Katsura tree

Summer foliage of katsura tree.

The katsura tree, native to Japan, makes an excellent specimen or shade tree in Midwestern landscapes. Its foliage offers an array of color throughout the year. In spring, heart-shaped leaves emerge reddish-purple, changing to blue-green as they mature. In autumn the color display changes again as leaves turn clear yellow or apricot color.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Cercidiphyllum japonicum

All Common Names:

katsura tree, katsuratree, katsura-tree, Japanese katsura

Family (English):

Katsura tree

Family (Botanic):

Cercidiphyllaceae

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Foliage:

  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

40-60 feet

Mature Width:

20-30 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Fall color

Season of Interest:

  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Oval,
  • Pyramidal,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate,
  • Fast

Transplants Well:

  • Yes

Wildlife:

  • Insect pollinators

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Spring planting is best to allow root development.  The Katsura tree is shallow-rooted and will benefit with a layer of mulch to maintain a cool root environment.  Additionally, this tree is drought-sensitive and should be watered in dry conditions.  

Disease, pests and problems

Leaf scorch is common in hot, dry sites.
No common serious pests.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China and Japan.

Bark color and texture

Bark is light gray and flaky to slightly shaggy.

Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum)
Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum)
photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite to sub-opposite leaf arrangement; simple,  2 to 4 inch, heart-shaped leaves emerge reddish, changing to a blue-green. Lear margin has rounded teeth.  Fall color is a clear yellow.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male and female flowers on separate trees.  Both genders fairly inconspicuous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Small (3/4 inch) pods on female trees.

Cultivars and their differences 

Weeping Katsura Tree  (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’): 15 to 25 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide; weeping form.

Red Fork Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Rot fuchs'): An upright oval reaching 30 feet high and 16 feet wide; pronze burple spring foliage turning broze-green in summer. Fall color is orange-bronze.

Location of Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree) at the Arboretum