How to Grow Zelkova serrata Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Keaki / Japanese Zelkova

The Zelkova serrata plant is a beautiful medium-to-large deciduous tree native to Eastern Asia. It was first brought to the United States in 1862.

It has a significant tolerance against Dutch Elm disease and many types of insects, and is also known to be tolerant to pesky deer.

It is a useful tree to grow in area that have air pollution.

Zelkova serrata belongs to the Ulmaceae family, which also includes the Elms. Some of the common names for the plants include Japanese zelkova, keaki, and saw-leaf zelkova.

These trees can reach about 50 to 80 feet (15 to 24 m) in height and have a similar spread.

Keaki, Japanese Zelkova
Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata) photograph by Cliff.

It is easy to love this tree, as they are beautiful, majestic trees requiring little work and care.

Blooms of small green flowers occur in mid to late spring, though these are not really very significant. Wingless drupes will develop in the autumn.

They carry a dense foliage of green leaves that can change to gold, red, and even purple in the autumn / fall.

Zelkova serrata have a thick, strong trunk with a grey-brown bark that often peels as it ages, revealing patches of brilliant orange inner bark.

The tree is large and voluminous, making it ideal to use as a stunning shade tree in a yard or garden. Additionally, they can make a lovely addition to the home as they can be used as bonsai trees.

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Japanese Zelkova

Zelkova serrata can be grown from seeds sown in the autumn, but is more usually grown from transplanted nursery seedlings.

They thrive in plant hardiness zones 5 through 8b.

Average soil types are fine for growing these elegant trees.

Japanese zelkova also do well in sandy soil, loam, and clay, and will flourish in soil with of various pH, with a slightly alkaline pH 7.5 being ideal.

Though the Zelkova serrata has a tolerance for drought, it primarily requires a moist soil that is well drained.

Japanese zelkova should be planted in a location that receives full sun, although partial shade is also acceptable. They are a low maintenance plant with only light pruning required.

Zelkova serrata Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Zelkova serrata.
  • Common Name: Keaki, Japanese Zelkova.
  • Growing Zone: USA: 5 to 8.
  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Tree

Plant Details

  • Plant Height (Inches): 900 to 960 (22 to 24 m)
  • Plant Spread (Inches): 600 to 720 (15 to 18 m)
  • Time of Bloom: Spring
  • Flower Details:
  • Leaf Foliage: Green.
  • Growth Form: Tree.

Ideal Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Full sun.
  • Rate of Growth: Medium paced.
  • Suitable Soil Types: Acidic, Alkaline, Clay, Loamy, Neutral, Sandy, Slightly alkaline, Well drained.
  • Soil Moisture: Moist.

Caring Conditions

  • Level of Maintenance: Low.
  • Propagation: Softwood cuttings from young plants (summer), grafting in winter, or sow seed outdoors in the autumn.
  • How to Prune: light or no pruning, do not prune hard.
  • Pests: Spider mites.
  • Diseases: Mainly resistant to Dutch Elm Disease.

Further Information

  • Tolerance: Air Pollution, deer tloerant.
  • Best Garden Use: Areas requiring pest toleranance, Specimen, Large Garden and Street Tree.
  • Family: Ulmaceae.
  • Miscellaneous: Is not a native plant of North America, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
  • Genus Detail: Zelkova.
  • Further Reading and References: RHS Guide to Japanese zelkova and Here

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Zelkova serrata. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to grow Tree of heaven and the Dracaena plant.