How to Grow Golden-Rain Tree – Koelreuteria

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Golden-rain tree, Koelreuteria, is a deciduous tree that grows to 30 feet tall. It bears compound leaves and large clusters of showy, star-like yellow flowers. Seedpods follow the flowers; they ripen from green to pinkish-tan in fall and resemble Japanese lanterns.

Golden-rain tree has a rather compact rounded head. The leaves emerge with a pinkish or reddish-purple tinge and become bright green in sum changing to shades of orange, gold, and yellow in autumn.

Golden-rain tree makes a good shade tree for lawn or patio or a good street tree. It is resistant to drought and it grows well near the ocean.

Golden-rain tree can be propagated by seeds planted in autumn or by root cuttings.

 Golden-rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, with dry seed boxes
Golden-rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, with dry seed boxes

Get to know Golden-Rain Tree

  • Plant type: Deciduous tree
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 5-9
  • Hardiness: Hardy; heat tolerant
  • Height and spread: Grows to 50 feet (15m) tall and 40 feet (12m) wide
  • Foliage: Compound leaves turn bright yellow in fall
  • Flowers: Showy rich yellow flower borne in dense, terminal racemes; followed by bladder-like greenish pods
  • Bloom time: Midsummer
  • Uses: Specimen tree for mid-summer color
  • Common name: Golden-Rain Tree
  • Botanical name: Koelreuteria paniculata and species
  • Family: Sapindaceae
  • Origin: Asia
Koelreuteria’s airy 15-inch long panicles of yellow blossoms

Where to plant Golden-Rain Tree

  • Grow golden-rain tree in full sun; flowers poorly or not at all in shade
  • Plant golden-rain tree in humus-rich, well-drained soil; will grow in a variety of soils

When to plant Golden-Rain Tree

  • Transplant container-grown or balled-and-burlapped golden-rain trees in fall or spring.

Planting and spacing Golden-Rain Tree

  • Space golden-rain trees 30 to 40 feet apart; the tree grows 30 to 40 feet tall and wide.
Golden Rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, unripe seed pods
Golden Rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, unripe seed pods

How to water and feed Golden-Rain Tree

  • Keep the soil evenly moist for best growth; golden-rain tree tolerates drought, heat, road salt, and urban conditions.
  • Fertilize with aged compost spread to the dripline at least once a year.

Golden-Rain Tree care

  • No pruning is necessary unless you want to shape the tree; then prune in winter.

Golden-Rain Tree common problems

  • Golden-rain tree flowers poorly or not at all in shade.
  • Dieback, canker, mushroom root rot, and wilt sometimes occur.

Golden-Rain Tree propagation

  • Sow seed in fall and grow on in a cold frame.
  • Take root cutting in late winter.

Golden-Rain Tree varieties to grow

  • Koelreuteria bipinnatan (K. integrifoliola), Chinese flame tree: Grows 20 to 40 feet (6-12m) tall and as wide; leaves are 1 to 2 feet long divided into man oval leaflets; flower clusters in late summer similar to K. paniculata.
  • K. elegans (K. formosana), flamegold: Grows to 30 feet (12m) tall, round-headed; fall flowers are followed by pinkish capsules.
  • K. paniculata, goldenchain tree: Grows to 35 feet (10m) tall and just as wide; open branching; toothed or lobed leaflets; new leaves are purplish, turning bright green in summer then yellow to gold in autumn showy flower clusters to 14 inches long in early to midsummer; flowers are followed by fed to brown capsules. Cultivars include: ‘Apiculata’ has finely divided leaves; ‘Fastigiata’ has a narrow columnar habit; ‘September’ is late-blooming with large flower clusters; ‘Rose Lantern’ blooms late and has rose-pink seedpods.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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