Katsura tree, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, is grown for its attractive deciduous foliage that makes a superb autumn display of both colour and scent. In spring, the rounded to heart-shaped leaves are fresh coppery green or pinkish in colour, maturing to mid green through the summer. Tiny red flowers are borne in spring, but these are almost insignificant. Come autumn, the leaves develop beautiful autumn colours of yellow or pink and also give off a wonderful scent of burnt sugar, which is why it is sometimes known as the ‘candyfloss tree’. Katsura tree originates from Japan and China. When young, the tree forms a pyramidal shape, developing multi-stems and becoming wide-spreading over time, ultimately reaching a height of at least 10m and a spread of 6m. Note that this tree should not be confused with the ‘Katsura’ variety of Japanese maple, Acer palmatum.
How to grow katsura tree
Plant katsura tree in good soil and a sheltered site with space for it to grow out as well as up. Ideally plant when dormant, preferably in autumn, keep watered for its first year and mulch annually.
Where to grow katsura tree
Site Cercidiphyllum japonicum where it has plenty of room to develop its wide-spreading habit, ideally as a single specimen to plant in a lawn or a woodland garden. Plant in fertile, moisture-retentive soil that is well-drained. Neutral to acid soil will give the best autumn leaf colours. Choose a site sheltered from winds and avoid areas prone to hard frosts.
How to plant katsura tree
Plant Cercidiphyllum japonicum tree whilst dormant if possible, and ideally in autumn, so the tree can start to establish well before the growing season. Plant with the top of the rootball at soil level, firm in well, water in, and mulch the soil with compost or chipped bark to improve moisture retention and discourage weed growth.
How to care for katsura tree
During the first year, keep the tree watered during dry spells until it has established. Thereafter, little care is needed apart from keeping the ground around the base clear of grass and weeds for at least a one-metre circle, as they which would compete with the tree for water and nutrients. Ideally, apply an annual mulch of well-rotted compost, 5-8cm thick, over this clear area of soil.
Pruning katsura tree
No pruning is required apart from removing dead shoots. This tree naturally develops several leading shoots which all form an upright shape, so don’t thin them out or attempt to grow the tree with a single main stem.
Growing katsura tree: problem solving
Wind and late frosts may scorch the young growth. Avoid by growing in a sheltered site and away from frost pockets (low-lying areas where cold air gathers).
Hot, dry conditions may cause scorching of leaves and dieback of shoots if the tree is in full sun and on well-drained soil. Again, site the tree with care. Mulching the soil above the roots as described above improves the water-holding capacity of the soil.
Katsura tree buying advice
- Katsura tree is available in a range of pot/plant sizes, from as small as a 9cm pot up to larger specimens in pot sizes up to 10 litres, with a corresponding range of prices
- Plant sizes do vary, even for the same-sized pot, so this can be worth checking before purchasing. Larger specimens may be available from nurseries and garden centres
Where to buy Katsura tree