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Japanese ZelkovaZelkova serrata

  • Japanese Zelkova - Zelkova serrata
  • Japanese Zelkova - Zelkova serrata

The 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.

As it is tolerant to drought and air pollution, this tree is a nice option for a variety of urban locations.

Hardiness Zones

The japanese zelkova can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 5–8. View Map

Tree Type

This tree is considered both a shade tree and an ornamental tree. It features a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight and adds visual interest and beauty to landscaping.

Mature Size

The  Japanese Zelkova grows to a height of 50–80' and a spread of around 50–75' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium rate, with height increases of 13–24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

This tree grows in a wide range of soil textures, acidic to slightly alkaline, moist to dry. It tolerates drought (once established) and compacted soil.


This tree:
  • Offers dense shade.
  • Develops a peeling bark in old age, exposing orange patches of inner bark.
  • Features ovate to oblong-ovate dark green leaves with serrated margins and a slightly rough texture that are 1 ¼ –2" long.
  • Provides fall color in shades of yellow, orange, brown, deep red and reddish-purple.
  • Yields small, kidney bean-shaped drupes that measure around ¼" in diameter and ripen in the fall.
  • Is a popular bonsai tree.
  • Tolerates wind, drought and air pollution.
  • Grows in a vase shape.
  • Turns into high-quality, durable, strong timber that is used for furniture and construction.
  • Should be transplanted in the spring, as young trees are susceptible to frost.


Native to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Manchuria, the Japanese zelkova was introduced in America in 1862. This tree also goes by the common name Keaki.