How to Grow a Ginkgo Tree

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The ginkgo tree, or the ginkgo biloba, is also called a fossil tree. This is because it has no known relatives in the plant kingdom, and it reaches startling heights, living for decades. Ginkgo biloba is often grown to add an element of style to a landscape. It has massive branches and leaves, making it ideal for creating a naturally-shaded area in your yard.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin adds, "Gingko trees have stunning fall color - plant these large beauties in your landscape to add brilliant yellows to your autumn color."

Common Names for Ginkgo Trees

  • Biloba tree
  • Japanese silver apricot
  • Maidenhair tree

Growing Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo trees are ideally suited for urban settings, as they are very tolerant and can survive in the harshest of conditions. Growing a ginkgo tree is not difficult, but you need to take care of the following:

Soil Selection — the gingko can grow in nearly any soil type as it can withstand extreme pH ranges. The only consideration is that the soil should be well drained. Remember that soils that have standing water could severely hamper the root development. Loamy or slightly sandy soils are recommended for fast-growing ginkgo trees, but ginkgos can also grow in compacted soils. They can survive short periods of drought but not flooding.

Planting Basics — Ginkgo transplants are easily available at most garden shops and botanical nurseries. Use the male or the grafted seed variety, i.e. the non-fruiting type, because the fruit has a pungent odor. Using seeds is seldom recommended. They are expensive and need to be potted before being shifted to the garden. Ideally, planting should be done in the spring or early fall.

TIP: Kathy recommends, "If you have a female tree that produces the smelly fruit, remove fruit that falls immediately. The smell is a only a problem when the fruit rots. If you remove the fruit as it falls, the smell will be less of a problem."

Sunlight Consideration — The garden spot chosen for planting the Ginkgo should receive a few hours of bright sunlight, every day. Partially-shaded areas are not a problem but they could slow the tree’s growth. Ensure that smaller plants are not planted near the Ginkgo tree—it grows to enormous heights, completely cutting-off the sunlight for surrounding shrubs.

Fertilizer Requirements — The tree needs minimal fertilization, just about twice a year. Only NPK fertilizers, fertilizers having basic elements of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are needed. No specific micronutrient-based fertilizer or compost is needed. Light mulching around the trunk, at the beginning of each season is sufficient. Ensure that you don’t mulch around the bark.

Growth Patterns - Initially, most ginkgo trees grow very slowly. They take at least a dozen years to gain the first 20 feet. Some ginkgo trees are naturally prone to developing small climbers—this should not be interpreted as odd growth pattern. Young trees may have a slightly crooked development. Don’t worry—most gingko trees sort out their shape as they age.

Pests/Infections — Ginkgos have no known vulnerability to any pest, fungal or viral infection, or bacterial diseases. They do have very deep roots. The large root system could develop the occasional infection. The most common root infection is caused by Mycorrhizae (called VAM infection). However, rarely will a ginkgo tree show any major effects of this, and a seasonal dose of some organic fertilizer rich in phosphorus can eliminate this infection. You don’t need seasonal use of herbicides or insecticides.

Pruning Basics

Ginkgo trees need minimal pruning, rarely during the young growing stages, unless you want to landscape their branches. Young trees can be pruned during the spring season to modify their shape. Pruning older trees is limited to removing the leaf clusters.