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How to Grow: Ginkgo
Full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
It’s mostly grown for its unique growth habit and golden fall foliage color
Mature Height x Spread
30 to 50 feet x 30 to 50 feet
Drought tolerant, fall color, deer resistant
Ginkgos are ancient trees. These trees are the last of its species to survive prehistoric times and you can almost imagine a dinosaur munching on its leaves. This tree can grow more than 50 feet tall in an irregular pyramidal shape. The fan-shaped leaves remind you of quaking aspens and actually this tree is a good, longer lived, substitute for aspens in landscapes. Unlike many other trees, ginkgo trees can be male or female. While the shape is unique, it is also grown for its brilliant golden fall foliage color. It’s a tough tree that can withstand heat, drought, sandy soils, pests, salt spray and air pollution. This makes it an excellent urban and coastal tree.
When, Where and How to Plant
Ginkgo trees are hardy throughout New England. Purchase trees from a local nursery and plant from spring to early fall in extremely well drained soils. Ginkgos like a sandy, deeply dug hole to grow well. They don’t tolerate poor water drainage. Space trees 30 to 50 feet apart.
Keep young trees well watered. Once established, older trees are drought tolerant. Create a mulch ring covered with wood chips or bark mulch around the trees grown in lawns. This will keep the soil evenly moist, prevent weed growth and protect the trunks from damage from lawn mowers and string trimmers. Fertilize young trees in spring with a tree plant food. Older trees usually don’t need fertilization.
Regional Advice and Care
Young ginkgo trees should be pruned to a central leader system. Remove small twiggy growth along the trunk and any competing branches in late winter. Select only known male varieties. Although it may take 20 years, female trees produce malodorous fruits that drop and cause a mess under the tree. Ginkgo trees are pest free trees. Ginkgo leaf extracts are also used as a medicinal herb. I can’t remember what for.
Companion Planting and Design
Ginkgo can eventually become a large tree in the landscape. Plant them in a yard as a shade tree where they can grow unimpeded without interfering with nearby power lines or buildings. Although they grow well in urban settings, they will need enough room to grow to their full glory. Ginkgo trees are also frequently used in bonsai.
‘Autumn Gold’ and ‘Magyar’ are common, male varieties with symmetrical, conical forms, good fall foliage color and medium growth rate. ‘Princeton Sentry’ grows narrow, up to 60 feet tall, but only is 25 feet wide, making is a good candidate as a street tree. ‘Jade Butterfly’ is a dwarf ginkgo, growing only 10 to 20 feet tall. ‘Pendula’ is a weeping form that grows 12 feet tall and has horizontal branches with a slight drooping arch.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.