Plant Profile: Cercidiphyllum

This is one of my favourite trees with so many things going for it. It has great spring leaf colour, autumn colour and of course that elusive candy floss smell when the leaves are dropping in autumn. Commonly known as the Katsura tree, it originates from Japan and China, where it grows to be one of the biggest hard woods in Asia. Give it well drained moist soil in sun or shade and this tree will give you year round interest in the garden. It is tolerant of clay soil but don't plant it is very dry soils as it then tends to drop its leaves. 

Cercidiphyllum japonicum, this specimen in my last garden was about 13
years old in this photo, but being in a very exposed high garden, it was slower
to get to this height

Plant in a border or better still as a specimen in a lawn or woodland where you can appreciate the lovely shape of the tree as it grows. Because of its open habit and small light leaves it provides an open canopy for plants growing underneath. Ultimately this tree will reach 36 feet or so in anything between 20 to 50 years. There are only two species in the genus Cercidiphyllum, C. japoincum (most common) and C. magnificum. Both of these have several cultivars, the variations mainly being height of growing habit. For instance weeping or dwarf habits seen in C. japonicum 'Penulum' or C. japonicum 'Boyds Dwarf'

Cercidiphyllum japonicum autumn colour

Cercidiphyllum have insignificant flowers in spring and pod shaped seeds in autumn but it is the heart shaped leaves and autumn colour the tree is really grown for. Not only do the leaves colour up in autumn but the newly emerging leaves in spring have a pink or bronze tint before turning green through summer.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum at Benmore Botanic Gardens

Cercidiphyllum magnificum is rarely seen in Britain. It is smaller and has courser, more cordate leaves and smoother bark.

 If you live in an early frost prone area it may be worth growing Cercidiphyllum in a sheltered corner as young leaves can sometimes be blackened by frost or cold winds.

New spring leaves of Cercidiphyllum japonicum

If you have space in your garden I'd definitely recommend you try growing this tree. If you have a lot of garden space also try one of the pendulous cultivars or a dwarf one. The Quirky Bird recommends the following:

Cercidiphyllum japonicum
A lovely specimen tree that will grow to 36 feet in 20 to 50 years. Great for pink bronze new foliage and dramatic red foliage in autumn accompanied by an elusive candy floss scent as you walk past the tree.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Pendulum'
Similar leaf shape and colouring to the species but with a weeping habit.The long branches sweep down to the ground and it is smaller, reaching 18 to 24 feet in 20 to 50 years.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Rotfuchs'
A narrow tree with deep purple leaves in spring as they emerge, turning glaucus blue as the year progresses. The narrow habit of this tree makes it ideal for smaller gardens. Growing to 16 feet in time it is also noteable for being resistant to honey fungus.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum with autumn colour in the nursery

We have Cercidiphyllum japonicum available in the nursery ans I hope to add more varieties to our stock list as time goes on. Keep an eye on our website for updates to the stock list as I work on adding everything to it. 

Cercidiphyllum japonicum

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All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden


  1. What a beautiful tree. The colours are magnificent.
    Leanne xx

    1. Hi Leanne, thank you, it really is a beautiful tree, little wonder it is one of my top favs :) x


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