Planting a katsura tree – tips and tricks to make sure it thrives!

Young katsura tree at the Geoff Hamilton Memorial Garden

The katsura tree is an easy tree to satisfy. All it needs is rich soil and significant water reserves.

Katsura planting quick facts

Season – fall best, then spring
Soil needs – rich & moist
Exposure – full sun where cold, part sun elsewhere

Pre-treatment – compost
Post-treatment – plant mulch
Precautions – some varieties grow large

These few tips will help you make sure your Katsura tree is off to a great start! Shown right, a beautiful young Cercidiphyllum in the Geoff Hamilton Memorial garden.

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When to plant Katsura

Kastura, like most trees and shrubs, is best planted in fall.

  • This ensures roots have time to develop underground before spring vegetation occurs. That way the plant isn’t stressed.
  • Planting in fall, when the plant is nearing dormancy, reduces transplant shock.

It’s almost impossible to find bare-root specimens. You’ll always be planting from a container with a root ball.

How to plant a katsura tree

Follow these tree planting guidelines to plant your katsura tree successfully. Below are a few additional considerations.

Staking

  • If your specimen is already taller than 2 or three feet, best is to stake it upon planting.
  • Remove the stake after two years.

Soil amendments

  • Katsura loves compost and rich soil.
  • Double the doses compared to what you would used for normal trees.

Katsura tree with peach-colored leaves overhanging a lake.Watering

Mulching

To make sure the soil stays rich and moist, use plant based mulch around the tree in a thick layer.

  • Extend the mulch cover to match the drip line as the tree grows.

Renew the layer of mulch regularly.

  • Ideally, every year in fall. Materials will break down over winter and give a nutrient boost in spring.
  • And again in spring. This time it isn’t for the nutrients, but to retain water. It also keeps the soil cool and covered during summer.
  • But it’s also fine to mulch only once a year…

Does mulch interfere with the roots?

Cercidiphyllum has a shallow root system. Too much mulch isn’t good in very wet areas.

  • In part, the shallow root system is what helps the tree grow well even in wet soil.
  • Threading roots along the surface protects the katsura tree from drowning in soggy wet ground.
  • Excessive mulch in wet areas isn’t recommended, since this would bury the roots and make the tree vulnerable to root rot.
  • As an alternative, to help fertilize the tree and enrich the soil, consider topdressing the area or preparing weed fertilizer. Both are excellent solutions!

Ideal soil for growing a Katsura tree

Katsura is one of the easiest trees to please!

It can cope with what usually are labeled “difficult soils”:

  • seaside and salt-laden soil
  • heavy clay soil
  • waterlogged and wet soil
  • it’s a fabulous acidic soil tree, even though it’s perfectly happy in alkaline or neutral soil

As long as the two requirements of being rich and rather moist are matched, any situation can do!

Where to plant a katsura tree

Except for a few dwarf varieties, your katsura may grow quite tall. The only conditions for tall growth is space and water.

  • Katsura is an excellent waterside tree.
  • Have it overlook a pod or river-bend and it will gracefully arch above it!

If winds in your area are very strong, best find a sheltered spot for your katsura.

  • Katsura wood is brittle and breaks when too stressed by wind.
  • Katsura in the wild usually grows best deep in moist, narrow valleys that are protected from wind.

Landscaping with Katsura

Katsura tree grown three stories tall.Katsura, being from Japan and the Far East, is of course perfectly suited to Japanese gardens.

But it has many other uses as well. Since it copes with many types of soil and is practically disease-free, cities and local homeowners associations use it often. In dry areas, irrigation is needed in summer. Here are some of its potential uses:

  • roadsides
  • parks
  • seaside environments (Katsura can grow on salty soil)
  • near bodies of water
  • it’s an excellent shade tree. Like mulberry or the rain tree, it cools the ground under it in hot weather.
  • and much more!

In gardens, it serves as stunning nice standalones, highlighted in the center of a garden bed. Surround it with tulips for spring blooming and Crocosmia for late summer flashes that will match the fall colors of the katsura perfectly.

  • Growing the tree as part of a hedge won’t do it justice. Much of its appeal is in the free shape it naturally grows into. Having to trim it now and then, though not dangerous for the plant, won’t really look like much.

Lastly, although it’s difficult work, katsura bonsais are simply astounding in fall.

Beautiful roots when old

Katsura tends to send roots out to the sides, running very shallow near the surface.

  • In older specimens, they swell in size and become very appealing and beautiful.
  • Don’t plant this near cemented areas or try to lock the tree in with masonry.
  • These surface roots don’t like being run over or trodden over with cars or machinery.

Remember that roots extend to as far as the drip line does.

  • Any masonry within this area will tend to throttle the tree.
  • If the masonry doesn’t run very deep, the tree may slip under it and cause buckling and cracking.

Want to set up a nice place under this excellent shade tree nonetheless? Simply go for a low terrace so that roots can run free beneath it!

Transplanting katsura trees

Katsura roots run shallow but spread very wide, among others to anchor this wide tree to the ground. Transplanting usually results in cutting off too much of the root system. This makes the tree extremely vulnerable to transplant shock.

  • It won’t cope well with transplanting.
  • If you do transplant, extend a shade veil above the seedling for an entire year. This will protect the seedling from sunburn and will reduce pressure on roots to perform.
  • Also, remember to stake the katsura as it needs to spread its roots all over again. Two years is enough.
  • Think things through before deciding where to plant it! It can grow to over 100 feet (30 meters) if well-watered! You can also plant a dwarf katsura variety instead.

Trunk and roots of a gigantic katsura tree

Smart tip about planting katsura

If you’re setting up an irrigation system in your garden, consider having a few drip points under your katsura tree. It will thank you for the attention during droughts!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Young katsura tree by RASSIL under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Katsura near water by Sen Itto under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Mature katsura tree by Wendy Cutler under © CC BY 2.0
Large roots on a large tree by harum.koh under © CC BY-SA 2.0