Growing Sassafras Tree | Facts, Uses and Growing Guide

Ralph Astley is a retired gardener from Philadelphia who specializes in outdoor plants and trees. With years of hands-on experience, Ralph not only cares for a diverse range of outdoor flora but also shares his extensive knowledge through well-written articles and social media posts. A trusted authority in arboriculture, he's committed to helping the community grow healthier, more robust gardens.
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If you have enough space in the garden, then Growing Sassafras Tree makes perfect sense! Let’s know everything about this traditional American tree.

Growing Sassafras Tree

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Growing Sassafras Tree is easy; this way, you can introduce a tall specimen in your front garden that will also provide you some privacy!

USDA Zones: 5 to 9

Other Names: Ague Tree, Bois de Cannelle, Cinnamon Wood, Common Sassafras, Kuntze Saloop, Laurier des Iroquois, Laurus albida, Saloop, Sasafras, Sassafrax, Sassafras albidum, Sassafras officinale, Sassafras variifolium, Saxifrax.

Here’s everything you need to know about growing a Moringa tree

What Does a Sassafras Tree Look Like

Sassafras tree is mildly fragrant and one of the most beautiful trees for landscaping. It is native to North America and can grow up to 40-80 feet tall. All parts of the tree are aromatic, and the leaves release a citrus-like smell when crushed. The leaves are unique due to their lobed shape and rounded edges. Its yellow flowers bloom in summer and smell like root beer. The foliage takes a stunning orange-red hue in autumn.

All parts of the sassafras tree are useful and used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Its leaves and flowers are used in salads to flavor many other dishes.

Know all the beautiful trees with heart-shaped leaves here

Where Does Sassafras Grow?

Sassafrass is native to North America and was often used as a cooking spice and for different medicinal cures by the Native Americans. You can spot this tree usually growing in fields, open woods, along fences, and even in containers in USDA Zones 5-9.

Sassafras trees grow best in the shade to partial sunlight and tolerate different kinds of soil. These trees can grow in acidic, clay, sand, and loamy soil that provides excellent drainage. Sassafras trees thrive best in a sheltered location from strong, heavy winds.

What Does Sassafras Smell Like?

The Sassafras is popular for their aromatic scents and a memorable fragrance that the early settlers described in words. Most people agree that the bark smells like cinnamon, the stems and leaves smell like sweet lemons, and the roots smell like root beer.

Sassafras Tree Flowers

Sassafras flowers are unisexual; the female flower is around 1 cm across, while the male ones are smaller. Both flowers appear in yellow-green clusters and bloom from early spring.  The male and female Sassafras Tree Flowers grow on separate trees. The flower balls grow profusely on the female trees, while male trees have sparse produce.

The tree also produces dark-blue fruits on scarlet stalks that appear on the female trees in summer.

Growing Sassafras Tree

You can grow the tree from seeds, but it will take a lot of time, so purchasing a well-grown specimen from a nursery is better. Transplant it to a location where the tree can get a lot of direct sunlight. Sassafras tree grows well in dry and sandy soil. Mature trees can grow wide and large so grow them at least 15 to 20 feet away from buildings or other large objects.

Check out our article on growing mango tree here

Sassafras Tree Facts

Sassafras trees are known to repel mosquitoes and other insects. The rich flavor from sassafras roots has also been put in soups and stews for an unusual extra flavor. It also attracts wildlife too.

Note: The root bark of sassafras contains safrole, which is carcinogenic and harmful to human consumption.

Check out some amazing Sassafras Tree Facts here

Pruning Sassafras

Growing Sassafras Tree 2

Regular light pruning prevents the development of suckers, which appear around the base, and the tree grows tall and looks more ornamental. If you prefer to have it with a single trunk, cut off the suckers just below the surface of the soil. You can also leave the suckers in place for a more shrubby and dense shape.

There are male and female flowers on separate sassafras trees, and only females produce fruits after flowering. These fruits are loved by birds!

Pests and Diseases

Scales, Japanese beetles, weevils, and moths can affect it, but the damage is minimal, and you do not need any steps to control these pests.

Fungal diseases such as leaf spot can also affect sassafras trees but rarely requires treatment. Verticillium wilt is another fungal disease that infects the tree, making the branches wilt and die. A healthy mature tree can usually recover from the damage, but there is no real cure for the disease. Still, you can prune infected branches completely to prevent them from spreading further.

Sassafras Wood Uses

Sassafras is a lightweight, attractive, durable, easily worked wood. Usually, it is used for small wood projects wherever it is available locally. In the millwork industry, it is used for paneling. Earlier, it used to be used for making posts and split rails.

The fragrant North American hardwood is sometimes used as a substitute for chestnut wood because of its light brown color and soft texture. One interesting fact is early settlers believed that sleeping in sassafras beds could drive away all evil spirits and ensure peaceful rest.

Sassafras Tree Pictures











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  1. Help!! My neighbor’s sassafras tree took over our backyard and I need help in controlling it. We are going through and cutting unwanted shoots just under the ground, but with almost a quarter acre affected, we’re losing the war! I don’t want to use Roundup because of a resident box turtle and toads.. Any tips?

    • Hi Karin,
      My suggestions:
      – Trim in areas you don’t want it;
      – Let them grow in a spot that you won’t mind; and
      – Try planting other larger trees/plants that will shade out the small sassafras shoots when they come up.

      Probably doesn’t sound like a good answer, but on the flip side, it seems you’re super lucky! Resident box turtle and toads? Cool!!

      I am actually going to plant sassafras in my yard because not only does it provide amazing orange/red fall colour and fruit that feeds lots of wildlife (birds & mammals including foxes), it’s the host plant of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly ( So if you cat beat’em, use ’em:)

  2. Hi Karen. Trim all unwanted hanging plant and pile it in an outdoor area where you want your own garden to flourish.the decaying plant matter will add nutrients to your soil and help the plants your want to grow get bigger and better. You can also shred and grind the material or start a composter.

  3. Thank you. My neighbor cut down a small wooded area and now I have many sassafras shoots coming up in my yard. I am actually happy to start my own new wooded area. Will these shoots grow into full size trees?


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