Content Detail

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 a 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 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), 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.


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

Make a gift