Autumn Parrotia

StGuaposFire(DE 7)August 5, 2014

Hi Everyone,

This is my first time posting on this forum. I'm planning on having two large parrotias (20-25 ft) planted in front of my house on either side of my long driveway. I think the transplant will be fine bc it's being done by a certified arborist who has moved even larger trees many times before.

What I'm mainly curious about is what type of autumn color you think I'll see on my parrotias here in zone 7 (extreme northern Delaware). I've read everything from parrotia being perhaps the finest autumn color tree to it simply being unexceptional. Due to these conflicting claims, I'm not sure what to expect.

Thanks for your contributions!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

how long of a guarantee is this pro offering you???

and find out.. and lets discuss.. how he recommends watering of a 20 to 25 foot transplant ...

welcome to the forum ...


    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 3:19PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

They seem touch and go from what I see - sometimes coloring very well, other times I've seen them fall off green or barely yellowing a bit.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 4:32PM
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I saw some pics online showing nice bark, and yellow fall color.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 7:39PM
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StGuaposFire(DE 7)


There is no guarantee involved in this transplant, so I realize there is some risk involved, which I'm willing to take in this case. I know of several similar or even larger trees he's successfully transplanted the same way. The size doesn't seem too much of a problem if you have the proper equipment to dig and transport the entire root ball and some of the dirt around it as well as properly feed and water the tree after transplant. When my house was built a different landscaper installed three 20ft October glories and they are all doing quite well two years out.

I know it's best to start with smaller trees, and I've planted quite a few 3ft saplings on the property as well, but for the placement of these trees I need to start with something more substantial. Unfortunately when our driveway went in three 30-40ft poplars on both sides died. These parrotia are going to replace the poplars to provide some screening and interest from the road.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 10:05AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

This thread: implies it colors more consistently in maritime climates - one in 5 years even at the NJ coast isn't very promising. The problem here is probably our erratic YOY distribution of rainfall and lack of cool nights. Sometimes Sept. can be very wet, sometimes very dry. Perhaps not unexpected for it to have inconsistent fall color given that it comes from an area with a very long, moist-but-not-too-moist growing season. Something like this...although in the mountains so probably a bit cooler in summer and winter; in other words a wetter-in-summer, slightly more continental version of the PNW. (also vaguely similar to the climate of the southern coast of the Black Sea, like Trabzon, but not as mild)

There's a "new" Parrotia from the mountains of eastern China that supposedly has more reliable fall color. Of course, you won't be able to get those in 20' size!

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Wed, Aug 6, 14 at 11:56

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 11:41AM
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I have a similar situation. I have seen a beautiful 7 gallon specimen at a nursery. And you know what? I am going to wait till it colors up in the fall before making the purchase. Besides being the optimum planting time, I will also know what to expect in the future. The nursery has been accommodating because I have had a history with them. See if your landscaper will do the same. There is not much to them other than the fall color, so you need to be sure what you are getting.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 12:31PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Maples are easy to transplant, you should read up on how well this particular Witch Hazel Family species moves when dug up out of the ground before investing in this operation. Comparatively large, boxed plants of this species have been on the market here but perhaps none of these may have dug up out of the ground but instead been grown in containers the whole time - or produced using a method other than digging up plants that were in the open ground for years before having their roots suddenly cut back significantly - you are talking about some quite large examples, as far as it goes.

Not something you asked about but I would avoid planting a matching pair unless the front of your house has a geometrically symmetric facade as otherwise the formality of the paired trees will not correspond to the design of your house. Likewise if the rest of the layout on the ground in front of the house is not formally symmetric then the new pair will not fit with the other elements of the scene.

In addition to the problem of random formal arrangement (or shearing) of plants not fitting into otherwise informal designs there is the tendency for symmetry of geometrically uniform effects to be lost due to variations in growth or performance (including mortality, in which case a mature hedge, pattern or pairing may rather suddenly be thrown completely out of balance). So just as a practical matter alone it is best to avoid formal planting whenever possible.

As for the comment that fall color is the only feature of Persion ironwood like other deciduous trees it provides a winter branching pattern - and in this case interesting bark as well - appealingly glossy leaves in summer, and reddish Witch Hazel like flowers in late winter.

This post was edited by bboy on Wed, Aug 6, 14 at 13:47

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 1:43PM
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StGuaposFire(DE 7)

Thanks for your comment bboy. In addition to conflicting information I've read on fall color for the parrotia, I've also read conflicting info on how long they keep their leaves. Some sources state that they lose them in mid to late November (still late for most trees in my area) and others say that they hold onto their leaves until spring like most white oak. Has anyone had any experience with that?

As for the symmetry, I probably should have been more clear. I'm not planting them directly opposite each other along the driveway, but in two natural curves my driveway makes about 50 apart from one another. I also have other large trees still in the area, including several 35ft poplars and a 30ft red cedar. I don't think it will look symmetrical due to the other trees and the space between the two parrotia.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 2:35PM
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Just to clarify, i meant the main reason to plant a Parrotia is the fall colors IMO. Paperbark Maples and Stewartias have showier bark, again, IMO. If I have a choice between either of those two or a Parrotia with yellow fall foliage, the Parrotia loses. I have several Griseums and a Stewartia and they have pretty reliable fall colors. I would wait to see what I am getting with the Ironwood before I give up valuable real estate. Good Luck with whatever you decide.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 5:02PM
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I'm in St.Louis. The leaves on my parrotia hang on until Spring and drop off when the new foliage starts coming out. I've read this as being a selling point as it provides winter interest. To me it makes it seem like I have a dead tree on my hands until the new foliage starts coming out.

Colorwise, the leaves get a bronze shade before turning brown. Nothing stunning in my opinion. I just like the overall shape and fullness of the tree during the summer months.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 1:44PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I have a couple of them. The one in shade just turns yellow in the Fall. Here's the one that gets a lot of sun. Some years are better than others for Fall color, but it always seems to have good color.
The leaves fall off in November here.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 11:56AM
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zephyrgal(8 NW Oregon)

My Parrotia from October 2013. Beautiful colors ranging from pinks and yellows. One of my favorite autumn trees.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 8:46PM
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StGuaposFire(DE 7)

A long-delayed update. Here is one of my two parrotia, both are doing well. The other is still quite green but in the last few days this one has started to turn colors. I'm quite happy with it so far, given that new transplants tend not to have their true colors for a few years.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2014 at 10:25AM
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StGuaposFire(DE 7)

close-up shows the turning colors better.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2014 at 10:26AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

New transplants tend to color up early and sometimes better.

This particular plant colors late so if you have early season freezes it won't color up thats why you get inconsistent info.

Same goes for a Ginkgo. If you get an early season freeze, poof, no fall color.

My intent is to plant one, Parrotia, in dry soil (since it does tolerate it) but keep it well watered during establishment and then allow for it to stress so it hardens off early enough.

I finally learned this with the damn Ginkgo I gave my neighbor. Thing is in a really dry spot that he never waters, its golden yellow right now. Mine which are in moisture retentive spots are completely green. They won't get fall color, perhaps ever.

This is the 4th year in a row with the same results.

Nice tree the rootflare at or around ground level?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2014 at 10:03PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

I've had one for several years. In the fall, each individual leaf can look really nice, showing a few different colors (purple, red, yellow). Unfortunately, the overall effect from a distance is kind of a dull muddled look.

Mine drops some of its leaves in the fall, but holds on to the more inner leaves until Spring.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2014 at 12:20PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Late to this party, but there's always more that can be said.

I'm a bit disappointed that instead of design assistance that dire warnings about ultimate size were not forecast. But, then that leaves it to me!

Good on you, StGuaposFire, for reaching out for something different instead of another big old Acer rubrum or Quercus palustris that would've grown to that size more quickly from a 2" caliper transplant than the 8" one would take to recover.

As per determining fall color - I wondered (if this tree were available to be seen before you bought it) you didn't observe the foliage characteristics first, and then purchase the ones that suited you? OR - why the arborist couldn't have provided you with that kind of information verbally or in images. This is not an unanticipated question in the business.

I'm also intrigued as to the timing of the transplant. Trees are usually moved when dormant, unless dug during the dormant season and heeled-in/mulched under irrigation during the growing season. Was your big old plant really moved in full leaf? If so, then that is even more reason to wonder why the vendor couldn't provide the fall color information.

Back to the original tenet: everyone hopes you have provided accommodation for the real estate that your Parrotia persica will want to occupy.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2014 at 12:12PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

That tree is happily ensconced at Maymont, in Richmond VA (not here at the Valley). The images were taken in late October 2012 as fall colors were starting to sweep through. You can see the dominant yellows, though there are a fair bit of oranges and reddishness evident. I'm glad to see that StGuaposFire has some genetics in that tree for decent fall color.

Here is another view of this beast...

    Bookmark   October 18, 2014 at 12:21PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Conversely, here is a relatively young plant becoming established at the Valley.

This buttresses my point (also made by others) that there is nothing like observation before purchasing to help solidify your expectations. I acquired this plant as a 5G 36" tall youngster. It was already displaying this propensity when I selected it, and it continues to do so as it has stretched to about 8' tall.

I'm satisfied that this species has a lot of value with regard to fall color, but you have to understand that genetics vary in every species.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2014 at 12:27PM
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StGuaposFire(DE 7)

The trees were moved by enormous tree spade in very late August. I saw the parrotia in the field before moving, and knew their general fall color characteristics. However, from the field to our house was about 25 miles -closer to the Delaware and Chesapeake bays - which tend to moderate the weather a bit and have some effect on fall color. We were also in a bit of a hurry, we lost three large tulip poplars and with them almost all privacy from the road to our house.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2014 at 5:50PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Is anyone else viewing StGuaposFire's picture concerned that it was planted a tad too low?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2014 at 6:28AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Yes, I did ask the question above...

    Bookmark   October 19, 2014 at 9:41AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Indeed you did, sorry I skimmed over it.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2014 at 10:11AM
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