Gymnocladus dioica

Kentucky coffee tree

  • © J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

Outstanding Qualities

The Kentucky coffee tree is a tree of contradictions. The huge leaves are made up of many rather fine and small leaflets and the delicate fine texture of the summer foliage gives way to a bold and attractively open coarse branching in the winter. Slow growing with an upright habit the winter twigs have a silver white reflective quality. The leaves are late to emerge in the spring, but open in large lush compound leaves comprising dozens of leaflets. The airy gracefulness of the dark green foliage gives a light and open shade great for growing spring bulbs and perennials underneath. An excellent choice for the larger garden.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: tree

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 20 ft. 0 in. (6.10 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 15 ft. 0 in. (4.57 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 35 ft. 0 in. (10.67 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 25 ft. 0 in. (7.62 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9

Flower Color: green

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun to light or open shade

Water Requirements: occasional watering during prolonged dry periods

Wildlife Associations: bees

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: gold, burgundy, variegated

Great Color Partners: silver, dark green

Culture Notes
Kentucky coffee tree grows best in well-drained soils, but will tolerate poor soils and clay if the drainage is adequate. Place in a location with full sun to light or open shade. Once established it requires occasional water during prolonged dry periods. There are no serious disease or insect problems with this tree and very little pruning is required other than the removal of dead, broken or poorly formed branches.