Tiger Eyes® Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’) is among the group of plants that elicit a strong reaction from gardeners; they either love it or they hate it. There is no middle ground. On one hand, it’s a spreader/colonizer that requires de-suckering. On the other hand, it provides attractive foliage, fruit for wildlife, and brilliant fall color – a multi-season interest shrub!
The strong positive response is due to the plant’s exceptionally attractive appearance and durability.
It bears finely cut, lacy foliage that emerges chartreuse in spring and matures to brilliant yellow. Contrasting red-colored stems add another color element. The plant grows 5’-6’ tall and tends to develop slightly contorted central stems that, combined with the subtly weeping foliage, produce a suggestion of Asian garden influence. It naturally tends to branch to the ground, but it can be pruned to produce a more tree-like effect that is suited to the Japanese Garden or as a specimen plant.
Upright clusters of red velvety fruit are produced in late summer and held aloft above the foliage. This fruit is edible (although very tart), high in antioxidants & vitamin C, and was historically used medicinally. Birds are attracted to the fruit and it will be eaten by a wide range of native songbirds including Goldfinches, Bluebirds, Robins, Catbirds, Cardinals, and Chickadees.
In autumn the foliage takes on striking hues of bright orange and red.
Tiger Eyes is a durable plant that is drought resistant once established and resistant to damage from disease, insects, and browsing animals.
Those gardeners that hate this plant universally agree on the reason why; it is an enthusiastic and energetic spreader. It will consistently send out runners that surround the mother plant to form a colony. Tiger Eyes (like many sumacs) is annoying to those who prefer a plant that stays in its allotted space. It is possible to control these suckers by regularly removing them, but it’ll be an ongoing process. The suckers can be transplanted as new plants, or you can dispose of them.
As for myself, I’m happy to remove the “babies” in order to continue to enjoy the splendor of my Tiger Eyes® Sumac.
Tiger Eyes® In a Nutshell
Mature height: 5’-6’
Mature spread: Colonizes by suckers, but can be kept in place by removing offshoots
Light requirement: Full sun to light shade
Growth form: Can be allowed to create drifts or can be contained as a specimen plant
USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 4
Especially valuable for: Exceptionally attractive foliage. Three-season interest. Edible fruit that attracts songbirds