Plant a Golden Rain Tree in Your Garden

The Golden Rain Tree is a beautiful addition to your yard. Its name comes from the profusion of small yellow blooms that fall like golden rain and then blanket the ground. Also known by the botanical name Koelreuteria paniculata, this charming deciduous tree originates from North China, Korea, and Japan. It belongs to the family of Sapindaceae. This family contains trees such as the Dodonaea – the hopseed bush, which has similar papery fruit. Another example is Litchi chinensis – the tree that produces Lychee fruit, which are widely used to make preserves.
Image of a close up of the small yellow blooms of the Golden Rain Tree.

Beautiful Blooms

The Golden Rain Tree provides year-round interest. In late spring or summer, Koelreuteria paniculata produces large flower panicles rising upwards from the branches. They consist of many individual yellow, fragrant flowers approximately 1/2” in size. Their plentiful nectar attracts honey bees to the tree. In the center of the blooms is an orange speck, which provides an attractive accent. The blooms are followed by papery seed pods like hanging Chinese lanterns, which develop in the fall and persist into winter. They are chartreuse colored, ripening to pink-orange and then bronze as they mature.

Image of the papery seed pods of the Golden Rain Tree that look like hanging Chinese lanterns.

The leaves are compound, meaning that they are made up of many sub-divided leaflets – up to 17 in one leaf. The leaflets are irregularly shaped with jagged teeth and are a handsome dark green in color. They range in size from 6” to 15” long. In fall the leaves turn an attractive yellow, highlighting the seed pods and enhancing the tree’s seasonal display. The bark is an attractive grey color with vertical furrows and ridges.

Uses in the Landscape

The Golden Rain Tree develops an irregularly-shaped, but attractive, rounded canopy as it matures. It reaches 30-40’ in height and width, making it a perfect small tree for the landscape. Its seasonal interest makes it a good focal point, specimen, or shade tree for your yard. It also works well as a street tree, as it is tolerant of air pollution and a wide range of soils – alkaline or acidic, as well as clay, sandy, or rocky.

Image of the Golden Rain Tree with bronze-colored flowers.

Growing Conditions for the Golden Rain Tree

This adaptable, hardy tree is also somewhat drought tolerant and thrives in our climate (USDA zones: 5-9). The Golden Rain Tree does need full sun and thrives with at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. It can tolerate dry conditions but likes a moderate amount of water for optimal growth, which is fairly fast, growing from 13-24” in one year. Once established it needs deep, regular watering in the dry, summer months. It can be susceptible to root rot, so it’s worth amending heavy clay soil with some soil conditioner.

Koelreuteria paniculata is a fantastic tree to plant in landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. It is tough and easily adapts to its growing conditions without fuss, as long as it has the requisite amount of sun! Perhaps as a consequence of this tolerance of a range of environments, there aren’t many cultivars that have been developed. But here are a few to consider:

  • Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Fastigiata’ has all the benefits of the regular species but has a narrow, columnar growth habit that can be useful for smaller gardens, with a spread of only 6’. Great for screening out the street in front yards or neighbors in the back!
  • Koelreuteria ‘September’ is a smaller cultivar reaching around 25’ tall. Its bloom time is later than the regular species, from July into September. Perfect for adding some late summer blooms to your yard.
  • Koelreuteria ‘Stadher’s Hill’ is a slightly smaller tree than the regular species, reaching up to 30’ tall and wide, with bright pink pods following the flowers.

Contact Frontier Landscaping today to help you select and plant the right Golden Rain Tree for your yard.