Plant Library


Variegated Sweet Gum*

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Variegata'

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Variegated Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua 'Variegata') at Kennedy's Country Gardens

Variegated Sweet Gum foliage

Variegated Sweet Gum foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Variegated Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua 'Variegata') at Kennedy's Country Gardens

Variegated Sweet Gum

Variegated Sweet Gum

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

* This is a "special order" plant - contact store for details

Height:  70 feet

Spread:  50 feet

Sunlight:  full sun 

Hardiness Zone:  5b

Other Names:  American Sweet Gum


A tall, spreading shade tree with yellow variegated palm-shaped leaves that turn brilliant yellow, orange, red and purple in fall; somewhat particular about growing conditions; fruit is spiny and can be somewhat messy, use where this will not be a problem

Ornamental Features

Variegated Sweet Gum has attractive yellow-variegated forest green foliage on a tree with an oval habit of growth. The lobed palmate leaves are highly ornamental and turn an outstanding crimson in the fall. However, the fruit can be messy in the landscape and may require occasional clean-up.

Landscape Attributes

Variegated Sweet Gum is a deciduous tree with a strong central leader and a shapely oval form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a high maintenance tree that will require regular care and upkeep, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Messy

Variegated Sweet Gum is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Shade

Planting & Growing

Variegated Sweet Gum will grow to be about 70 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 50 feet. It has a high canopy of foliage that sits well above the ground, and should not be planted underneath power lines. As it matures, the lower branches of this tree can be strategically removed to create a high enough canopy to support unobstructed human traffic underneath. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 70 years or more.

This tree should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers to grow in average to moist conditions, and shouldn't be allowed to dry out. It is very fussy about its soil conditions and must have rich, acidic soils to ensure success, and is subject to chlorosis (yellowing) of the foliage in alkaline soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This is a selection of a native North American species.


* This is a "special order" plant - contact store for details

Hardiness Zone Plant Height Minimum Sunlight Soil pH Preference
Accent  Shade 
Foliage Color  Fall Color 
Ornamental Features