Tiger Eye Sumac Love

Mar 4, 2017 | Love This!

“I want more color in the gardens,” she said.
“No problem,” he replied.
The next day when she got home there was a flock of pink flamingos in her landscape.
“That’s not the kind of color I had in mind,” she said. “Those are hideous.”
“Well you have to admit they are colorful…but what did you have in mind?” he asked.
“Plants, of course! Bright leaves or flowers,” she explained.
The next day she got home and found pots of an almost tropical looking plant in her driveway. The ferny foliage was a vibrant lime-yellow.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” she cried. “You’re the best.”
“It’s called Tiger Eyes,” he responded, “and it’s the best plant for the best woman.”
“You’re just trying to make up for those pink flamingos,” she said.
“Busted,” he replied.
And then she kissed him, deeply.

Name: Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ aka Tiger Eyes Sumac
Type of Plant:  This is a dwarf, golden foliage version of our native staghorn sumac. It has dissected leaves and only grows 4 to 6 feet tall. This plant does well in full sun or part-sun. Basically, if it’s getting four hours of dead-on sunshine in the afternoon it will do well.
Why I love this: Great early spring colors of gold and pink, lime green to yellow foliage all summer and a blaze of fall oranges, yellows and reds. So great color and texture in the garden that brings something to the party three seasons a year.
This plant is also very drought tolerant so it’s good in the water-wise garden. This sumac doesn’t spread by suckers as much as the species plant – you’ll have one or two popping up here and there, so enough to share with friends or to mass together for a show of color, but not so many that you feel like the plant wants to take over.
A Word to the Wise:  This sumac does not want to grow in wet soils. So not the plant for your swampy areas or for landscapes that are irrigated daily.

The new foliage on Tiger Eye Sumac is colorful in the spring. And when the plant is cut to the ground, instead of growing on on older stems as you see here, it’s even more colorful. So this is a plant that can be grown as a small tree, a shrub, or even as a perennial that gets cut to the ground every spring.

This stand of Tiger Eye Sumac was growing in full sun at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. Here is how colorful the leaves were in August when I was there. (BTW – if you’ve never been to CMBG you must go soon.)

In the fall Tiger Eye is a blaze of color. It’s the perfect plant to place with asters (These are Raydon’s Favorite) because both these plants are drought-tolerant and the blue aster flowers are perfect with the yellow and orange fall sumac foliage.

This is photo from early May that shows how this plant can develop quirky, interesting shapes over time. It also shows two new shoots coming up next to the old stems. The newest foliage and shoots always are more colorful.


  1. Julie

    Helpful post on a lesser known plant. Thinking of trying this, perhaps a small grove of 5 or so. I’ve got a big place and they would have room to stretch out a bit.
    I read that they are very sculptural in winter but I can’t find any pics with the leaves gone. Would you agree? Got any pics of that? Thanks.

    • CL Fornari

      They do spread although not as vigorously as the species staghorn sumac. So if you plant you would have a grove in three to five years… I will put up a photo that shows how they develop quirky shapes that are interesting in the winter – it’s a spring shot but it will give you the idea.

  2. Julie

    Wow! It does have a great winter silhouette. Thank you so much for the picture.
    Last question: where did your husband buy them?
    I’m glad I found your blog!

    • CL Fornari

      We bought this plant at my local garden center, so ask around your area first. There are on-line sources too, and the plants grow quickly.

  3. Desiree Halladay

    I have my plant in a pot. I moved it inside due to the snow. I have it by my front window that gets sun most of the day. Within a few days all the leaves died and fell off and now the branches are dying. Please help

    • CL Fornari

      This isn’t an indoor plant and it actually needs to rest in a cold period. If you want to keep it as a container plant you could bury the container in a hole in the soil for the winter (provided the container isn’t clay or other breakable material) leaving the plant out in the snow etc. This plant is hardy in temps down to -25 but that’s when the root system is in the ground…which is why burying it would work, and then taking the pot out of the dirt next year. Or you could overwinter it in an unheated garage where the temperatures don’t go much below zero. But it isn’t going to work to keep it in the house.


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