Content Detail

Japanese zelkova is closely related to the elm but is resistant to Dutch elm disease (DED). It tolerates urban conditions well and can be used as a street tree. This tree has interesting bark, clean serrated foliage, and good fall color.

  • Family (English) Elm
  • Family (botanic) Ulmaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Restricted sites, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 50-80 feet
  • Mature width 50-75 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Road salt
  • Season of interest early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Vase-shaped
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Highly susceptible to ice damage
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to Japan, eastern China, Taiwan, and Korea.

Bark color and texture:

The bark is grayish-brown with numerous lenticels. It  becomes more mottled in color and exfoliates (peels) slightly with age.

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

Leaves are simple and alternate with sharply serrated margins. They are ovate, 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, with rounded bases and long-pointed tips. They are dark green in summer with yellow, orange, or reddish-purple fall color. 

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Small, inconspicuous flowers in spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

A small drupe which is not ornamentally important.

Plant care:

Japanese zelkova is tolerant of both acidic and alkaline soils, but not wet sites.

List of pests, diseases, tolerances and resistance:

Phloem necrosis and cankers are possible. Zelkova is closely related to elms, but it is resistant to Dutch elm disease. Drought tolerant and fairly tolerant of urban sites once established.

City Sprite® Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata ‘JFS-KW1’):

Oval to vase-shaped cultivar growing 25 feet high by 18 feet wide with yellow fall color.

Green Vase Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata ‘Green Vase’): 

This cultivar has a more narrowed vase shape than the species. Foliage is dark green in summer, changing to a mix of orange, bronze, and red. As a young tree it shows a faster rate of growth. Good winter hardiness.

Halka Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata ‘Halka’)

Faster growing as a young tree with a vase-shaped habit. Fall color is yellow.

Musashino Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata ‘Musashino’):

A narrow vase-shaped form, only 15 to 20 feet wide. Yellow fall color.

Village Green Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata ‘Village Green’):

A cultivar with a wider habit, reaching 40 feet in width. Good winter hardiness and reddish fall color. 

Wireless® Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata ‘Schmidtlow’):

Broadly spreading vase shape, maturing to 24 feet high by 36 feet wide, it has a red fall color.


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