fbpx Tree of heaven (Not recommended) | The Morton Arboretum

Tree of heaven (Not recommended)

Tree of heaven, a weedy tree, producing seeds.

Tree of heaven has invasive traits that enable it to spread aggressively. This tree is under observation and may be listed on official invasive species lists in the near future. Review of risks should be undertaken before selecting this tree for planting sites. Tree of heaven is an aggressive grower and produces a lot of suckers. It is generally not recommended for landscapes.

Botanical name:

Ailanthus altissima

All common names:

tree of heaven, paradise tree

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

40-60 feet

Mature Width:

35-60 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


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Excessive sucker growth

Ornamental Interest:

  • Persistent fruit/seeds

Seasons of Interest:

  • late summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Other

Shape or Form:

  • Thicket-forming,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Insect pollinators

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

This tree tends to produce suckers and pruning will be needed to keep suckering in check.

Disease, pests, and problems

Verticillium wilt, various leaf spots and cankers are potential problems.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China.

Bark color and texture 

The gray bark is relatively smooth, but marked with long, thin, lighter colored streaks.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, compound leaves up to 2 feet long with up to 25 leaflets per leaf.  Leaflets are ovate with 2 to 4 prominent teeth at the base.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male and female flowers generally on separate trees (dioecious).  Male flowers produce a bad odor while female flowers produce no odor.  Numerous tiny flowers in long clusters (usually longer than one foot), in late spring or early summer.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

On female tree only; large clusters of winged seeds (samaras), orange to red in summer, maturing to brown in autumn.



Location of Ailanthus altissima (Tree of heaven (Not recommended)) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.