Japanese Stewartia Tree Profile

Japanese Stewartia tree

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The Japanese Stewartia is an ideal match for anyone who loves the beauty of rich fall foliage but doesn't have a lot of land to work with. Native to Japan, this small tree is known not only for its brilliant shades of red, orange, and burgundy that emerge in the fall, but also for its attractive exfoliating bark and delicate blooms. It's a unique genus of shrubs that's classified into the tea family (Theaceae), and are thus related and closely resemble the camellia (as evidenced by its species name, Stewartia pseudocamellia).

The Japanese Stewartia is a slow-growing, low-maintenance deciduous tree that grows cup-shaped white flowers with showy orange-yellow anthers that develop in the early summer. Its foliage of dark green leaves transforms into gorgeous autumn hues as summer turns to fall. As its leave shed, flaky, multi-colored bark is exposed that give the tree some winter interest--the bark peels away in strips of gray, reddish brown, and orange.

Better yet, this particular tree is virtually pest- and disease-free, and makes the perfect flowering shrub combined with woodland gardens, mixed shrub borders, or as a specimen plant. A graceful, elegant tree, it can be grown on residential lawns, in parks, or even in uncrowded sections of the garden for a pop of color and visual interest year-round thanks to its summer blooms, fall color, and winter bark.

Some suggested companion plants for the Japanese Stewartia include the Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea, Sunburst Hypericum, and Green Sheen Japanese Spurge. You can also pair this tree with low-maintenance shrubs, such as shrub roses, viburnum, ninebark, and spirea.

Botanical Name Stewartia pseudocamellia
Common Name Japanese Stewartia
Plant Type Deciduous tree
Mature Size 12-40 feet tall, 8-25 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, part shade
Soil Type Moderately fertile, moist, well-drained
Soil pH 4.5-6.5
Bloom Time Late Summer/Fall
Flower Color White flowers; red, orange, burgundy leaves
Hardiness Zones 5-8
Native Area Japan

How to Grow the Japanese Stewartia Tree

The Japanese Stewartia is commonly sold as either a large multi-stem shrub or as a tree. When choosing a location for your Japanese Stewartia, be sure to provide a site that's sheltered from cold, dry winds, which will damage buds and flowers.

Since it's a smaller tree, it's a good fit for more compact landscapes. A multi-season tree, consider planting a Japanese Stewartia in your front yard or any other focal point (such as near a patio or outdoor room). It's a popular choice because it provides homeowners with a show for every season.

You'll want to plant the Japanese stewartia tree in spring or early summer, and then water it regularly during the first year after planting to facilitate a deep and extensive root system.

Light

This tree grows best in full sun to partial shade.

Soil

The Japanese Stewartia prefers moist, well-drained soils that are moderately fertile.

Water

You'll want to water your Japanese Stewartia regularly to maintain wet, evenly-moist soil. These trees should be watered at least weekly for optimal growth, and will require deeper waterings during extended dry periods.

Temperature and Humidity

If you live in a region with warm summers, be sure to plant your Japanese Stewartia tree in a protected location where it can receive some shade from the intense afternoon sun (such as the east or north side of either a house or building).

Fertilizer

You should fertilize your Japanese Stewartia during its early years; do so in the spring with an acidifying organic granular fertilizer.

Propagating

You can propagate the Japanese Stewartia by softwood cuttings in the early summer or semi-hardwood cuttings in the mid- to late-summer. You can also propagate by seeds sown outdoors in the fall months.

Some Related Varieties of Stewartia Trees

  • Silky Stewartia: Deciduous shrub with white flowers
  • Chinese Stewartia: Small flowering tree native to China; fragrant white flowers turn red in fall
  • Upright Stewartia: Deciduous multi-trunked tree or shrub; cup-shaped white flowers and glossy green leaves turn red in fall

Pruning

Pruning is rarely needed for these trees, but winter (or any time after flowering) is the best time to remove broken branches as well as those that are crossing or rubbing.