Golden Chain Tree, Laburnum x waterei

Golden chain trees are deciduous trees named for the striking, pendulous yellow flower chains that hang from their branches. Laburnum x watereii are often used in the shrub border, as foundation plantings, or in groups. Find facts and information on growing and caring for golden chain trees.

"Golden Chain Tree"

Bright blooms of the golden chain tree

Golden chain trees, such as Laburnum x watereri, grow in Zones 5-7 and grow to heights of 12-15’ by 9-12’ wide. They have an upright oval form and a medium to fine texture. They develop their striking yellow flowers in spring and will often reach lengths of 6-10”.

The small tree is dense and upright with green stems. Leaves are trifoliate, each leaflet is somewhat elliptic and bright green. Fruit pods are noticeable in fall but are not very attractive. This is a short-lived tree in the East and Midwest and is not especially well-suited to the South where night temperatures are too high.

It prefers moist, well-drained soil, although it is adaptable to many different types of soil and conditions. It prefers light shade in the hot part of the day and tolerates high pH soils. It does not like standing water, and is easily injured by cold. It is best to use this plant in a shrub border or at corners of building. It is effective when planted in groups of three and five against a background of large evergreens.

*All parts of the golden chain tree are POISONOUS, but especially the fruit, causing vomiting, drowsinesss, weakness, sweating, pallor, and headaches. You should avoid planting it near sidewalks where children might pick up the fruit. Instead, choose a spot where the olive green bark can be appreciated from indoors in winter. It can be trained over a pergola at the entrance to a garden for dramatic effect. It can also be espaliered against a wall or fence.

Care of Golden Chain Trees

Transplant balled-and-burlapped or container-grown plants in spring. Water well after planting and as needed for 2-3 years after planting. Young trees will grow faster with a spring application of plant food. They can be pruned after flowering to remove any unwanted or crowded shoots. Some specimens may need pruning because of basal suckers and lower branches to maintain a tree form.

Propagation is done by allowing pods to dry on the plant and then break open to collect the seeds. Seeds may be sown in fall and will germinate better if scarified before planting. Leaf bud cuttings may be taken in summer.

Pests and Diseases include leaf spot, aphids, and mealybugs. Twig blight can sometimes become serious. You should prune out infected branches and clean up any fallen leaves to reduce diseases being carried over through winter.

Related Species include: ‘Aureum’ with golden-yellow leaves, ‘Involutum’ with curled leaves. ‘Pendulum’ is a slow-growing, weeping form. ‘Quercifolium has lobed leaves. ‘Vossi’ has longer flower clusters and a denser habit.


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