192 Koelreuteria paniculataCommon Names: golden rain tree, varnish tree Family: Sapindaceae (soapberry Family)
Golden rain tree is a fast-growing, deciduous tree reaching about 30' in height. At maturity, it has a rounded crown, with a spread equal to or greater than the height. It has compound leaves that give it an overall lacy appearance. The leaves turn yellow before falling. The bark is light gray-brown and becomes furrowed with age. Golden rain tree is perhaps most striking in the fall with its large clusters of showy yellow flowers. These are followed by 2" red-purple seed pods, which are equally dramatic! The fruit is a papery three-compartment, bladder-like structure full of seeds. In warm climates seed is produced in great quantities and there are always seedlings beneath a mother tree. The tree is invasive under these conditions. Golden rain tree is best grown in cooler zones where the shorter growing season prevents formation of seed.
Golden rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, is native to eastern Asia (China and Korea). A relative, K. elegans, is native to Taiwan and Fiji. This tree is similar to golden rain tree, but it is less hardy and even more beautiful!
CultureGolden rain tree is quite adaptable to most soil conditions. It does best in loose, well drained soil with good watering, especially when young. It tolerates drought, alkaline soil, heat, wind, and air pollution. Prune crossing branches as needed during winter when dormant. Light: Good sun required for best flowering and fruiting. Moisture: Average. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. Propagation: Propagates itself prolifically. Transplant seedlings or start from cuttings or seed.
In cooler zones, use as a free-standing tree where it can be seen in all its glory! It is also good as a small shade tree where space is limited. Golden rain tree should be used more often as a street and park tree.
Golden rain tree is a fast grower that can produce welcome shade and beauty for new homes in quick order. The cheerful, bright yellow flowers are unique and segue into the even more ornamental seed pods (at left).
Golden rain tree may reseed and become invasive in warm winter climates.
Steve Christman 08/16/97 updated 01/16/99, 02/28/99; 12/6/99, 3/22/07