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The katsura tree, native to Japan, makes an excellent specimen or shade tree in Midwestern landscapes. Its foliage offers an array of color throughout the year. In spring, heart-shaped leaves emerge reddish-purple, changing to blue-green as they mature. In autumn the color display changes again as leaves turn clear yellow or apricot color.

  • Family (English) Katsura tree
  • Family (botanic) Cercidiphyllaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, 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 40-60 feet
  • Mature width 20-30 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Clay soil, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Oval, Pyramidal, Round
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to China and Japan.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is light gray and flaky to slightly shaggy.

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

The katsura tree has an opposite to sub-opposite leaf arrangement with simple,  2 to 4 inch, heart-shaped leaves. They  emerge reddish, changing to a blue-green. Leaf margin has rounded teeth.  Fall color is a clear yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Male and female flowers are  on separate trees and both genders are fairly inconspicuous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The female trees have small (3/4 inch) pods.

Plant care:

The katsura tree is best planted in the spring to allow root development. It  is shallow-rooted and will benefit from a layer of mulch to maintain a cool root environment.  Additionally, this tree is drought-sensitive and should be watered in dry conditions.  

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Leaf scorch is common in hot, dry sites.  No common serious pests.

Weeping Katsura Tree  (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’):

This is a weeping form which grows 15 to 25 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide.

Red Fox Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Rot fuchs’):

An upright oval formed cultivar which  reaches 30 feet high and 16 feet wide. Its  bronze purple spring foliage turns bronze-green in summer. Fall color is orange-bronze.

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