Katsura Tree is a first-rate landscape plant with four-season interest and a fine texture. In spring, minute inconspicuous flowers bloom just before the foliage emerges with a reddish-purple color, maturing to a cool-blue green. The heart-shaped leaves turn a spectacular display of yellow and apricot in fall. As the foliage ages, it gives off a subtle, sweet aroma likened to cotton-candy or cinnamon. Winter months show off its fine branch texture and fissured bark.
Katsura Tree performs admirably as a screen or specimen. Shrub-form trees are especially well-suited to use for screening. As a specimen, Katsura Tree should be planted somewhere that an observer can enjoy the subtle flowers, seed pods (if you have a female tree), and aromatic fall foliage. In wet sites, the tree will grow at a fast rate so long as it doesn’t experience drought during the establishment period.
Katsura Tree likely provides habitat for birds, but it is not a necessary tree for our native wildlife.
Katsura Tree is drought intolerant and requires large quantities of moisture when it is first establishing. Newly planted trees should be watered frequently, and the surrounding soil should not be allowed to dry out. Once established, the tree is tolerant of some drought as well as a wide range of soil conditions. A large mulch ring is an absolute necessity for this tree to retain soil moisture. Beyond water, the tree is not particular about soil texture or nutrient availability, although it will grow at a fast to very-fast rate when placed in organically rich, consistently moist soils.
Sun scald and frost-cracking can be problematic in dry, hot, and/or windy sites, although Katsura Tree has no major insect or disease issues to speak of. Siting Katsura Tree properly is the most important step of ensuring a healthy, thriving landscape plant.
If it weren’t for the lack of drought tolerance, Katsura Tree would have checked all the boxes to be Urban Approved. As long as the tree receives consistent moisture it will tolerate soil and aerial salt, as well as acidic or alkaline soil. With no diseases to speak of, it’s practically the perfect urban tree as long as it’s not sited where moisture is rarely available.
The scientific name Cercidiphyllum refers to the foliage of Katsura Tree bearing a striking resemblance to the foliage of Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). However, Eastern Redbud has an alternate leaf arrangement, while Katsura Tree’s foliage is opposite. The specific epithet japonicum refers to the tree’s native range in Japan and eastern China.
Although listed as growing at a moderate rate, Katsura Tree is capable of rapid growth spurts in optimal conditions. Some trees have been reported to grow more than 4 feet per year when given ample moisture and adequate nutrition.
Katsura Tree should be paired with plants of similar moisture requirements. Use Hostas, Dogwoods, Buttonbush, and Ferns to contrast the texture of the tree. Avoid using dry-shade plants like Coralbells as they will not tolerate the moisture needed by the Katsura Tree.