Zelkova serrata

Japanese Zelkova




  • native to Japan
  • zone 5

Habit and Form

  • a medium-sized deciduous tree
  • 50' to 70' tall
  • rounded and broad crown when mature
  • young tree more or less vase-shaped
  • main branching starts low creating a short trunk

Summer Foliage

  • alternately arranged deciduous leaves
  • simple leaves
  • margins toothed
  • elliptical shape
  • acuminate leaf tip
  • 1.25" to 3" long
  • 0.75" to 1.5" wide
  • dark green color

Autumn Foliage

  • fall color is variable
  • a mix or yellow, russet, bronze, dark red and purple
  • can be quite showy on good specimens


  • not ornamental
  • blooms in April


  • a small drupe
  • not ornamentally important


  • attractive
  • exfoliates in patches exposing orangish inner bark
  • young bark is smooth with prominent lenticels
  • base bark color is steel gray


  • full sun
  • prefers well-drained, moist, deep, fertile soil
  • relatively tolerant of drought and pollution once established
  • tolerant of a range of soils pHs
  • easy to transplant and establish
  • needs room to develop wide crown

Landscape Use

  • lawn tree
  • urban areas
  • possibly a street tree
  • parks and campuses
  • for attractive bark characteristics
  • for vase-shape


  • twig dieback due to lack of cold hardiness
  • Japanese beetle feeding on foliage
  • shows fairly good resistance to Dutch Elm Disease and bacterial canker, but not immune

ID Features

  • short main trunk and low branching
  • vase-shaped habit
  • slender twigs with small dark, conical buds in a zigzag pattern
  • smooth bark with lenticels or exfoliating in patches to reveal orange inner bark


  • by cuttings or bud-graftings
  • by seed


'Goshiki' - This variegated form features leaves splashed or dusted with creamy white. The plant is sometimes offered by specialty nurseries and grows fairly well. 'Variegata' features a white rim around the leaves, but it's a weak grower.

'Green Vase'- This popular form is a fast grower to 70' tall with a width of 35' to 40'. It maintains a vase-shape with upright arching branches. It is taller and less broad than 'Village Green' at maturity, plus it grows more quickly. The fall color is bronze-red. It is widely considered the best selection.

'Halka' - This is one of the more popular forms, but it lacks the merit of 'Village Green' or 'Green Vase'. It reaches 50' tall with a spread of 30', but the habit is more open and loose. It lacks the dense uniformity of the other two cultivars, plus the yellow fall color does not rival their display.

'Spring Grove' - A potential rival for 'Village Green', this selection is yet to see mass production. It exhibits a distinct vase shape with tight branching. It is also ornamentally superior for its dark green leaves, red fall color and attractive peeling bark. The plant has the potential to grow 80' tall with a spread of 60'.

'Village Green' -A common plant in commerce, this form develops a straight, clean trunk and reaches 50' to 60' tall. The canopy is quite wide and dense with dark green leaves, while the fall color is rusty red. It expresses good disease and insect resistance with excellent cold hardiness. It grows quickly and vigorously as a young plant.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.