Content Detail

Golden rain tree is known for its sprays of yellow flowers in summer. The flowers are followed by fruit that are air-filled capsules resembling Japanese lanterns. The fruit changes from green to yellow and then to a fleshy, almost pink color. It has become a problem in some locations because it readily self-sows.

  • Family (English) Soapberry
  • Family (botanic) Sapindaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Round
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate

Size and Form:

Golden rain tree grows 30 to 40 feet high and wide with a rounded form, but may not reach its full potential in zone 5.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to China, Japan, and Korea. It is often found in dry, rocky sites.

Bark color and texture:

Golden rain tree bark is light gray in color and shallowly ridged and furrowed.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves are alternate and may be pinnately compound or even bipinnately compound. Leaflets are irregularly dissected and often deeply lobed near the base. Fall color is yellow, but not consistent from year to year.

Flower arrangement size and shape:

It has numerous small, bright yellow flowers on 12 inch tall, upright clusters in mid-summer.

Fruit, cone, nut and seed descriptions:

Fruit are air-filled capsules resembling Japanese lanterns. The fruit changes from green to yellow then to a fleshy, almost pink color. They contain hard, black seeds.

Plant care:

This tree tolerates a wide range of conditions including drought and alkaline soils. In zone 5 with hard winter conditions, golden rain tree may struggle. Weedy seedlings can be a problem because the tree readily self-sows.

List of pests and diseases:

Canker diseases and leaf spot are possible.

September golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata ‘September’):

This cultivar flowers later than the species, from late August into early September.

Summerburst® golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata ‘JFS-Sunleaf’):

This cultivar that is more tolerant of summer heat. The foliage is glossier and darker green than that of the species.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift