How to Grow Camphor Trees

Camphor tree with bright green leaves covering driveway

The Spruce / K. Dave

In This Article

The aromatic Cinnamomum camphora, or camphor tree, is an evergreen tree native to Japan and China. It has found use in some southern areas of the United States as a shade specimen and is used occasionally as a street tree.  

The stems are bright green and tinted with red on young camphor trees. At maturity the trunk takes on an oak-like appearance. Insignificant flowers appear in spring followed by black drupes. Leaves produce a camphor scent when bruised. The sprawling form and attractive bark, combined with its lingering black drupes and glossy evergreen leaves, make this tree an excellent choice for winter interest in the landscape. The drupes provide food for birds and other wildlife especially when other natural food sources are spent.

While it has some favorable traits, landscape designers and gardeners should also consider the drawbacks of a mature camphor tree. Some of these issues can be corrected with careful placement, but other problems may persist. This is a large tree reaching to 60 feet at full maturity with a large, wide crown to match. Dense foliage creates almost complete shade making it difficult for other plants to survive underneath.

Camphor trees also send out large shallow roots that spread aggressively, and the roots can potentially damage infrastructure and crack pavement.  The black drupes drop from the trees and can stain pavements, cars, and other property. Placing the camphor tree near streets, driveways and sidewalks should be carefully thought out before planting. These trees also have become invasive in some areas. Camphor is toxic to people, cats, and dogs.

Botanical Name Cinnamomum camphora
Common Name Camphor tree
Plant Type  Evergreen
Mature Size 50-65 ft. tall, 50-60 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Moist, fertile, sandy soil
Soil pH Slightly acidic to very basic
Bloom Time April
Flower Color Inconspicuous
Hardiness Zones USDA 9-11
Native Area  China and Japan
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to cats, toxic to dogs

Camphor Tree Care

Camphor trees are very large ornamental shade trees that are easy to maintain with minimal effort. Planning and design considerations are what will determine the level of necessary maintenance. Placing the tree in the correct climate and location will make the difference as to whether you will love or hate your camphor tree.     

Warning

Camphor trees have become invasive in some areas due to the spread of seeds by birds and other wildlife. Check local ordinances or the state department of environmental protection for its legal status before planting. Even if the plant is legal in your area, ask yourself if the tree will potentially jeopardize your local ecosystem. A nearby Extension Office can help you answer this question.

Camphor tree branch with budding stem with tiny bloom closeup

The Spruce / K. Dave

Camphor tree with light green leaves and buds in front of red leaf closeup

The Spruce / K. Dave

Closeup of the leaves and berries of the camphor tree

JianGang Wang / Getty Images

Light

The immense round canopy of the camphor tree enjoys full sun and will perform best when the entire canopy is given six hours of sunlight a day. It can tolerate partial shade, but growth and foliage will not reach full potential in these conditions.

Soil

Camphor trees can adapt to a wide range of soils but prefer to grow in fertile, sandy soil. Its pH
level
is broad and can range from acidic at 4.3 to very alkaline at  8.0.

Water

Keeping the soil around the camphor tree consistently moist soil is key for the tree to thrive. Give young trees 15-20 gallons per week for the first two years. Once established watering can be reduced provided the tree receives regular rain.  

Temperature and Humidity

The camphor tree is native to warm hilly areas in Japan and China with high humidity.  It grows best in areas in the United States with similar conditions in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11.

Fertilizer

Unless the trees shows signs of deficiency, fertilizer is not necessary. Rule out other potential causes of problems and perform a soil test before adding supplemental fertilizer. If needed, a quality slow-release organic tree fertilizer can be applied in the spring according to the correct amounts recommended in the product’s directions.

Propagation

The camphor tree may be grown from seed planted in the spring or by semi-ripe cuttings in summer.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Narayan S, Singh N. Camphor poisoning-An unusual cause of seizureMed J Armed Forces India. 2012;68(3):252-253.

  2. Camphor is Toxic To Dogs. Petpoisonhelpline.com. Published September 28, 2011. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/camphor/