Japanese zelkova is closely related to elms but is resistant to Dutch elm disease (DED). It tolerates urban conditions well and can be used as a street tree. This tree has interesting bark, clean serrated foliage and good fall color.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Residential and parks,
- City parkway,
- Wide median,
- Restricted sites
- Shade tree,
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Moderately Tolerant
- Moderately Tolerant
- Highly susceptible to ice damage
- Fall color,
- Attractive bark
Season of Interest:
- Early fall,
- Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Tree & Plant Care
Tolerant of both acidic and alkaline soils. Avoid wet sites.
Disease, pests, and problems
Phloem necrosis and cankers are possible.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Zelkova is closely related to elms, but it is resistant to Dutch elm disease.
Drought tolerant and fairly tolerant of urban sites once established.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to Japan, eastern China, Taiwan, and Korea
Bark color and texture
Grayish-brown with numerous lenticels. With age, the bark becomes more mottled in color and exfoliates (peels) slightly.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, alternate leaves with sharply serrated margins. Ovate leaves, 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, with rounded bases and long-pointed tips.
Dark green in summer changing to yellow, orange, or reddish-purple.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Small, inconspicuous flowers in spring.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
A small drupe; not ornamentally important.
Cultivars and their differences
City Sprite® Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata 'JFS-KW1'): Oval to vase-shaped; 25 feet high by 18 feet wide; yellow fall color.
Green Vase Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata 'Green Vase'): This cultivar has a a more narrow vase shape than the species. Foliage is dark green in summer, changing to a mix of orange, bronze and red. As a young tree it shows a faster rate of growth. Good winter hardiness.
Halka Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata 'Halka'): Faster growing as a young tree. Vase-shaped habit. Fall color is yellow.
Musashino Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata 'Musashino'): Narrow vase-shaped form, only 15 to 20 feet wide. Yellow fall color.
Village Green Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata 'Village Green'): Wider habit (40 feet wide). Good winter hardiness and reddish fall color.
Wireless® Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata 'Schmidtlow'): Broadly spreading vase shape (24 feet high by 36 feet wide); red fall color.