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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Trees and Shrubs > Ginkgo

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Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Rebecca Koetter and Kathy Zuzek

Plant description

Mature height: 50 to 80'
Mature width: 40 to 60'
Growth rate: Slow to medium
Plant form: Pyramidal in youth, spreading at maturity
Deciduous or evergreen: Deciduous
Native range: Eastern China
Native to Minnesota: No
Invasive in Minnesota: No

Culture

Light: Full sun
Soil texture: Prefers sandy soils, adaptable to other textures
Soil pH: Adaptable
Soil moisture: Prefers moist and well-drained soils, adapts to dry and wet soils and excessively-drained and poorly-drained soils. Does not tolerate standing water.
Hardiness zone: 4 to 8
Pests and stresses: None of importance
Other: Tolerant of heat, wind, compacted soils, air pollution, soil salts

Ginkgo in the landscape

Ginkgo or maidenhair tree is an unusual tree from China known for its unique fan-shaped foliage that was introduced into the United States in the late 1700's. It is a popular shade and boulevard tree because it establishes easily, is soil adaptable, tolerant of most adverse growing conditions in urban areas, and remarkably free of diseases and insects. The coarse open plant habit of young ginkgo improves as trees age. Trees are either male or female. As female trees reach the age where they begin flowering, they produce malodorous seed. Each hard seed is covered with a soft outer layer that, as it ripens, smells like rancid butter due to its butyric acid content. Cultivars, all of which are male, should be planted in landscapes.

Ginkgo provides year-round interest. Short, knobby spur shoots along branches in ginkgo canopies create texture in winter landscapes. In spring, most of the bright green 3-5" fan-shaped leaves are produced in clusters on spur shoots. Flowers are also produced on spur shoots in spring. The large canopies of mature ginkgoes provide summer shade. Green leaves turn to a golden yellow as autumn progresses. Freezing nighttime temperatures often causes ginkgo leaves to fall over one night.

Male cultivars have been selected for their seedlessness and plant forms.

Mature ginkgo seed on a tree.

K. Zuzek, UMN Extension

Mature seed on female tree

Yellow fall leaves on ginkgo tree.

J. Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood

Fall color

full view of ginkgo tree.

K. Zuzek, UMN Extension

Ginkgo plant form

Close up of a ginkgo leaf.

K. Zuzek, UMN Extension

Summer leaf

bare ginkgo branches.

K. Zuzek, UMN Extension

Spur roots

close up of the male flowers on a ginkgo tree.

J. Samanek, State Phytosanitary Admin., Bugwood

Male flowers

Close up of the female flowers on a ginkgo tree.

J. Samanek, State Phytosanitary Admin., Bugwood

Female flowers

Some cultivars grown in Minnesota:

Cultivar traits:
Cultivar Growth habit Seed production Size
'Autumn Gold' Upright Seedless 50' x 30'
'Jade Butterflies' Pyramidal Seedless 15' x 10'
'Magyar' Columnar, upright Seedless 50' x 25'
Princeton Sentry® Upright Seedless 60' x 30'

2016

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