. This is a female cultivar, and if the spring-blooming yellow-green flowers are pollinated, they will produce velvety red berries in flame- shaped clusters.
Common name: Cutleaf staghorn sumac
Botanical name: Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata'
Plant type: Shrub
Zones: 3 to 8
Height: 6 to 8 feet
Spread: 10 to 12 feet
Family: Anacardiaceae, cashew family
- Sun: Plant in full sun for best fall color. Will tolerate partial shade.
- Soil: Thrives in most soil types. Avoid constantly wet soils.
- Moisture: Best growth occurs with even moisture, but the plant tolerates dry conditions.
- Mulch: None, or 1 to 3 inches of coarse organic mulch such as wood chips or shredded bark.
- Pruning: Prune out suckers at the base if you want to limit the plant's spread. Cut back selected stems in late winter to limit height.
- Fertilizer: Rarely needed, but one light application of balanced fertilizer may be applied every year or two if desired.
- Seedlings will not retain the cutleaf form.
- Root stem cuttings in midsummer.
- This cultivar is frequently propagated from root cuttings that are dug up in fall or winter and grown in greenhouses.
Pests and diseases
- Verticillium, a soil-borne fungal disease, can affect this plant.
- Leaf spots and powdery mildew can cause cosmetic damage but usually don't have a big impact on plant health.
- Cutleaf staghorn sumac makes a dramatic specimen plant for an entryway garden, especially when pruned to just 3 to 5 stems.
- Plant cutleaf staghorn sumac where you can see it from indoors during the winter-the architectural branching pattern looks especially striking when dusted with snow.
- This plant's brilliant fall foliage looks dramatic against a backdrop of evergreens.
- Rhus typhina ‘Dissecta' is very similar to ‘Laciniata' but has even more finely cut leaflets.
All in the family
- Though most members of the cashew family hail from the tropics, a few are native to temperate zones. Smoketree (Cotinus spp.) and Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) are cashew family members that are commonly used as ornamentals.
- Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), which is similar to staghorn sumac, also has a cutleaf form named ‘Laciniata'. It's sometimes listed as a hybrid under the name Rhus x pulvinata ‘Red Autumn Lace'.
Text by Nancy Rose, image by Amy Sumner