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Zelkova, Japanese Zelkova serrata

Japanese Zelkova - Zelkova serrata
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Japanese Zelkova is a good street and shade tree that has an appealing vase-shaped form with a rounded crown. Green leaves turn yellow, copper, orange, or deep red to purplish-red in fall putting on a showy display. The peeling bark on older trees exposes orange patches which can be quite impressive. Grows 50'-80' high with a 50'-75' spread. Prefers moist, well drained soils and full sun. It is pH adaptable, and when established is tolerant of wind, drought, and air pollution.

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Zones 5 - 8 Zones 5 - 8
Hardiness Zones 5 - 8
The Japanese Zelkova can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the zone map. View Map
Ornamental Tree Ornamental Tree
Type of tree
Ornamental Trees, Shade Trees
50' - 80' High 50' - 80' High
Mature Height
The Japanese Zelkova grows to be 50' - 80' feet in height.
50' - 75' Spread 50' - 75' Spread
Mature Spread
The Japanese Zelkova has a spread of about 50' - 75' at full maturity.
Medium Growth Medium Growth
Growth Rate
This tree grows at a medium growth rate. More about this.
Full Sun Full Sun
This zelkova does well in full sun.
Various Soils Various Soils

The Japanese zelkova grows in acidic to slightly alkaline, moist to dry, compacted, wide range of soil textures.

Vase Shape Vase Shape
This zelkova has vase shape.

The Japanese zelkova is a handsome tree with showy fall color, attractive exfoliating bark, and a symmetrical, vase-shaped growth habit. It makes a good street tree because of its dense shade, ability to grow in marginal soils and resistance to pests and pollution.


Japanese Zelkova is a tough urban tree for residential shade and street plantings. It has a spreading, generally upright branching, vase-shaped habit. The crown is shorter and more rounded than the American elm. The bark is a smooth, reddish brown when young with prominent cherry-like lenticels. As the tree ages, the outer bark is gray-brown and often exfoliating exposing an orangish inner bark. Medium green leaves turn to shades of yellow, orange, brown, deep red to reddish-purple in fall. This tree will tolerate most soil types including those with a pH to about 7.5, but prefers deep, moist, well drained soils. It does well in full sun. Established trees are fairly drought and wind tolerant (if properly pruned). It is resistant to Dutch elm disease with good resistance to elm leaf beetle and Japanese beetle. Young trees are susceptible to frost so transplanting should be done in the spring. Pruning should be done in fall, and Japanese zelkova will require some pruning to develop a strong structure. The main branches should spaced along a single trunk, so they develop a secure hold on the trunk especially in urban areas. Branches should remain less than 1/2 the diameter of the trunk to maintain a strong form. Planting uses for zelkova include lawn, shade, and street tree, parking lot island, buffer strip, and bonsai.


Japanese zelkova is native to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria. This tree is also called the "Keaki". The timber is high quality, durable and strong with a beautiful grain. It is used for furniture and in construction. It is a popular bonsai tree.


Japanese zelkova prefers moist, well drained soil but is very drought tolerant once established.


The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to oblong-ovate, 1 1/4"-2" long with serrated margins, dark green and slightly rough above. Fall colors are shades of yellow, orange, brown to deep red to reddish purple.

Flower Color

green, not showy

Bloom Time

Spring with the leaves

Fruit Description

Small, kidney bean-shaped drupe about 1/4" across ripening in the fall.