Golden rain tree care

The golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) is named for the carpet of yellow petals that flitter to the ground around it in summer, creating a magical effect that lasts for several weeks. It is also a tough and adaptable specimen that matures quickly into a small shade tree.

Through the Seasons

The foliage of the golden rain tree consists of large feathery, compound leaves, meaning a dozen or so smaller leaflets comprise the 18-inch true

leaves. The tiny yellow flowers emerge in early summer in elongated clusters from the tips of the branches and then begin to rain by mid-summer. Golden rain tree also has golden yellow foliage in fall and unusual seedpods that hang on the bare branches well into winter, resembling tiny Chinese lanterns.

Establishment and Care

Spring is the optimal time to plant a golden rain tree. Look for trees that have a straight trunk and well-spaced branching pattern in the nursery, as these are more likely to develop a pleasing shape later on. Staking the tree with a stout wooden post on either side is important to keep it from toppling over in high winds before the root system is established.

The beauty of the golden rain tree is the minimal care it requires. Water weekly for the first couple of years and maintain a weed free area around the trunk, ideally covered with mulch.

They don’t always take on a picture perfect shape on their own, so selective pruning may be in order. Remove branches that have either a very wide or very narrow angle with the trunk and thin out smaller branches as needed to maintain an open crown with an even distribution of foliage. Any deadwood that appears in the canopy should be removed.

Potential Problems and Invasive Tendencies

Pests and disease generally aren’t an issue with the golden rain tree. However, in certain parts of the country it has a tendency to spread itself by seed, popping up all over the landscape where it is not desired. It can even spread into natural areas and displace native species – this is particularly problematic in the Deep South and other warm climates.

If you find golden rain seedlings growing where you don’t want them, there are two primary options for controlling them. One is to remove them by hand, roots and all. This is effective for scattered seedlings less than waist high, but gets difficult once the trees are much bigger or if there are hundreds to deal with. In this case, the best approach is to cut them to the ground, whether with a mower for tiny seedlings or a saw for more established ones. They sprout from their roots, so be prepared to chop them down again as soon as re-growth occurs, repeating the process until the root system is exhausted.

In the Landscape

Golden rain tree is known as a tough survivor. Its ability to handle smog and abuse make it a popular choice in harsh urban conditions, but its adaptability to any soil type and ability to thrive with minimal irrigation make it a worthwhile choice in almost any setting. They reach 30 to 40 feet tall and wide, big enough to make shade, but not so big that they overwhelm the garden and threaten to lift up pavement or drop branches on the house. Golden rain trees are the perfect size for small front yards and provide visual interest through all four seasons.


Golden rain tree is not a species that has been bred into endless hybrids and named cultivars, but there are a few improved varieties worth considering.

  • Fastigiata has a pronounced vertical growth habit.
  • September is a variety that flowers late in the growing season.
  • Stadher’s Hill has ornamental red seed pods.

Stunning in Bloom

Most flowering trees put on their show in spring, leaving the golden rain tree as one of the few showstoppers of mid-summer. When they do bloom, it’s impossible to miss. If you’re thinking of including one in your next landscape improvement project, you will be rewarded in just a few short years, as the golden rain tree grows several feet each season.

Problems With a Golden Rain Tree Images

The golden rain tree is a member of the soapberry family. The tree features hundreds of tiny flowers that are comprised of four golden petals with a cinnamon-colored center. The panicles become seed pods that are 2 inches long and set in three sections. The pods start out green but age to brown and cling to the tree over winter. Several problems can develop with a golden rain tree.

Verticillium Wilt

The University of Florida notes that golden rain trees are susceptible to verticillium wilt, a common fungal problem on trees. It attacks leaves and causes wilting and death of the foliage. If heavily infected the entire tree can die. Proper fertilizing can increase the vigor of the tree and help it withstand the fungus.


Scale insects can become a problem on golden rain trees. These are scab-like protrusions on the bark that house tiny sucking insects. They will reduce the health of the golden rain tree but will not kill it. Horticultural oil sprays can help control scale. Boxelder bugs bugs feed minimally on the tree but may leave black smears on it from their excrement.

Hardiness and Strength

Golden rain tree is not hardy in extremely cold zones. Frost damage can occur, especially on the tips of branches. The wood is also weak and can sustain storm damage. Severe winters can result in twig kill. The tree has a fairly limited root system that does not offer adequate anchorage in windy areas, resulting in blow-overs.


The tree can overseed in warm areas. It has become a nuisance plant in many warm climates and is considered invasive. The IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas recommends that it be heavily managed in central and southern parts of Florida to prevent the tree’s “escape” from cultivation.

Golden Raintree Information: Tips For Golden Raintree Care

What is a golden raintree? It is a medium-sized ornamental that is one of the few trees to flower in midsummer in the United States. The tree’s tiny canary-yellow flowers grow in showy panicles that can get 12 inches (30 cm.) long. If you are interested in learning how to grow a golden raintree, read on for golden raintree information and tips on golden raintree care.

What is a Golden Raintree?

The golden raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata) is a lovely shade tree for backyards and gardens in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. According to golden raintree information, these trees fit well into smaller yards since they usually grow between 25 and 40 feet

(7.6 – 12 m.) tall.

Those growing golden raintrees love the dramatic panicles of small brilliant yellow flowers that appear midsummer on the tree’s spreading branches. In autumn, little lime-green seed pods appear on the golden raintree, maturing to a dull brown. They resemble small Chinese lanterns and remain on the tree well into the fall.

Growing Golden Raintrees

If you want to know how to grow a golden raintree, you’ll be happy to learn that golden raintree care isn’t difficult. Golden raintrees don’t require kid-glove care.

Start by picking a planting site. The tree grows fastest in a full sun location in moist, rich, deep, well-drained soils. However, golden raintrees grow fine in partial shade as well. And they can grow in a wide range of soils, including clay, sand, loam, alkaline, acidic. They thrive in flooded conditions as well as well-drained soil.

Golden Raintree Care

The tree is rarely attacked by insects or diseases. It is drought tolerant too. When you start growing golden raintrees, you won’t have to worry about sidewalks or patios near the tree. Generally, the roots of the golden raintree do not cause problems.

Here’s a tip: transplant the tree in spring. Golden raintree information suggests that a tree transplanted in autumn may have problems surviving the winter. This is especially true in the lower hardiness zones.

Beautiful tree also is an invasive tree

Q: What is this beautiful flowering tree that I see that has yellow flowers that fade to a rose color? The tree is about 30 feet tall. I would love to buy one.

Q: What is this beautiful flowering tree that I see that has yellow flowers that fade to a rose color? The tree is about 30 feet tall. I would love to buy one.
A: What you are seeing is one of our showier landscape trees called the Golden rain tree, or Koelreuteria elegans. It is native to Taiwan, and although they are very pretty, this tree also is very invasive.
Golden rain trees start blooming in early October with bright clusters or panicles of yellow flowers. The small flowers rain down from the tree canopy and cover the ground beneath with a carpet of yellow. Rose-colored fruit capsules follow the flowers, and they eventually fade to a beige hue. This is where the problem starts. The seeds from the fruit spread all around the tree and beyond. In our warm climate the seeds are quite viable and can germinate within six to eight days.
If you look under any established Golden rain tree, you can see hundreds of seedlings of various ages sprouting up.
The large compound leaves of the seedlings can be seen invading landscape beds, gardens and in natural areas. The Golden rain tree seedlings can crowd out our native species. If you were to introduce one of these to your landscape, you should do so with caution and plan on controlling the seedlings. You may think you want the flowers, but it can be a tree that will end up costing you time and money to control.
For more information about Golden rain tree, visit the UF/IFAS website
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Q: My elm tree is losing its leaves, but it isn’t normal. Little twigs and stems with leaves are covering the ground under the trees, and the leaves on them are still green. What is happening? Is this some sort of twig girdler insect?
A: The pest that is doing this damage is not of the six-legged variety. It is the pest that we love to hate: the Eastern gray squirrel. Some years, squirrels will go up into the canopy of certain trees — drake elm and winged elm are a common choice — and nibble the outer stems of the trees and get just a little bit of sap and moisture from the stem. The rest of the twig, usually about 3 to 4 inches long, falls to the ground with green leaves on it. It almost looks like a carpet of green leaves under the tree.
This will not do permanent damage to the tree since the tree is about to lose all of its leaves for winter in about a month or so. Simply rake up the leaves and chalk one up in the squirrel column for aggravating gardeners and landscapers across North Central Florida.
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Remember that with the change in daylight-saving time, we also adjust our irrigation watering to only water once per week. If you have an odd-numbered address, you can water on Saturday; if you have an even-numbered address you can water on Sunday. Irrigate in the early morning hours for plant health and water conservation. Calibrate your system to apply ½-inch to ¾-inch per irrigation. As our plants slow down in growth, and depending on your landscape plants, you may be able to eliminate a week of watering as we go into the winter months. For more information about irrigating, visit the UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Landscaping website and your local water provider.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at [email protected]

Golden rain tree

Size and Form

30-40 feet high and wide, but may not reach its full potential in zone 5; rounded form.

Tree & Plant Care

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

Disease, pests, and problems

Canker diseases and leaf spots are possible.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China, Japan and Korea; often found in dry, rocky sites.

Bark color and texture

Bark is light gray in color and shallowly ridge 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, shape, and size

Numerous small, bright yellow flowers on 12 inch tall upright clusters.
Flowering occurs in mid-summer.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruits air-filled capsules resembling Japanese lanterns. These fruit change from green to yellow to a fleshy, almost pink color.
They contain hard black seeds.

Cultivars and their differences

September golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata ‘September’): This cultivar flowers later than the species (late August into early September).

Summerburst® golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata ‘JFS-Sunleaf’): A cultivar that is more tolerant of summer heat. Foliage is glossier and darker green than that of the species.

Helpful Tips on Pruning a Golden Raintree

Flowering trees, like the Golden Raintree, don’t need regular pruning once they’re established. The Golden Raintree, which grows to heights of 30 feet when mature, has a naturally domed or “rainbow” shaped top that shouldn’t be pruned. However, like any tree, golden raintrees benefit from pruning to cut back crossing limbs, or branches that cross and rub against each other.

While the natural dome of the Raintree doesn’t need pruning, there are other characteristics that you will want to pay close attention to when pruning. Limbs and branches that rub across each other can damage bark, leaving your tree open to pests and disease. Limbs that threaten to grow into structures or electrical wiring, or block the view of a driveway may also require pruning. Follow these guidelines because improper pruning, even with good intentions, can kill your tree.

Tips for Pruning Golden Raintree

  • Prune crossing branches in the late fall or winter
  • Prune diseased or pest weakened branches
  • Prune branches that could fall or cause injury or that are poorly attached
  • Prune branches when they are small so they heal faster and more effectively
  • Use proper pruning tools
  • Clean and sanitize your tools before cutting to prevent disease transmission
  • Prune first for safety, then for health, last for looks
  • When you’re deciding what to prune, if the limb is under 5 cm, go ahead, but think twice about pruning branches between 5-cm and 10-cm
  • Don’t prune or cut a branch wider than 10 cm without an urgent reason (call a professional)

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