Plant of the Season


Cedrela sinensis/Toona sinensis

Plant of the Season is brought to you by Gayle Parkes, OGV sub-committee member. She also posts to OGV's Instagram - make sure you check back regularly for her latest post.

So many names! Chinese Cedar, Chinese Toona, Chinese Mahogany, Chinese Toon Tree, Tree with Pink Leaves!!! Whatever name I give it, I must admit, I have never been a fan. Until today. 

On this gorgeous, typical Melbourne spring afternoon I visited an acquaintance and was totally awestruck with the planting around the front entry of her home. There were about nine Cedrela sinensis planted against the grey brickwork, all bursting with their fresh, new pretty pink leaves, heralding the beginning of spring.

A lot of us home gardeners (like me!) make the mistake of planting just one of this and one of that and I think that is why I have never really appreciated this lovely tree. With its spectacular, very pink foliage in spring, for me, it really does stick out when planted solo. But to see it in a repeat planting landscape – stunning! 

Cedrela is frost tolerant, heat and drought hardy and prefers part shade or full sun. As with all trees, they like well drained soil. These trees are native to China, Korea, and Mongolia. Being a narrow, tall and slender trunked deciduous tree, it is perfect for tight spots which is handy for home gardeners with limited space. They are also an excellent choice to use as a copse tree, or used as a deciduous screen and will form a clump of suckering stems. This is their standard form - multiple stems emanating from one basal growth. Once they have started clumping you can keep cutting the taller trees if you wish to keep a smaller size. After a few years they should form young trees from the suckers - these can be used to start new clumps elsewhere in your garden or to treat your friends.

At most, they are likely to reach around 8m tall and they do become slightly broader with age. The smooth, brownish grey bark becomes grooved as it ages. The twigs are a coppery green and have soft hair. As the season progresses those flamboyant pink pinnate leaves change to a cream colour before maturing to a mid green. In autumn they turn cream/yellow again before they drop off. They have a lot to offer.

I will be looking at those “trees with pink leaves” in a very different way from now on. Seeing them planted en masse has really won me over. They are readily available in all good garden centres. At this time of the year you may find them bare rooted. Perhaps you have a space for a few – three, five, seven, nine?