Fundamental Facts

HARDINESS: Zones 4 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Neutral to alkaline
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Fertile, well-drained
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: While or pink flowers, yellow fall foliage; for specimen
SEASON OF INTEREST: Spring to fall
FAVORITES: C. lutea and pink-flowered 'Rosea', C. platycarpa, C. sinensis
QUIRKS: Doesn't bloom every year; flowers in droughts
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Japanese maple, lacebark pine, redosier dogwood, pine, false cypress
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Average, well-drained soil, either in sun or partial shade
LONGEVITY: Lives more than 50 years
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Can develop weak branches that break during ice storms
SOURCE: Nursery plants
DIMENSIONS: 40-50 ft (12.2-15.2 m) tall, about 30 ft (9.1 m) wide

Yellowwood in the Landscape

Yellowwood is the perfect shade tree for yards where lack of space is a consideration. Growing about 12 in
(30.5 cm) per year until it reaches 40-50 ft (12.2-15.2 m) at maturity, this tree has attractive, spreading branches and feathery leaves that together form a full, round canopy. The light green, oval leaves turn yellow in autumn, contrasting with the smooth gray bark that wraps itself into folds and crevices of the trunks of old trees. The fall color is all the more striking when the tree is showcased against a brick building or backed by dark, dense evergreens, such as pine trees.

Yellowwood flowers in late spring or early summer, after the peak bloom of many other trees and after the danger of frost has passed. Young trees bloom sparsely, if at all, and a mature tree may produce blossoms only every 2-3 years. Ironically, yellowwood flowers more often when it is stressed by drought. When it does flower, the effect is thrilling. The cascades of white blossoms, resembling those of wisteria, drip from the branches, often reaching 15 in (38 cm) long.

Selecting Yellow woods

The American yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea), native to the Southeast, adapts easily to many climates and growing conditions. There is one variety, 'Rosea', which has pink flowers.

The Japanese yellowwood (C. platycarpa) blooms a little later than the North American native, and the white flowers, which are marked with yellow, grow only 10 in (25.4 cm) long. For a slightly different flowering form, look for Chinese yellowwood (C. sinensis).This species has narrower, finely textured leaflets, and the pink-flushed flowers stand in erect pyramids. It is not quite as hardy in the extreme north or south as is American yellowwood, but it makes a distinctive specimen in Zones 6 and 7.

Growing Yellowwood

Plant yellowwood in early spring, keeping the soil ball intact to avoid root damage. Yellowwood grows poorly in soggy soil, but will spread its deep fibrous roots readily in most other soil types.

In open situations, where it does not have to struggle for light, yellowwood spreads its branches to a width of 30 ft (9.1 m). Prune away any that form a narrow angle or that may be weak and easily snapped off in icy weather.This is important, because the botanical name of the genus means "brittle branch." If pruning is needed, do it in late summer or early fall while the target branches are still small. Avoid pruning in late winter or early spring to minimize excessive sap flow from cuts. Yellowwood is not troubled by any pests or diseases.

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