sweet gum tree

pcharles1956(7a newsoms va.)July 24, 2005

Hi ,

I have a sweet gum trunk with very nice branching in my yard.It is about 22 inch tall and truck is about 8-10 inch across with a nuben of about 12-14 inch. I was thinking of makeing it one of my bonsai projects.Can the leaves be reduced on a gum?? Do they make a nice bonsai tree? Any help will be nice.Thank you all for your time.

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What's a nuben? Did you mean nebari?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 1:51PM
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pcharles1956(7a newsoms va.)

lol...yes that was what I ment.thank you for pointing that out.I guess the heat has fried my brain today.....lol

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 2:27PM
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mark_rockwell(7 Va)

By and large Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum) doesn't make good bonsai. Its leaves are too large and more problematically, its leaf internodes (the distance between leaves on the twig) are vastly too long. Neither can be changed much with bonsai techniques.

You can get around this by using large and very large starting material. Trunks over 3 inches in diameter (the bigger the better, 9 inches would be great), taller trunks over 24 inches are probably in the ballpark. Smaller trees with trunks less than 2 inches and shorter than 24 tend to look spindly and kind of pathetic.

This species has much going for it--spectacular, reliable autumn color, nice bark on mature trunks. It's also pretty hardy. You can collect larger specimens easily in early spring--BEFORE BUD BREAK. Once buds have broken and active growth is in progress, these are almost impossible to collect.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 8:15AM
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dennismc(Sydney, Austral)


Much as I respect Marks great knowledge and experience I have to disagree about the Sweet Gum.

It is, along with its Asian counterpart, one of the most commonly grown and loved trees for Bonsai in Australia.

It does need harder control, than some other trees types. Its appearance of strength and the Autumn color are very attractive. Probably its greatest fault is an exceptionally strtong apical dominance which needs regular attention.

The large leaves and long internodes can be overcome with dedication in 4 - 5 years. Email me if you would like any more detailed advice on the tree.

Dennis Mc

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 4:22AM
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durza2111(9b Cntrl. AZ)

I live in Arizona and here sweet gum trees are generally about 80-100 feet tall, they are the tallest trees around here and they grow very quickly, I have never ever seen any one of them lose their leaves in winter and they are very drought resistant, DO NOT WATER THEM VERY MUCH AT ALL! I do not think that they would be very good trees to keep in VA, I'd think that they'd freeze solid in wintertime I doubt they'd survive.

I do not recommend a sweet gum for anyone in a climate with winters that drop below 65.

In other words, don't use it for bonsai, you'll have a terrible time trying to get it to grow as a bonsai, you could however, grow it as a houseplant.

PS- feel free to ask me any questions that you have regarding the sweet gum tree, we have thousands of them here.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 7:37PM
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mark_rockwell(7 Va)

Dura, This is a different "sweet gum" than the one you're seeing--this is liquidamber Styraciflua. The gum you're probably referring to is eucalyptus, which is a desert tree.

Liquidamber is a temperate zone deciduous tree (there are basically an Asian an North American species) that has leaves alot like a maple. The sweet gum name is a southern nickname...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 8:04AM
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marcusbotanicus(z5 IN)

I have a Liquidamber styraciflua as bonsai. It is presently 9 years old and about 30" tall. The trick is to grow it in a pot (I used a 2gal) for about 5 years to get a thick trunk. The trunk on the bottom is 2" caliper tapering to the top of about 1/2" caliper. To retain and produce small leaves, I use a low level slow release nitrogen. Feeding it only twice a year (Spring & Summer). Also, I do a lot of prunning to keep it in shape.

BTW: The Botanical garden (one of the oldest in the world) at the Vrije University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, has a specimen that is about 150 years old. It is about 4 ft tall, a very thick trunk and it tapers to the top. I remember the leaves where the size of a trident maple. This tree is kept in a thick iron cage.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 1:48PM
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I too have a sweet gum tree now for over 20 years. The leaves sure do scale down! I get buds breaking right along the trunk as well. This is not the Japanese variety but our eastern NA one. Just make sure winter temps dont get too cold .I put mine pot and all in the garden soil for winter. If temps go much below freezing with winds it will die. Exactly like Blue Atlas Cedar.They need a bit of winter protection.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 6:43PM
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In my own research, mostly online I have found that the sweetgum is a much to be desired specimen for bonsai. I even found a seller on ebay that had seeds for sale at 5 per pound sterling. I had to laugh at this since I have a 100+ tree in my front yard which, at that price, makes me a very wealthy man.
I am currently making my first attempt at bonsai with one of the seedlings.
Anyinfo or advice you can share with a rookie would be much appreciated.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 4:10PM
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I have a Liquidambar Styraciflua prebonsai that I started from a seed 20 years ago. These trees are extremely hardy, and work beautifully as bonsai. Most important, for those who live in places so arid that we keep our maples on life support, they produce reliable fall color without anything other than basic care.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bonsai Trees

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 9:34PM
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Here in south alabama they seem to tolerate temps in the low 20's in winter and 95+ in the summer. I have a few in my front yard that was cut back last year and are now about 5 feet tall now. Was thinking if I could keep it down to size even if it is growing in the yard.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 6:04PM
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