Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata)

The Zelkova serrata tree shows many favorable characteristics when planted, because its growth is very good and it is not prone to any type of disease.

This one adapts to any soil and climatic conditions without any problem, so it is a good option if you are looking for a tree of Japanese origin that provides you with just and necessary shade to protect you from the great heat and the sun. In this article we will show you the origin, characteristics and why it is beneficial to have a Zelkova Serrata.

What is the Zelkova serrata tree ?

This is a tree of Japanese origin, belonging to a family that includes six different species of deciduous trees. All these trees have their natural distribution between Siberia, China, Asia Minor and Japan.

The landing of these species in European lands meant the proliferation in different areas of two types of Zelkovas in particular. The Zelkova carpinifolia, which finds its greatest number of exponents on the shores of the Caspian Sea, north of Iran, and the Zelkova serrata, native to all of Japan.

Among the characteristics of the Zelkova serrata is the fact that it is a very unproblematic species when it comes to bonsai training, with one transplant per year being its only requirement.

At present, this genus of trees is found to a greater extent in North America and Europe. It bears a notorious resemblance to Elm, which is presented as a direct relative and is a specimen that is used especially ornamentally, offering a very prominent shade as a result of the great breadth of its crowns.


The Zelkova serrata is a tree that can reach large dimensions, ranging between 10 and 30 meters in height. Its trunk is generally short and very solid and a characteristic of all the specimens is a bark that presents warm colors between the general brownish color, which give it great beauty.

This trunk, which can measure up to two meters in diameter and in exceptional cases 4 meters, ends with almost no apparent marks where the crown begins, which is usually very leafy and with a significant number of branches that unfold, sometimes reaching measure this only between 20 and 30 meters high by 15 wide.

Its insensitivity to many types of diseases, to which other species of trees succumb, caused them to replace the Elm, a tree of its family with a similar morphology, in many places on the American continent. The useful life of the Zelkova serrata is stipulated at approximately 300 years.

Its leaves

The leaves do not present characteristics that differentiate it from other types of trees found in its genus. These are deciduous and can measure between 3 and 11 centimeters long, and between 1.5 and 7 centimeters wide. These can have between 8 and 16 teeth approximately and presenting a petiole that measures 2 to 7 centimeters.

They do not show hairiness, although in some cases hairs can be seen on the underside. These leaves are a very deep green during the summer, where the tree develops the most, turning to a shade between brown and red when autumn arrives.

Its branches

Taking into account that the crowns are usually very leafy and only reach this about 20 meters in height, it is concluded that this tree has a large number of branches of different sizes, which move sideways giving the tree some measurements similar in width as in length.

Your flowers

The flowers are usually yellowish to orange in color and are pollinated by the wind. In these specimens, these flowers do not have any type of petal and have a very small diameter, ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 millimeters. This type of tree has a small and inedible fruit, which is shaped like a small walnut, which can measure up to four centimeters in total.

This tree, in its natural Japanese habitat where it originates from, adapts to climates that do not show extreme temperature extremes, nor too cold winters, nor too hot summers. That is why mild climates anywhere in the world are your preference.

Although this type of tree can resist calcareous soils, although not in its maximum splendor, the soil conducive to its development is one that is composed of an acid PH. These are not usually the type of tree that is found on the banks of rivers and lagoons, since it does not withstand the constant flooding of the lands that surround it.


Like most trees, this one grows very quickly and qualitatively when planted in full sun and even in partial shade. During its first year of life and for a better rooting it is preferable to fertilize the soil in which it was planted.

Phosphorus will be the right element to use in your fertilizer, leaving aside fertilizers that have too much nitrogen content. Something that does not contribute to its development. In the event that the soil is fertile and rich in nutrients, once it is large, it will achieve through its roots everything necessary to continue growing healthy.


This tree is primarily ornamental and in the gardening world it is used specifically as a shade tree. It is not a specimen to plant in small gardens, since it requires a considerable amount of space to develop in its large measures.

Their trunks have a noble wood and with a special color, something that makes them very precious in Japan when building all kinds of furniture. Its hardness and good conservation are two characteristics that make it so widely used commercially in the East.

It is a tree widely planted in different types of parks and forests, since in addition to being very leafy and giving an important shade, it is very attractive when the color of its leaves changes to reddish during autumn and winter seasons.

According to botanical experts, this species is very unproblematic when it comes to creating a bonsai formation. The precise clamping, added to an annual transplant, will have to be taken to obtain a dwarf tree of this species.

It is that this tree meets all the necessary conditions for this technique to be carried out, since it can be achieved through pruning cuttings or through seeds, in addition to sprouting in a good way in general and not being prone to contracting diseases.

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