Tiger Eyes

Tiger Eye Sumac's lemony yellow foliage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Tiger Eye Sumac’s lemony yellow foliage (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger,’ otherwise known as Tiger Eye sumac, was a happy accident resulting from an unexpected mutation of its larger cousin, Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’.  This sizzling specimen was first discovered by Bailey Nursery in 1985, and since then Tiger Eye has been making its way into gardens all across the U.S.   Rightfully so.  Once you’ve set eyes on the dazzling velvety-fern foliage burning like a flame in the landscape, you’ll be hooked-line and sinker.  Don’t wait a moment longer, put away the extinguisher and run on down to your local nursery today. 

Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger' ignites the landscape in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ ignites the landscape (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

What makes Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ such a welcome shrub to gardens in zones 4-8 (sun to part shade) isn’t just the outrageous fiery chartreuse foliage that ignites the landscape, and the contrasting fuzzy red trunk, but its petite, accommodating demeanor-so unlike other relatives of the typhina family.  Where the species Rhus typhina, a North American native with a bullish nature, can grow to heights of 25′ at a rate of 3′ yearly, you can easily see why that is not a choice in a garden setting or smaller yard.  Even smaller cousin Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’, which can grow to 12′, may be too much for the average garden.  However, ‘Laciniata’ has interesting form and foliage through the summer and an intense scarlet fall color worthy of consideration for broader placement.

Tiger Eye's bright fernlike foliage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Tiger Eye’s bright fern-like foliage (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Members of the sumac family tend to have mischievous tendencies in general, with extreme wanderlust capabilities rendering them problematic in some situations.  Where you may want to keep them contained in a specific area, they want to expand their horizons into the neighbor’s lawn.  Many of us have seen massive stands of native sumac created in just this way.  But such desires to travel are not nearly as prominent with beautiful Tiger Eye, and over nearly a decade mine has only produced one renegade off-spring that I was delighted to discover and quickly adopt.  Very cozy and content in a garden with other plants and shrubs, the dynamic foliage ranges in citrus shades of lemony yellow to lime green, providing light and warmth when mixed with darker companions.  As the season wanes, you’ll see the leaves turn crimson red, and if you have a female plant, there will be clusters of bright red fruit as well.

*A final thought: There is also a gemstone called Tiger Eye, which is said to draw the best qualities from the tiger, such as courage, focus, vision, clarity and harmony. Perhaps planting a Tiger Eye sumac in your garden will invite these qualities as well.

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight, risin’ up to the challenge of our rival, and the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night, and he’s watchin’ us all with the eye of the tiger . . .”

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