Ginkgo Tree, Ginkgo biloba, Makes a Great Shade Tree

Ginkgo or Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) also known as maidenhair tree, is popular as a shade tree. The ginkgo tree is a deciduous tree used a specimen and has a brilliant yellow fall color. It is very commonly misspelled as Ginko tree, or Gingko tree. Find facts and information on growing ginkgo trees.

"Ginkgo Tree"

The Ginkgo tree turns yellow in fall

Ginkgo Tree Facts

The ginkgo grows well in Zones 4-8 (9), has an upright form, and requires full sun. It grows up to 70’ h x 35’ wide. This is a picturesque tree at maturity and is grown for its shade, large size, and bold accent in the landscape. Its upright form is columnar and sparsely branched, with an open growth habit when young. It usually becomes more of an upright oval to upright spreading when full grown.

Ginkgo prefers sandy, deep, moderately moist soils but grows in almost any full-sun situation. It is adaptable to poor soils, compacted soils, soils of various pH, heat, drought, winter salt spray, and air pollution. It is sometime incorrectly plantes as a street tree due to its extreme urban tolerance, but it is too big for this type of use.

The unusual fan-shaped leaves are medium green with a petiole that is up to 3” long. The shape and the elongated petiole cause the foliage to flutter in the slightest breeze. Fall color is usually chartreuse but may be golden yellow. A freeze will cause the leaves to drop almost overnight, even if they are still green. The fruit is a bare seed, tan to orangish in color and plum-like in shape. *The fleshy covering on the seed makes the fallen fruit extremely messy and smelly. For this reason only male trees should be planted. This species may not flower (and may not set fruit) until it is about 20 years old. Ginkgo trees are used in landscapes where there are many difficult situations to overcome.

Care of Ginkgo Trees

It transplants easily and establishes itself without difficulty. Mulch with 2-4” of shredded bark, wood chips, or compost to keep the soil evenly moist, especially while trees are young. Water young trees until they are established. Annual applications of plant food, such as Miracle-Gro, along with supplemental watering will lead to faster growth on young trees. Prune in spring to remove broken branches or to shape only if necessary.

"Ginkgo biloba"

Leaves and fruit of Ginkgo biloba

Propagation of ginkgos is done by taking cutting of male trees in the summer. Collect seeds in mid-fall and sow outdoors. When grown from seed, you will not be able to tell if the tree will be a male or female until it matures.

This tree has no serious pests or diseases but may have leaf spotting in later years. It also has no other species in the genus Ginkgo, but many selections of cultivars with improved landscape characteristics have been made. ‘Autumn Gold’ is a male selection with a good spreading habit and bright golden fall color. ‘Fastigiata’ has a columnar habit. ‘Laciniata’ has deeply incised leaves. ‘Pendula’ has somewhat weeping or pendulous branches. ‘Princeton Sentry’ is a nearly columnar male form, slightly wider at the base. It can be used architecturally for a vertical accent.

Medicinal Uses of Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo has become very popular as a substance used in areas of helping memory and concentration. It is also used to combat feelings of vertigo. There has been some research that ginkgo can actually help with dementia, but it fails to show any help in preventing Altzheimer's disease.


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