Plant Profile: Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)

golden rain tree
Photo courtesy of

Golden rain tree is a delightful small tree with wonderful yellow flowers. It is a showstopper when it’s in bloom as it is now in Virginia. Hailing from China and Korea, golden rain tree grows to 30′ tall by 30′ wide. Make sure that you allow enough room for it to reach its 30′ width because it almost certainly will if left to its own devices.

Golden rain tree has several noteworthy characteristics that make it a desirable tree for your landscape. Let’s take a look at some of these:

THE FOLIAGE: Golden rain tree has pinnate or bipinnate leaves; that’s a fancy way of saying that the leaves are divided and feathery in appearance. The fall color is variable but if you purchase one with good fall color, you’ll be rewarded with yellow foliage.

golden rain tree
Photo courtesy of

THE FLOWERS: This is the reason that most people want a golden rain tree in their landscape. The flowers really are quite phenomenal and have great presence in the garden. The yellow color draws your eye to the tree and if placed properly, the blooms can entice a visitor to a desired area of your garden when the tree is flowering. The blooms persist for upwards of a month and carpet the ground in yellow when they finally fall.

golden rain tree
Photo courtesy of

THE FRUIT: After the yellow blooms fall, they are followed by papery fruits that resemble little Chinese lanterns. They are a great conversation starter and kids love to pop them open to see what’s inside. Inside the Chinese lanterns are viable seeds that germinate if you look at them twice. The only drawback to growing golden rain tree is that it self seeds readily. In my opinion, the seedlings aren’t a real issue. They are easily removed even when they reach a foot or so tall. But perhaps, if you have a more natural area of your landscape that you don’t tend very often, golden rain tree may not be the plant for you.

golden rain tree
Photo courtesy of


I want to be sure that you realize that there is also a plant called golden chain tree. It is not the same as the golden rain tree. Golden chain tree’s latin name is Laburnum x anagyroides and it is a plant that is better suited for areas that are cooler than Zone 7. Here in Virginia, it is a short lived tree that isn’t worth growing. When you go to the nursery to pick out your tree, make sure that you ask for a golden rain tree.

If you have a sunny or lightly shaded area in your garden that needs a small tree, consider the golden rain tree. It is disease resistant and not a choice for garden pests. If you keep an eye on the seedlings, I think that you will be pleased with growing a golden rain tree in your landscape. Do you have any experience with growing golden rain tree? If so, leave me a comment below or shoot me an e-mail. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!


May 23, 2012Permalink 12 Comments

12 thoughts on “Plant Profile: Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)

  1. We have a Golden Rain tree that has been in the ground for at least 20 years. It is surrounded by larger trees but not really crowded by them. We think it needs an all around trimming. Can this be done recognizing its open inside shape? How should it be pruned?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Ron! When I hear the phrase “trimming a tree” it brings to mind topping of trees. I’m hopeful that’s not what you’re considering. As long as the tree is the correct size for the area that it’s being grown in, the only pruning you should need to do is to remove any crossing and broken branches. You can thin it a bit if the canopy seems too thick with your wind and snow load. If you have a wayward branch, you can prune it back to a bud or branch that is growing in the direction that you want it to grow. At this time of year, it is best to go light on the pruning so that you don’t force too much new growth that can be killed by a frost. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. Hi , has the latin name been recently changed ?From Koelreuteria paniculata to Laburnum anagyroides Vosii ? We seem to be talking about the same tree however with different Latin names . Thank you for your help.

    • Laburnum is the golden CHAINtree and Koelreuteria is the golden RAINtree. Laburnum is not hardy here in Zone 7. Great question!

  3. We planted a golden rain tree that a friend gave us a year ago. It had been started from a seed pod in a container (by the friend). What we believed to be two trunks coming from one tree are in fact two separate trees and we didn’t discover this until well after it had been planted. Now, the larger of the two trees is growing at a severe angle, I assume pulling away from the other smaller tree. They are about 8 inches apart. The diameter of the larger trunk is now about 1 1/2 to 2 inches. They seem to be very ‘happy’ and have grown profusely since being removed from their small container. However, as I think about longevity, I wonder how on earth this bigger guy is going to end up. Following a heavy rain or even when the sprinkler systems runs, the weight of the water on the branches pull the big guy almost to the ground. Do we stake the big guy, do we try to remove the little guy? Do we wait and see what happens?

    • If the little one is thriving and growing upright I would remove the larger one. I have seen people try to upright a leaning tree only to see it fail later in its life.

  4. I purchased a house with this tree, which appears to be about 20 years old. The canopy growth has been restricted by some large surrounding trees which I plan to have removed. Will that help more new branches grow and the canopy thicken out? How long do these trees normally live? Thanks.

  5. We purchased a pair of golden raintrees from a nursery five or six years ago. The trees were about six feet high at the time. Today, they’re probably twenty feet high with extensive branching. BUT they have yet to bloom.

    There are lots of raintrees in the area so I doubt if it’s a problem with the soil.

    Any thoughts?

    • Lorraine, I would remove it. They aren’t as aggressive as river birches, for example, but if it is really close, it could pose problems later on down the line. Sorry!

Leave a Reply to John Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *