Best Planting Size and Time for Blackgum Tupelo Tree

thaprankstaOctober 28, 2013

I'm planting a blackgum tupelo tree (Nyssa sylvatica) as the main tree in my front yard. I've read that this tree may be difficult to transplant because of a taproot. With that said, what would be the best time and planting size for the tree? Is autumn an ok time for planting? Should I aim to buy trees that are only below a certain height? I'm fine with planting younger trees as they are cheaper, more adaptable, and easier to dig a hole for. However it will be in the front yard and it isn't a fast grower so I'd want it to fill in its space as quickly as possible without sacrificing the plant's health.

On a side note, I saw some blackgum trees at a local Lowes and they looked god awful. They were really tall (> 9 feet) and every one was leaning over a bunch and stuffed in little pots (12 inch diameter) with spotty leaves. I'm under the impression that a healthy tree shouldn't look like that. They were selling them all for full price. Poor trees that may never find a home.

This post was edited by thapranksta on Mon, Oct 28, 13 at 9:44

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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

I planted ours in the fall, and because it was root bound had to butcher the roots pretty bad. However it has done well. I also raised some one year seedlings (from local seed source) and gave them away in the first fall, and all those transplanted without a problem. Others here have had issues with Blackgum's planted in the fall. Our Blackgum from it's behavior, I believe to be a northern seed source, and if true would mean our winter is no big deal to it. However trees grown from southern seed, or perhaps even grown from the deep south may not be so happy with a fall transplant to a climate they are not prepared for. So IMHO, if you can get locally grown, or from northern seed source (i.e. seedlings from Pa or Ohio etc.) plant in the fall. Otherwise wait till spring. Also look for trees grown in root pruning containers for best results. Being in mid-Tn where so much nursery stock is grown, you should not have much problems locating these. If you can get a tree grown in root pruning pots, then go with whatever size you see fit. If you can not find these, then get a smaller tree of 4-5'.

Lastly, for growth rate etc the cultivar "Wildfire" supposedly grows significantly faster than species (though I don't believe has the best fall color), though I have seen the species add 3'-4'+/yr as well. Much depends on the soil, site conditions, fertility, mulch ring, and keeping a grass free zone. All are very important for best growth. As for fall color, to me Wildfire does not have the best fall color, but as stated probable grows faster. The cultivar Red Rage to me has the best color, but I have seen it less often, and I do not know about it's growth rate. I would assume typical of the species of 2'+/yr if the above mentions factors are properly addressed.

JMHO,
Arktrees

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 1:34PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

In zone 5 its a no. I went against advice and my beloved Sheri's Cloud died!

TN, zone 6b...totally different story. Ark's advice is better suited.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 2:22PM
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thapranksta

So far the local nurseries I have contacted don't have it. Some of the nursery staff act as though they never even heard of it which was strange to me even after I pulled up the image and data on my smartphone. However, they did agree that it was a nice looking tree. lol. I may end up obtaining it from a mail order company.

Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 8:43PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

FWIW, I hate to say this, most nursery staff I run into consists of people who know less about plants than my 4 year old does.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 10:38PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Here are some possible "local", wholesale sources. Your local nursery (if they are even half way decent) should be able to source from one of them. Usually I try to verify whether places actually have stuff in stock before posting like this, but this time I am going to leave that up to you (or your nursery). These nurseries normally carry Nyssa sylvatica or a cultivar of it.

Barnes, Vernon, & Son Nursery (McMinnville, TN)

Hillis Nursery Co., Inc. (McMinnville, TN)

Commercial Nursery Co., Inc. (Decherd, TN)

Shadow Nursery, Inc. (Winchester, TN) - wonderful place, BTW

Wanamaker Nursery, Inc. (McMinnville, TN)

Warren County Nursery, Inc. (McMinnville, TN)

There are many many mail-order retailers for this plant. So if you decide to go that way, you should be able to source with no problem.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 10:38PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"So far the local nurseries I have contacted don't have it. Some of the nursery staff act as though they never even heard of it...."

If you went to a butcher and they seemed only vaguely familiar with the term "rib eye", what would that tell you? LOL

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 10:42PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Sometimes, (not always) a call or email to a wholesaler can lead you to the name of a retailer that sells their products.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 10:48PM
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thapranksta

Thanks for the list brandon7.

This particular nursery I went to is usually spot-on with information from just about any staff member. It's consistent with whatever research I do prior to going there and afterward. That's why it was so strange that two staff members didn't seem to know a thing. They mentioned the "sweet gum" but couldn't recall "black gum" or "tupelo".

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 4:02PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Darn common names. Maybe its called red spot or something in their zip code lol. I wish everything just went by the latin name because it would help me out lol.

Nyssa has always died back for me the first spring after planting it. Well, the two small and one 5 gallonish trees I have planted anyway. The five gallon tree I had more patience with and it has rewarded it.

FWIW, it is a "Wildfire" Nyssa and it has grown well since dying back to within inches of the rootstock. The red spring AND summer new growth is more red than I thought. Almost like a crab apple. Definately an attention getter but be prepared. The tree seems to turn mostly green by August or September. By now I have looked at the dark red new growth so long the fall red just looks good but not GREAT. It might be more attention getting on a large tree though and it is red most of the year it seems lol.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 8:30PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Red Rage was selected for its thicker / glossier leaves and therefore more resistant to leaf spot which is a very common problem with this plant. For a green leaf variety I'd be drawn to this particular cultivar over any other.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 9:11PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I think the tradeoff with 'Wildfire' (I don't have one but might get one) is that you get the red new growth, but trade off some of the fall color.

Toronado, since yours has resprouted, does it look like a "tree" again at this point?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 11:08PM
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thapranksta

Any experience with 'Green Gable (NSUHH)'? This one is said to grow faster than the species and have a more uniform 'upright pyramidal' growth pattern. This gives me the impression that it may be susceptible to wind damage.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 9:52AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

hairmetal, it looks more like a crepe myrtle by silhouette but is seven or eight foot tall I guess.

I have a leader picked out and this spring, assuming all goes well with deer and all, I will trim it back to a more obvious tree shape.

In retrospect since deer have always ignored it and there has been no die back in any of the two or three winters since that first I could have kept only one branch growing. However I felt given that it was a five foot tree killed back to a stub I should allow all the foliage I could the first year then start a pruning regimen. It is living and growing nicely so I dunno which would have been right lol.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 12:07PM
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thapranksta

So I was able to get the black gum tree from a mail order source and it looks really good. :-) But...now I have a new issue. I was digging a nice round hole in the front yard to get it settled in. As I was digging I kept encountering chunks of gravel but the soil looked good otherwise. At the bottom of the hole there was a huge rock that I could not remove. The rock is about 10 inches deep. I only need about 8 inches to match the top of the potted soil.

With most trees, I know this rock would be a non issue since it is realy below the needed planting depth but could this cause problems for the black gum's tap root? I mean could the rock block the taproot from reaching its full size and kill the tree ultimately? Am I reading too much into this?

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 7:51PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Is there any chance of moving over a foot and avoiding it? I would at least dig a hole a foot away to see if it was a HUGE rock lol. Them again dead spots in the grass is not a big deal in my yard.

Honestly I bet you would be fine. Once though I was digging and found a pink granite rectangularish rock. Some more digging unearthed a few more in better shape indicating that spot probably had some structure or support for the old road or a bridge down there or something.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 9:55PM
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thapranksta

I ended up just constantly chipping away at that rock until I was able to dig it out and then I ran into another huge rock right after that. Apparently our front yard consists of rocks with dirt dumped on top of it. The soil itself still is of good quality.

One thing I noticed (and keep in mind that this is only my 2nd time EVER planting a potted plant) is there were a LOT of encircling roots around the potted soil. I cut off a lot even though it feels as though you will hurt the plant if you do that.

Also, I've never received a potted plant in the mail and it was not mailed in a pot at all as I was expecting. Instead it was removed from the pot. The soil was covered in a wet brown bag, and then wrapped in plastic. Is this how potted plants are usually shipped?

Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 9:08AM
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