Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum Japonicum) Profile

Written by Iris

Jan 29 2023

Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum Japonicum) Profile
When young, Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), native to China and Japan, is upright and pyramid-shaped, but becomes more rounded with age. Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) peaks at about 40 feet. For all ages, Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) has a light, delicate pattern of branches and leaves. The brown bark of the old tree is a little hairy. Heart-shaped, 24-inch leaves are reddish purple, turning blue-green in summer and yellow to apricot in fall.

Katsura Tree Picture

 Katsura tree

Katsura Tree Info

Botanical Name Cercidiphyllum japonicum
Common Name Katsura tree, Japanese Katsura
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 40 to 60 feet tall and 25 to 60 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type Rich, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral to slightly acidic
Bloom Time March or April

Katsura Tree Native Habits

In its native Japan and China, the Katsura tree can grow to an impressive 45m (147ft) and is one of the largest deciduous trees in Asia. Traditionally its light timber is used for furniture and interior woodwork.
In Britain, where it is grown only for its ornamental value, it rarely reaches more than 14m (45ft) with a bushy habit as young shoots tend to be killed by severe frosts and chilly winter winds, thus restricting its growth.
The leaves of the Katsura are, if rather small, spectacular throughout the seasons. Starting out pink in the spring, the heart-shaped leaves turn to bright green in summer before various shades of yellow, orange and red take over for the autumn, often with several colours overlapping.

Katsura Tree Distribution

The katsura tree is native to Eastern China, mainly Japan, China, and Korea. Particularly in Japan, the tree is imbedded in folklore - some legends say that the shadow areas on the moon are the silhouette of a magic katsura tree that cannot be cut down. The tree is also linked in name with the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, whose Palace Garden contains many katsura trees, as well as a viewing platform where you can watch the moon rise. These days, the species is listed as Endangered in Asia (though classified as being Lower Risk).
Katsura tree

How to Grow & Care for Katsura Tree

How to Grow Katsura Tree

  • With Seeds 
Place the katsura trees seeds in a water-filled bowl. Soak the seeds for several hours to determine which are viable. Remove and discard any floating seeds.
Fill 6-inch pots with a moderately moist mixture of two parts peat, two parts loam and one part perlite. Firm the mix gently, then roughen the surface with your fingertips.
Sow two Katsura tree seeds in each pot. Gently press them halfway into the surface of the peat mixture. Sprinkle a very thin layer of coarse sand around the seeds but do not bury them since they require light for germination.
Mist the sand liberally with a spray bottle to settle it. Cover each pot with a clear plastic bag. Place the covered pots inside the refrigerator for seven to ten days to chill. Keep the peat mixture barely moist on the surface.
Move the pots to a bright, sheltered area after the chilling period has ended. Choose a location with eight to ten hours of light daily, such as indoors near a large window. Do not expose the pots to direct sunlight.
Warm the pots with a propagation mat set to between 70 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Monitor the moisture level of the peat mixture, since the propagation mat will increase evaporation. Water whenever the mixture dries out on the surface.
Watch for germination in 10 to 20 days. Remove the clear plastic after sprouting. Remove the propagation mat in two weeks. Continue to add water whenever the surface of the peat mixture dries out.
Remove one of the Katsura tree seedlings from each pot once they reach 2 inches in height. Keep the more vigorous of the two and snip the other off at soil level using small scissors.
Katsura tree
  • With Cuttings
Preparing cuttings from a katsura tree is possible, but not as successful.
Late spring and early summer are the best times to prepare cuttings from a katsura tree.
New growth is still soft and flexible at this stage, so these are softwood cuttings.
Types of cuttings that work well with Katsuratree
Young branches of a cercidiphyllum katsura tree, perfect for cuttings.There are two ways to make cuttings from a kastura Cercidiphyllum tree. These are stem cuttings and basal cuttings.
Stem cuttings – aren’t very successful, sometimes success rates even drop down to single digits, as in one in ten. But it isn't hopeless at all, since it can also reach much higher levels if the conditions are right.
Basal cuttings – much higher success rate, but often more difficult to properly start. Indeed, these are taken from portions of a branch where stems connect. You can also use suckers that start shooting out from near the base of the trunk.
Katsura tree
  • With Layers
Atsura is also very successfully layered.
This is especially helpful for those katsura types that are weeping, like the ‘Pendula’ and the ‘Tidal Wave’.
Simply place large pots wherever branches reach to the ground. Given that sometimes branches are too short, you might need to set the pots up on a bench or stool.
Cross a branch across the top of the pot and anchor it down with a metal hoop. Make sure several leaf nodes reach into the pot. If need be, arch the branch down into the pot.
After that, fill the pot with a mix of garden soil and soil mix, heaping it all the way to cover the branch with about 4 inches of soil (10 cm).
Load the soil down with a couple larger rocks. Make sure any rain flows into the pot and not out of it, though.
In windy areas, stake the branch to make sure it doesn't rip out of the pot or tip it over.
Roots will grow from the nodes. After a year (two when the growing season is short), you can cut the mother branch away and transfer the pot.
To straighten the sapling, if horizontal, simply transfer the entire clump to a larger pot – sideways.
Katsura tree

How to Care for Katsura Tree

  • Light
Katsuras trees are understory trees, meaning they can be grown in partial shade. Soil
It's most important that the soil is well-drained and relatively moist. Neutral to slightly acid soil pH is best, but the katsura can tolerate somewhat more acid as well as clayey soil.
  • Water
Katsuras require moderate watering, but they may need more frequent watering in dry places. It was once established. However, it is quite drought-tolerant. Maintain the soil moist but not wet until the tree becomes established. Then water according to the season.
  • Temperature and Humidity
This tree is suitable for zones 4-8. It can tolerate extensive temperatures and is not fussy about humidity. Avoid watering overhead in wet seasons or climates to avoid leaf mildew.
  • Fertilizer
At the Farm, fertilize our specimen trees and shrubs just once -- in early spring -- with a light but even coverage of a balanced, granular fertilizer (such 5-10-10, 10-10-10, or an organic fertilizer). If a concentrated, water-soluble fertilizer is used, please follow the manufacturers'recommendations carefully.
  • Pruning
Usually, there's no need to prune the katsura tree.It grows quickly at the beginning, sometimes reaching two feet tall within the first year. Different types of katsura have different growth rates, though. Dwarf varieties are slower-growing.It grows into a lush, cone-like shape that tends to round off with age.
Katsura tree

Katsura Tree Uses

Landscape Uses

Although the Katsura tree can be found in many parts of the Orient, it is less well-known in North America. This is a shame because the Katsura tree has some unique features that make it valuable.
It is a superb choice for growers searching for a particular plant to set their yards apart from their neighbors. There is no need to be concerned about it being around dogs or children: Katsura trees can be poisonous to pets and people.
A Katsura tree can be used as a shade tree when a more prominent tree-like sugar maple (Acer saccharum) would be too large.
Its tidy form, attractive leaf shape, and fall color also make it suitable as a specimen. If great fall color is your primary goal, grow the Red Fox cultivar. However, the small weeping Katsura cultivar has the most beautiful form of all the Katsura trees.

Wildlife Value

Katsura Tree likely provides habitat for birds, but it is not a necessary tree for our native wildlife.
Katsura tree

Katsura Tree Varieties

Red Fox Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Rotfuchs'): Smaller than the species tree (30 feet tall, with a spread of 16 feet), it is one of the most colorful types, bearing purplish-bronze leaves in spring, greenish-bronze leaves in summer, and orangey-bronze fall foliage.
Weeping Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Pendulum'): 15 to 25 feet high, with a similar to slightly greater spread, the branches of this even smaller type droop down, increasing visual interest.

Katsura Tree Common Pests/Diseases

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. (Also Read: Common Problems of Katsura Tree)
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

Katsura Tree Companion Plants

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.