Great Design Tree: Persian Ironwood

Fall is prime time to see a showstopping display of colors contending with even the most picturesque of sunsets. It is a shame this spectacle usually falls into weeks of dormancy which may be as visually stimulating as watching paint dry.

The Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica), though, will continue to turn heads encounter winter. With vivid fall color, winter blooming flowers and stunning summer foliage, there is hardly a moment you do not appreciate this tree. “It’s some of the best fall color around,” notes landscape architect Christopher Yates. “The form of the tree is gorgeous” even without its leaves.

Botanical name: Parrotia persica
Common names: Persian parrotia shrub, Persian ironweed, Persian ironwood
USDA zones: 4-9
Water requirement: Regular; don’t overwater
Sun requirement: Full to
Mature dimensions: 20-40′ height and spread
Tolerances: Urban conditions, drought, heat, cold, wind

The best way to utilize it. Low spreading branches and vertical form make this tree perfect as a focal point specimen. Prune and train Parrotia to produce a formal and more vertical structure, or let the tree’s natural multi-stemmed and low branching habit grow outside and make the perfect centerpiece for some woodland landscape.

Parrotia produces a wonderful patio tree, and its proportions provide great colour. Since it can handle urban conditions, think about Parrotia since the road trees used to line your front yard, allowing passersby to respect its transitions through the seasons for several years to come.

Distinguishing traits. As a deciduous shrub, Parrotia is filled with seasonal interest all year with and without its leaves.

As with many deciduous trees, Parrotia, shown here as a backdrop fire towering over the surrounding trees, is famous for its display of vibrant fall foliage — reaching an almost unnatural spectrum of crimson and orange hues.

When shedding its leaves, a beautiful patchwork of grays, greens and whites is revealed on the peeling bark of its multi-stemmed trunk and branches.

In mid January, even before the tree leafs out, profuse blood-red blossoms arrive. While the individual blossoms aren’t much to look at, the volume of buds which populate the bare winter branches can be spectacular. Late spring beckons new purplish-red foliage, which adjustments to a shiny dark green.

Shown with a formally trained and manicured blossom, Parrotia is often seen in woodland settings, preferring the slightly acidic soil which results from decomposing organic matter.

While Parrotia is a fan of slightly damp soil, well-drained dirt is greatest.

Before you plant. Not for the impatient gardener, Parrotia is famous for its remarkably slow expansion rate — taking up to 15 years to reach adulthood.

Here’s a shot from inside the leafy green canopy of a trained Parrotia.

More amazing design trees:
Tree Aloe
Smoke Tree
Bald Cypress

Great design crops:
Red Kangaroo Paw
Feather Reed Grass
Blue Chalk Sticks
Slipper Plant
New Zealand Wind Grass

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