The yellowwood tree will brighten your yard with a showy floral display in spring and when the leaves turn yellow in autumn. But that won't happen until the tree is about 10 years old. Once it blooms, the intensely fragrant, wisteria-like flowers droop in long terminal panicles of about 10 to 15 inches long and will cover the mature tree in late spring. A profuse bloom may only happen every couple of years, however. After the blooms are pollinated, they form brown leguminous pods.
The tree is best transplanted in the late winter and early spring when it's balled and burlapped or transplanted from a container-grown nursery stock at any time during the year. It will grow somewhat slowly, reaching 9 to 12 feet in about a decade. Its mature size will reach 30 to 50 feet high and equally as wide, forming into a vase shape. Each leaf will measure up to 12 inches long and will be made up of seven to 11 leaflets. They will change to yellow in the fall.
|Botanical Name||Cladrastis kentukea, Cladrastis lutea, Cladrastis tinctoria|
|Common Name||Yellowwood, American yellowwood, virgilia, gopherwood, Kentucky yellowwood|
|Mature Size||30-50 ft. tall and wide|
|Sun Exposure||Part sun, full sun|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, loamy, sandy|
|Soil pH||Alkaline and acidic|
|Flower Color||White, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||5-8 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Southeastern United States, especially in Kentucky|
Yellowwood Tree Care
Known as a shade tree, the yellowwood even works well in urban conditions thanks to its drought tolerance. While the floral display is a key feature of this plant, it can be erratic. Some years, the blossoms will be plentiful; other years, there will be sparse to none. It is still a valuable tree for its fall show, tolerance of a variety of conditions, and the fact that its flowers are favored by honey bees. Its interior is of value, too. The yellowwood name came about because the heartwood is yellow and can be used to make dyes.
Site this tree in a spot where it will receive at least part sun. Full sun is best to encourage flowering.
Alkaline and acidic soils are both handled well by this tree. It can also tolerate the full range of soils from sand to clay.
This tree does handle drought as long as the roots have had a proper chance to spread through a growing season of regular watering.
Temperature and Humidity
Yellowwood is adaptable but does prefer isolated forest environments with good air circulation. It can be found in well-drained limestone soils in river valleys, slopes, and ridges along streams.
The yellowwood is one of the Fabaceae family members that does not utilize nitrogen fixation. You may need to fertilize it if tests show N levels are low and symptoms like yellowing foliage appear. Test to be sure as conditions like drought or overwatering have the potential to also cause yellow leaves.
Yellowwood Tree Varieties
The yellowwood belongs to the Fabaceae (pea) family. This is a large family with species like wattles (Acacia spp.), silk tree (Albizia julibrissin), thornless honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis), and the eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis).
If you prefer pink flowers, look for the 'Perkin's Pink'/'Rosea' variety.
You should start pruning when the tree is young to help it keep good branch angles. The branches tend to grow close to each other and the wood can be brittle. Take these steps for adequate pruning:
- This tree tends to bleed sap from wounds made in the winter, so pruning should be performed in the summer or right after flowering is complete in the late spring.
- Make sure there is a central leader.
- Remove crossing branches.
- Create strong branch angles that are wide to help keep the tree healthier and make sure new branches are farther apart.
- Be careful when working on this tree as the bark is thin and can quickly become damaged.
Common Pests & Diseases
This tree does not have many pest or disease issues that crop up. It is possible, however, that verticillium wilt, cankers, rots, and decay could strike.