How to Grow Ailanthus altissima Plants in your Garden

Ailanthus altissima, better known as Tree of heaven, is a plant native to China that can now be found growing in much of the United States.

It can be grown in zones 4 through 8 (UK H6; hardy to -20°C (-4°F).

Be aware that in some areas of the US, it is considered a noxious weed or a plant that is invasive, and considered a threat to native species.

Tree of Heaven
Tree of Heaven photograph by Plant Image Library; CC.

Ailanthus altissima grows very quickly, and can reach up to 60—80 feet tall (18 to 24 m). It this should be grown in a spacious area of a garden.

It will grow in nearly any soil type and sunlight conditions.

The wood is weak, so be wary of planting it close to exposed structures, as strong winds are able to topple it.

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Tree of Heave

People tend to grow this tree for its ability to thrive in poor soil and in places where other trees will not grow. Generally, however, Ailanthus altissima is considered a poor landscape tree as it is messy and chokes out other plants.

If one chooses to grow Ailanthus altissima, then female trees are generally preferable to male trees.

This preference is because, while both female and male trees flower, male flowers have an unpleasant odor. Female flowers produce seeds that turn reddish-brown in the fall.

Ailanthus altissima seeds samara
Ailanthus altissima seeds are dispersed via their samara, which twists as it falls and is caught by the wind. photograph by candiru; CC.

If planting Ailanthus altissima in a garden, keep it away from existing structures and native plants that it can easily outcompete.

It may be sown in "poor" soil and in low to direct sunlight.

One should keep the soil moist while the plant is young and need not worry about watering mature plants except in times of extreme drought or heat.

leaves of Ailanthus altissima
Ailanthus altissima leaf closeup photograph by Teresa Grau Ros; CC.

Ailanthus altissima Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Ailanthus altissima
  • Common Name: Tree of heaven
  • Growing Zone: USA: 4 to 8 / UK:H6
  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Tree

Plant Details

  • Plant Height (Inches): 600 to 900
  • Plant Spread (Inches): 420 to 600
  • Time of Bloom: spring
  • Flower Details: Green
  • Leaf Foliage: Green
  • Fruit:
  • Growth Form: Upright / erect

Ideal Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: partial shade, partial sun to full sun
  • Rate of Growth: Quick
  • Suitable Soil Types: Acidic, Adaptable, Alkaline, Clay, Loamy, Neutral, Sandy, Slightly alkaline, Well drained
  • Soil Moisture: Moist

Caring Conditions

  • Care:
  • Level of Maintenance:
  • Propagation: Seed
  • How to Prune: Requires little to no pruning. In some cases hard pruning can be disruptive.
  • Pests: Usually pest free
  • Diseases: Usually pest free

Further Information

  • Can Attract:
  • Tolerant of:
  • Best Garden Use:
  • Family: Simaroubaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Quassia, Simarouba.

  • Miscellaneous: Pest tolerant, Aggressive surface roots possible, Non-native to North America, Invasive, Attractive flowers / blooms
  • Genus Detail: Ailanthus
  • Further Reading and References: Here and The deciduous Tree-of-Heaven

Tree of heaven
tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) photograph by NatureServe.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Ailanthus altissima. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides for Bonsei species: How to grow Zanthoxylum simulans and Ginkgo biloba plants.

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