Katsura tree growth rate

Katsura tree

Tree & Plant Care

Spring planting is best to allow root development. The Katsura tree is shallow-rooted and will benefit with a layer of mulch to maintain a cool root environment. Additionally, this tree is drought-sensitive and should be watered in dry conditions.

Disease, pests and problems

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

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China and Japan.

Bark color and texture

Bark is light gray and flaky to slightly shaggy.

Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum) photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite to sub-opposite leaf arrangement; simple, 2 to 4 inch, heart-shaped leaves emerge reddish, changing to a blue-green. Lear margin has rounded teeth. Fall color is a clear yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male and female flowers on separate trees. Both genders fairly inconspicuous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Small (3/4 inch) pods on female trees.

Cultivars and their differences

Weeping Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’): 15 to 25 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide; weeping form.

Red Fox Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Rot fuchs’): An upright oval reaching 30 feet high and 16 feet wide; pronze burple spring foliage turning broze-green in summer. Fall color is orange-bronze.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Delivery Guide

Barcham Trees are delivered using a local team of hauliers whom are well versed in transporting trees across the length and breadth of the UK. Our standard delivery is based upon sharing a delivery slot on one of our lorries and is calculated on a county by county basis.

Get a quote for delivery for your county here.

Free delivery is granted on the following order levels:
England, orders over £2,750
Wales, orders over £3,750
Scotland, orders over £4,750

Once you have completed your order online we will phone you to schedule in your delivery. On many occasions we are able to link in your order quickly but please allow up to 15 working days from the time of order to delivery as the worst case scenario.

Please note that all of our deliveries are made on Heavy Goods Vehicles, with our smallest available lorry generally being a 10 tonne vehicle. Deliveries are made to kerbside, or nearest reasonable access point and the lorry drivers are unable to move the trees once they are onsite.

For those of you ordering Instant trees, have special requirements or access limitations, please remember that throughout this process we are only a phone call away! Our experienced team of arborists are on hand to offer advice and can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9am – 5:30pm on 01353 720 950.

For further details of our delivery service and conditions, please visit our Delivery Service Advice page.


The form of a katsura tree is broadly rounded.

(George Weigel)

* Common name: Katsura tree

* Botanical name: Cercidiphyllum japonicum

* What it is: A large, nicely shaped, broad pyramidal deciduous shade tree with heart-shaped leaves that start out burgundy/purplish-green in spring, then turn green in summer, then turn a burnt-orange to yellow in fall. Fallen leaves smell like burnt sugar when crushed. Moderate growth rate. There’s also a beautiful weeping version of this tree.

* Size: 40 to 50 feet tall and 25 to 30 feet wide in 20-25 years.

* Where to use: A diverse alternative to maples and oaks in mid-sized to large yards. Grows naturally as an understory tree, so a partly shaded site is ideal. Will grow in full sun if kept consistently damp in the first 3 or 4 years until the roots establish. Then it’s very low care.

* Care: Prune off excessive, crossing or “directionally challenged” branches to train the tree in its youth. Then remove lower limbs as desired as the tree ages. Fertilizer usually isn’t needed.

* Great partner: Underplant with barrenwort, sweetbox, hosta and/or liriope. Interplant any of those groundcovers with daffodils for spring color.

The Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is a great shade tree with four season interest. It’s also a tree I WON’T let my wife talk me into planting at our new house (more on that below).

Katsura tree = Year around interest

The Katsura tree can make an excellent specimen or shade tree in landscapes. According to the green industry bible, the Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, this is one of tree guru Michael Dirr’s favorite trees. In fact, he likes it so much he says if he could use only one tree this would be his first choice.

I can understand why. It has clean fresh looking foliage throughout the growing season. It has an attractive pyramidal form when young that will spread as it ages. They also have good Fall color and an attractive bark.

A Group of Katsura trees in the Fall. Photo by Shoata K licensed under Attribution License

Katsura trees provide interesting foliage year around

One of the best things about this tree is it’s foliage.

It has heart shaped leaves much like a red bud are only about a third of the size. It’s leaf color varies throughout the growing season to provide a source of visual interest in the landscape.

In the Spring, it’s leaves emerge reddish-purple. They then change to nice subtle blue-green color as they mature. In the Fall, they again change to a rich buttery yellow to apricot color.

A young katsura tree in AutumnPhoto by wallygrom

Besides looking attractive, the Katsura has this neat trick of giving off a subtle sweet smell as it turns colors in the Fall. To me it smells like cotton candy.

What makes it more interesting is it hard to locate. You can pick up individual leaves and try to smell but you won’t be able to. Instead you smell it when you walk near the tree as it’s subtle aroma drifts through the air. I have to admit that it definitely adds pleasure to raking up their small leaves in the Autumn.

I imagine jumping into a pile of them from a large Katsura tree would be a joy for children (and adults) of all ages. So much so, I planted one at my old house just for that purpose. While it didn’t get big enough to make large piles of leaves to jump into, it did add the sweet smell to parts of my yard every autumn.

My young Katsura tree in fall.

Plant Details

Hardiness Zones: Zone 4 – 8

Exposure: Full sun.

Mositure: Moist well drained soil.

Height: 40 – 60 feet

Width: This varies some trees may only get 20 – 30 feet wide while others will grow as wide as they are tall (40 – 60′).

Features: Clean disease free leaf foliage with Medium – fine texture and a blue-green Summer color. colored, sweet smelling fall foliage. Attractive slightly shaggy bark with age.

Growth Habit: Pyramidal to wide spreading with age

Fall Color: Buttery yellow to apricot orange.

Native: Nope, it’s not a North American native, it is from China and Japan. It grows in woodlands in Japan but in China it is mainly found in open areas with rich moist soils.

Wildlife value: Minimal. Not invasive.

A Katsura tree used as a strret tree. Photo by wlcutler

Katsura Tree Care and Growing Tips:

The Katsura is a tree that like birches, must only be dug to be planted in the Spring. If it’s in a container or was dug in the Spring waiting patiently to be bought at a nursery, that’s OK and they can be planted anytime, but ideally they will be dug and planted in the Spring.

They do require well drained, rich and moist soil. If you have dry sandy soil, this is not the tree for you. Ditto with sun baked hard dry clay.

They are tolerant of different soil pH but they may have better fall color on an acid soil according to Dirr.

The key thing to remember is they will require supplemental water during hot dry periods for the first few years after planting. After they are established, they should only need supplemental water during droughts.

They can tolerate pruning fairly well (I had four at Anderson Japanese gardens that I used to take care of). I however think they look better if allowed to grow to their full size instead of trying to keep small to fit the scale of a Japanese garden. They do have a tendency to grow multiple trunks, so some training during their early years can help to provide a strong single trunk if that is the look you want.

Interesing Cultivars

The Kastura tree has several neat cultivars that might fit you landscape better then the species. These include:

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’ – This is a weeping form that will grow to 15 to 25 feet tall and a bit less wide than tall.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Morioka Weeping’ – This is another weeping form whose branches are more upright growing when young and has large leaves. It should grow to about 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide in a garden setting according to Iseli Nursery.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Heronswood Globe’ – This very interesting hard to find cultivar was introduced in 1991. It has dense globular habit. It is slowly growing to 15-20’ tall. I have seen this one and it has a rounded head form that looks like a miniature version of a full sized shade tree.

OK, so why won’t I plant one?

As a non native, it supports very little wildlife. This is a minus for me as well as others who are interested in supporting the biodiversity of our local wildlife. It is also a tree that is not drought tolerant (especially in it’s younger years), so it will require supplemental water during droughts.

Given my new small lot size and the fact I already have a large Honeylocust shading my backyard, I have limited space for shade trees. If I do plant a shade tree, it will be a native that supports our local wildlife.

So do you recommend the Katsura or not?

Although as a non native it does not support our native insects and the birds that feed upon them, there are cases where it is a good choice. Even though it is a non-native tree, it is highly ornamental that not only looks good but also helps our environment. For instance, the Katsura tree does:

  • Provide shade which can lower energy costs and fossil fuel usage.
  • Sequesters carbon through it’s growth.
  • Lacks serious pests and is also from Asia so there is less likelihood of an exotic insect from Asian (like Emerald Ash Borer) devastating it due to total lack of resistance.
  • Not require pesticide treatments.
  • Not have invasive tendencies. So you won’t likely see it displacing native trees and shrubs in natural areas, unlike for instance the awful Norway maples (Acer platanoides) that nurseries still sell by the boatload.

So while the Katsura tree is not one I will be planting in my yard anytime soon*, it might be just the tree you are looking for.

*Well, maybe if I run across a ‘Heronswood Globe’ ?

About Japanese Katsura Trees: How To Take Care Of A Katsura Tree

The Katura tree is a wonderful ornamental plant for cold to temperate regions. Although this is a low maintenance plant, a little information on how to take care of a Katsura tree will help you keep it healthy and strong as an attractive presence in your landscape.

About Japanese Katsura Trees

The grown up name for Katsura tree, Cercidiphyllum, refers to a genus of trees from Asia, in particular Japan and China. The trees are suited for moist soil in full sun and get no larger than 45 feet tall. In fact, the majority of the trees are almost better classified as big bushes rather than trees.

While there are other varieties, Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonica) is one of the most popular landscape trees. This type hails from Japan and is an economically important deciduous forest tree. The leaves are multi-hued with heavy veins and tones of pink and green. In fall the heart-shaped leaves take on autumnal tones of gold, orange and red before

they fall from the tree.

Katsura flowers are tiny, white and insignificant, but the foliage has a strong brown sugar smell in fall, which adds to the tree’s appeal. An interesting fact about Katsura trees is that the botanical name translates to ‘red leaf.’

Growing Katsura Trees

Katsura trees will thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 4b to 8. They need plenty of water at establishment, but once they are mature can handle short periods of drought. Plant the tree in well drained soil that is acid or neutral. The plant is sensitive to frost and does drop its leaves once cold temperatures arrive.

Choose either full sun or light shade for growing Katsura trees. The trees are weak limbed, so a sheltered spot is preferable with protection from wind gusts. Pruning is not a necessary part of Katsura tree care, but you can remove any damaged or crossed limbs that prevent the tree from producing a strong scaffold.

How to Take Care of a Katsura

Katsura trees are slow growing and may take up to 50 years to reach their full size. During this time, if the tree was planted in an appropriate soil and site, it will need very little care. Katsuras are not susceptible to many pests and they are basically disease free.

Avoid overhead watering to prevent mildew on the ornamental leaves. Spread mulch around the base of the tree out to the root line to minimize competitive weeds and enhance water conservation.

Lightly prune out suckers and dead wood in spring and apply a 10-10-10 balanced granular fertilizer to the root zone of the plant. Water the fertilizer in well.

Young Katsura tree care requires tree wraps and slings to protect the thin bark and establish a firm, strong shape. Water the tree daily for the first year to increase health and growth.

Photo credit; Blue River Nursery

I must have raised a few eyebrows as I went around the nursery sniffing like a bloodhound. I just couldn’t figure it out. I knew I could smell cotton candy (UK translation – candy floss) but there were none to be seen, yet that sweet sugar and cinnamon fragrance was wafting all around me. In confusion I mentioned it to one of the nursery staff who laughed and pointed me to the towering tree above me – a katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). Sure enough the richly colored, heart-shaped leaves that were falling like confetti all around me were the source of this wonderful fall fragrance.

That was about 16 years ago and I’ve been waiting for a garden to plant one in ever since, finally getting my wish last year. As my husband and I walked through the field to choose the perfect tree last fall I found myself dreaming of hot apple cider and pumpkin bread! Maybe this tree will prove a bad idea for the waist line.


Th weeping form of the katsura has yellow fall color. Photo; Creative Commons

Katsura trees are native to Asia but have become a popular tree in many other parts of the world where they can be afforded moisture retentive soil, full sun or very light shade, rich acidic soil and temperatures which fall in the range -30’F to 20’F (USDA zones 4-9)

How to use

In the garden they look perfect lining a driveway, as a specimen lawn tree or providing height in a large mixed border. Here in the Seattle area they are also a popular sidewalk tree where their roots do not cause the damage of older choices such as cherry trees and their pyramidal form allows easy passage of both vehicles and pedestrians (although in maturity they tend to assume a more spreading shape).


‘Red Fox’ has wonderful burgundy foliage all spring and summer. Photo credit; McAuliffe’s Valley Nursery

The typical katsura tree matures at over 40′ and 25′ wide, growing 12-18″ per year but smaller gardens can take advantage of the newer introduction ‘Red Fox’. This has a tight columnar form clothed in deep burgundy leaves during spring and summer before transforming to shades of harvest gold in fall when they release their characteristic burnt sugar aroma. The bark is a shaggy brown.

The foliage of the dwarf ‘Heronswood Globe’ is a soft light green. Photo; Creative Commons

‘Heronswood Globe’ is a dwarf, rounded form which grows to just 20′ x 20′ and has green foliage which turns shades of rose and apricot in autumn. This is a low growing tree, often with its branches just 2′ off the ground.

Tiers of weeping branches on the pendulous form of katsura. Photo credit; J. Frank Schmidt & Son.

The weeping katsura is a beautiful tree with a dense crown and blue-green foliage which turns bright yellow in fall. It grows slowly to 20′ tall and 15′ wide

Year round interest

Although perhaps at it’s finest in fall, the katsura has plenty to contribute in other seasons too. Spring sees the emergence of reddish-purple leaves which slowly darken to an attractive blue-green. The winter silhouette is a welcome addition to the winter garden as is the handsome bark.

Wherever you plant them be sure it is somewhere that you can enjoy their fragrance – and watch your visitors try to identify the source of that wonderful spicy aroma!

Cercidiphyllum japonicum

  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Tree Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Habit/Form: Arching Pyramidal Spreading Growth Rate: Medium Texture: Medium
  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Brown/Copper Green Display/Harvest Time: Fall Fruit Type: Capsule Fruit Length: 1-3 inches Fruit Description: The seed is inside a pod type fruit. The the fruit that follows is a cluster of 2-4 small pods with numerous small, flattened and winged seeds. The fruits mature in autumn and release their seeds in autumn through winter. 2-4 on pedicel, elongate capsules ; seeds paper thin & winged.
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Green Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Description: Insignificant flowers are produced on dioecious (having separate male and female) trees. They appear in early spring and are wind-pollinated. Dioecious; male flowers with calyx & numerous stamens; female flower with 4 winged sepals, 4-6 carpels.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Leaf Color: Blue Gold/Yellow Green Purple/Lavender Leaf Value To Gardener: Long Bloom Season Showy Deciduous Leaf Fall Color: Gold/Yellow Orange Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Opposite Leaf Shape: Cordate Obtuse Ovate Reniform Leaf Margin: Serrate Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 1-3 inches Leaf Description: Short shoots bear broadly cordate or reniform, palmately veined leaves with crenate margins; long shoots bear elliptic to broadly ovate leaves with entire or finely serrate margins. 2-4 in. opposite, simple, rounded leaves; new leaves emerge reddish-purple; turn blue-green in summer; yellow to apricot fall color. opposite to subopposite, suborbicular to heart-shaped, crenate-serrate, obtuse, cordate.
  • Bark: Bark Color: Dark Brown Light Brown Surface/Attachment: Shaggy
  • Stem: Stem Is Aromatic: No
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Recreational Play Area Landscape Theme: Children’s Garden Pollinator Garden Design Feature: Shade Tree Attracts: Pollinators

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