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West Sussex, United Kingdom Gb

I have a liquidamber tree which is colouring up a bit but nothing like the glorious ones I've seen in other areas. My soil is pretty neutral and I have just read that this tree prefers an acid soil. The tree is about 20ft tall and has been in 5 years so the roots are quite deep by now. Is there anyway I could add anything to improve the colour do you think?



You don't say which variety of liquidamber you have - different cultivars produce different autumn colours, so you may have one that doesn't produce rich reds in autumn. As for the acidity of the soil, you could try watering sequestrene around it a couple of times of year, and/or mulching with acidic material such as conifer needle/branch mulch, not to mention always throwing your coffee grounds around it - these are acidifying too.

21 Oct, 2010


Hi penny,

We have a collection of Liquidambars here - both the various species as well as cultivars of L. styraciflua - and the autumn colours on all of them vary hugely from year to year. The same can be said for most other autumn colouring trees and shrubs too.

The acidity of the soil is not generally a contributing factor to the display of autumn colour. The red/orange/purple colours are what is left behind once the trees have withdrawn the green chlorophyll back into the branches. This normally they do as purely a response to light and temperature levels. Also whilst Liquidambars are native to acid soils, but are fairly tolerant of neutral soils in cultivation.

Typically these plants are native to Continental Asia or, as is the case with Liquidambar styraciflua, from continental North America, where the fall temperatures tend to be colder and more defined - i.e. they don't have the alternating warm and cold days and nights that tend to be a feature of British autumns. Ultimately all autumn colouring trees have to be exposed to a good spell of cold temps to stimulate a good, rapid colour change, so if yours in in a very sheltered location, for example, then you may be continually disappointed by the colours.

Different species respond to their own particular temperature stimuli. Here we find that some plants that colour brilliantly one year do nothing much the next year, whilst others that were dull one year will be great the next. It's hard to predict what each year will produce, colour wise and this year is no different. Also summer temperatures and rainfall levels are thought to play a part.

Finally L. styraciflua is one of the last of the autumn colour trees to shed it's leaves entirely, and colours may well change and improve as the season progresses and temps drop, and, as Bamboo says, different cultivars will produce different colours at different times of the season too.

21 Oct, 2010


Fascinating! Never fails to amaze me!

21 Oct, 2010


hmmm...just read through my post - please excuse the breakdown of coherent word-order in the 2nd paragraph!!

21 Oct, 2010


Well, thank you for these replies. I had not realised there were different cultivars etc. so I don't know which tree I have. It has turned a dull red-brown but if colour is susceptible to weather conditions and temperatures etc that might not mean anything. I bought it at Hilliers but of course I didn't ask about species or cultivars or anything. I had seen a beautiful liquidamber in someone's garden and thought, "Just the thing for the bottom corner! I'll get one!"
Tomorrow I will see whether there is still a legible label anywhere, but I doubt it.
I will certainly try the sequestrine and pine needles and just hope for better colour in the future. Thanks very much for the advice and explanations.

21 Oct, 2010


Just to add PF, my liquidamber this year is extremly dark, the darkest it's ever been. Last year it was vibrant red. Wonderful trees. Have a look at my photo's as I took some snaps of the leaves a few weeks ago to show the diversity just one tree can produce at the same time. I will take a photo of it tomorrow to show you an update , it's virtually black at a glance. Brilliant show. ps: been growing in heavy clay for about 12-15 years now.

21 Oct, 2010


Miraculously, I've found a label this morning! It is a liquidamber styraciflua "Worplesdon". Do you have this particular one, Ilex?
Thank you for your comment Bampy and I will certainly have a look at your photos later, but I'm just about to fly out of the door after a call from an elderly relative.
Incidentally, the leaves are dropping fast!

22 Oct, 2010


Ah - 'Worplesdon' turns yellow and orange in autumn, sorry, Penny...

22 Oct, 2010


Hi Penny,

Yes, Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplsedon' is by far the most widespread clone offered for sale in this country. We did have one in the garden but it was stolen (in full autumn colour I might add!) and we replaced it with one of the pendulous clones.

It was chosen and named specifically because of it's good autumn colour, generally starting deep wine purple and passing directly through all shades of bright orange, often all at the same time - that contrast between dark and bright foliage on the same tree at the same time is one of the best features of this species in general. There's a good, and very typical pic of 'Worplesdon' on the following page:

Looking at our Liquidambars this morning most are still at the wine coloured stage...the most advanced is 'Stared' which is a good bright scarlet, the least advanced is 'Moonlight' which is still largely green, with only the outermost leaves deep purple, even though they are all side by side.

The generic name is spelled LiquidambAr rather than LiquidambEr, incidentally :-)

It was named after it's fragrant, balsam-like resinous sap (which was once used medicinally and to create fragrances) rather than for the autumn colours.

22 Oct, 2010


Well, thank you all once again for these helpful comments. I am disappointed in the colour but it is still a very nice tree, so I'll just have to learn from experience!

22 Oct, 2010


The brightness of the autumn color is also directly related to the health of the leaves at the end of summer. If they are chlorotic from alkaline soil--true neutral isn't usually much of a problem--or they have a lot of heat and drought damage, the color is going to be more brown than anything else.

23 Oct, 2010


Oh thanks---we certainly had a long dry spell in the summer and I did worry about certain trees. I'm quite encouraged by the help from all of you and I now know that it might display more colour in the future. I shall water it more and give it sequestrene and a pine needle mulch and see whether that helps. Now that it has grown much taller than the fence there's more chance of it getting the full brunt of the frosts!

23 Oct, 2010


I have a liquid amber tree which did not colour very well but saw a prog on BBC that suggested digging in sulphur granules around the tree and this year it's fantastic !

13 Nov, 2018

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