Japanese Pagoda Tree Care & Maintenance Instructions

Japanese Pagoda Tree Care & Maintenance Instructions

Although this Chinese native is known by the misleading name of the Japanese pagoda tree (Styphnolobium japonicum), the only thing that will cause you to doubt this magnificent tree is its name. If you live in an urban location, are looking for a blooming shade tree, or are creating a Japanese garden, a Japanese pagoda tree (also known as a Chinese scholar tree) is the right choice for your yard.

The Japanese pagoda tree is without a doubt a stunning specimen that you should consider including in your garden design, provided you have the necessary space and patience to wait for the reward that will come when it is ready to show off. The pea pods are very poisonous to humans.

Care for a Japanese Pagoda Tree

In addition to its remarkable decorative value, the Japanese pagoda tree can be cultivated in a broad range of climates and is, for the most part, simple to care for and maintain. Its only two negatives are the ten-year wait for the tree to blossom and the fact that the wood may be weak at times, although both of these can be mitigated by structural trimming and pruning to promote flowering. If you want a tree that blossoms more quickly, the cultivar Styphnolobium japonicum ‘Regent’ will flower considerably sooner, at six years, if you prefer one that flowers more slowly.)

Japanese Pagoda Tree Variety

If you’re looking for a Japanese pagoda tree, the shape of the trunk is something you should look for. Check that the tree has just one leader or has a single trunk that branches out at 45-to 60-degree angles from the trunk before planting it. Branches that create a tighter angle will need to be cut at some point in order to prevent a weak crotch from developing. Shopping around a little can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

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The simplicity with which this unusual tree may be maintained, as well as the floral reward it provides and its capacity to withstand unfavorable weather, make it well worth considering. When it comes to smaller nurseries, it is frequently accessible in all of its hardiness zones.

When looking for the Japanese pagoda tree, it is sometimes referred to as Sophora japonica in catalogs. Rather than using the right scientific name, horticulturists and nurseries frequently mistakenly refer to this plant by its out-of-date synonym instead. You will be purchasing the same tree as Styphnolobium japonicum, which is the same species.

Japanese Pagoda Tree Leaves and Flowers

Light Density

Japanese pagoda trees need full light to grow, and you will notice a significant difference in flower production if you plant them in anything less than full sun. Allowing the tree to get partial sunlight would not hurt its health; but, it will reduce the tree’s cosmetic appeal, which is most likely why you chose this particular tree in the first place.

Soil Types

Adaptability is one of the beneficial characteristics of the Japanese pagoda tree, which can thrive in a variety of soil types and environments. This is one of the most appealing characteristics of this tree as a shade tree, and it is one of the most important. The tree also retains its leaves till the end of the season. It grows very well in tree pits, parking squares, and as street trees in areas where there is a high level of pollution in the air and on the surface, soil compaction, and poor soils, among other things.

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In an ideal situation, this tree would grow in moist, well-drained sandy loam that is rich in nutrients, but it will thrive in practically any habitat, with the exception of damp, spongy soil.

Japanese Pagoda Tree Growing Guides


Once your Japanese pagoda tree has established itself, it will tolerate periods of dryness with relative ease. In addition to improving its performance as an attractive plant and producing more flowers, it will benefit from more hydration as well. If you want to be ecologically conscious or practice water-wise gardening, though, you won’t need to use any more water at all.

If you have a Japanese pagoda tree or any other tree, you should water it during its first season using a standard of two to three gallons per inch of the diameter of its trunk. Depending on the light and soil conditions after the first year, you may decide how much water to give your tree, although the tree can withstand a period of drought.

Humidity & Temperature Level

When it comes to temperature, pagoda trees aren’t particularly temperamental creatures. While grown, it can withstand temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit, but when young, it may be severely harmed by frost.

Japanese Pagoda Tree Flower Blossoms


When compared to other types of trees, which are often not in need of fertilizer, additional fertilizer is frequently advantageous. Keep in mind that no blossoms will be produced for at least 10 years, so fertilizing the tree during the first 10 years is a waste of valuable nutrients.

When the flowers on your Japanese pagoda begin to bloom, you will want to use a fertilizer with an NPK formulation that contains a high amount of phosphorus as your fertilizer of choice to encourage the flowers to flourish. A 10-30-10 fertilizer mixture is a good choice for blooming trees.

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Pruning a Japanese Pagoda Tree in the Spring

Maintenance on your Japanese pagoda tree will be the most time-consuming and labor-intensive task you will have to do when caring for your tree. However, if you purchase high-quality nursery stock and trim your trees properly throughout the first three or four years of their lives, you will see a significant reduction in your burden in the future.

During the first year, after your tree has become established, you will want to prune it in the late autumn or early winter to ensure that it continues to thrive.

How to Care for Japanese Pagoda Tree

The trimming that you will be conducting will be strictly structural in nature. Attempt to give your tree a single leader with substantial secondary branches that are perpendicular to the leader and at 45 to 60° angles to the trunk, as shown in the illustration. Identify and remove any internal branches that are at sharp angles that are less than 45 degrees in angle. Continue this effort the next year, and continue doing so until you have a circular crown established on your tree.

If the tree grows to be too enormous to handle on your own, you may need to hire a qualified arborist to finish the job you began yourself. Because of your efforts and the tree you selected at the outset, your service will be far less expensive.