Plant Finder

Katsura Tree

Katsura Tree

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Katsura Tree foliage

Katsura Tree foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Katsura Tree in fall

Katsura Tree in fall

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 50 feet

Spread: 30 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Description:

A truly refined tree with a tight pyramid shape and superb spring and fall foliage colors; very neat and tidy tree, good choice for larger home landscapes, can grow quite large; fallen leaves emit a delicious caramel fragrance in autumn

Ornamental Features

Katsura Tree has bluish-green foliage which emerges burgundy in spring. The heart-shaped leaves turn an outstanding orange in the fall. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant. The shaggy brown bark adds an interesting dimension to the landscape.

Landscape Attributes

Katsura Tree is a dense deciduous tree with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other landscape plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance tree, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Katsura Tree is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Shade

Planting & Growing

Katsura Tree will grow to be about 50 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 30 feet. It has a high canopy with a typical clearance of 6 feet from the ground, and should not be planted underneath power lines. As it matures, the lower branches of this tree can be strategically removed to create a high enough canopy to support unobstructed human traffic underneath. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 60 years or more.

This tree should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers to grow in average to moist conditions, and shouldn’t be allowed to dry out. It is particular about its soil conditions, with a strong preference for rich, acidic soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. This species is not originally from North America.

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.

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’ ?

Candy Floss Tree Ornamental Trees & Shrubs

Several names for this special medium sized tree. Cercidiphyllum japonicum or the Katsura tree is a genus native to both China and Japan. If growing in the wild this species can be a multi stemmed tree achieving heights of some 40-50 metres however this is unlikely if grown in a cultivated situation.

Katsura is the name favoured in Japan for this very underused ornamental tree. The small heart shaped leaves are set in pairs on the branches which are themselves rough barked. The Candy Floss Tree is considered to be one of the largest hardwood trees in Asia.

This spectacular specimen tree may not have the most outstanding show of flowers but more than makes up for the lack of showy blossoms by producing a stunning display of foliage. They emerge bronze and pink in spring before turning a rich green in summer as autumn progresses the foliage changes to hues of yellow, orange, smokey pink and red while at the same time exudes a sweet burnt sugar smell from which the name derives.

Katsura or Candy Floss Tree will benefit from being planted in a slightly sheltered spot in the garden to avoid any late frosts nipping the ends of new growth. They do not mind full sun or semi shade but do require moist reasonable soil to avoid leaf drop. The Katsura is ideally suited to smaller gardens both for the breath taking leaf colours and delicious scent of the fallen leaves particularly when crushed if walked upon. They are not considered to be fast growing and therefore with judicious pruning can be kept compact suitable for restricted areas.

Buying potted plants such as the Candy Floss Tree allows for planting as at any time of year as there will be no root disturbance. This is a convenient and easy to plant option as the timing is less restrictive and can be determined by your own commitments and weather.

Any further information that may be required can be obtained by calling our team who will be happy to assist you.

4-5ft CANDY FLOSS TREE Cercidiphyllum Japonica Canadensis Potted Scented Foliage Trees Plants, Seeds & Bulbs

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Seller notes: “Potted, 4-5ft CANDY FLOSS TREE Cercidiphyllum Japonica Canadensis Potted Scented Foliage, Glorious young green leaves turning golden-purply colours in autumn with a strong fragrance of sweets/candy floss, approx, 4-5ft CANDY FLOSS TREE Cercidiphyllum Japonica Canadensis Potted Scented Foliage Trees Plants, Seeds & Bulbs, 4-5ft CANDY FLOSS TREE Cercidiphyllum Japonica Canadensis Potted Scented Foliage Plants, Seeds & Bulbs Trees, not drop-shipped”, tolerates most soils & sites, UK NURSERY, CANDY FLOSS TREE or Cercidiphyllum Japonica Canadensis



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.

Plant Database

Habitat

  • large forest tree of Japan and China
  • hardy to zone 4

Habit and Form

  • large deciduous tree
  • 40-60 ft. tall
  • 20-30 ft. wide
  • some trees pyramidal, others wide spreading
  • dense crown
  • coarse winter texture

Summer Foliage

  • simple opposite leaves
  • broad ovate rounded leaves
  • cordate leaf base
  • crenate margins
  • leaves resemble redbud (Cercis)
  • leaves emerge purple, mature to bluish green

Autumn Foliage

  • outstanding display
  • yellow to apricot fall color
  • colors early in season
  • autumn leaves give off spicy, brown sugar odor

Flowers

  • open before leaves in March-April
  • green and not showy
  • dioecious

Fruit

  • small pods borne 2-4 on stalk
  • pods release thin winged seeds

Bark

  • brown
  • shaggy and peeling on old trunks

Culture

  • not easy to transplant
  • rich moist well-drained soil
  • pH adaptable
  • water during dry periods

Landscape Use

  • specimen for parks, large lawns and golf courses
  • can be used as a street tree

Liabilities

  • require water during establishment, dry periods
  • size limits use to large spaces
  • not easy to transplant

ID Features

  • opposite, rounded leaves like redbud
  • small pods with winged seeds
  • sweet smell as leaves color in fall
  • small reddish opposite buds, appressed
  • brown shaggy pealing bark

Propagation

  • by cuttings
  • by seed

Cultivars/Varieties

‘Aureum’ – The leaves mature to yellow after emerging purplish/green.

‘Heronswood Globe’ – An unusual dwarf form with a tight, globular habit to 15′ tall. Good for smaller gardens.

‘Pendula’ – A weeping form, with graceful pendulous branches. The plant reaches 15′ to 25′ tall. ‘Tidal Wave’ and ‘Amazing Grace’ are other weepings forms, some with a more strongly weeping habit.

‘Ruby’ – A more dwarf form, only reaching perhaps 30′ tall, with leaves suffused with a bluish-purple hue.

When to Prune Katsura Trees

The Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicium) makes a fairly low maintenance landscape tree, because it has no major pest problems. The tree benefits from annual pruning to control the shape and maintain a strong, healthy tree. If left unpruned, the tree is prone to suckers and wood breakage.

Significance

Katsura trees require pruning in part due to the weak nature of the wood. Branches that grow too close to vertical, make a shallow angle with the trunk. These are prone to breakage from the severity of the angle and should be removed. Additionally, major branches should be spaced out on all sides of the trunk to help prevent breakage, recommend United States Forest Service horticulturists Edward F. Gilman and Dennis F. Watson. Katsura trees can also develop suckers along the trunk. These compete with the tree for water and other nutrients and should be removed. Finally, branches can droop as the tree ages, so gardeners will want to trim thee back to relieve the weight and allow pedestrian passage under the tree.

Mature Size

A mature Katsura tree ranges from 40 to 60 feet in height, with a canopy spread of 25 to 60 feet. As a moderate-sized tree, the Katsura should be planted only in sites where it has enough room to mature without being cramped. If your Katsura tree’s branches need to be trimmed because they grow too close to the house or hang over the fence, you’ll need to do so. Trim long branches back to a Y-intersection or cut them off at the base.

Technique

First, identify broken or damaged branches that need to be removed and cut them off at the base. Also cut off any dead wood at its base. Next, clip the suckers from the tree trunk using hand pruners. Remove low-hanging or downward-growing branches to improve movement under the tree. After you’ve cleaned up the tree, identify weak branches by noting the angle with the trunk and remove these at the base. Lastly, thin out the canopy to increase air circulation.

Time Frame

You will be better able to see the branches of your Katsura tree in the late winter, when the tree is still dormant and hasn’t leafed out for the season. Prune at this time. Pruning in the fall can encourage new growth right before winter and should be avoided.

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