When in full bloom, the golden chain tree (Laburnum x watereri) is a sight to behold — with drooping clusters that are 24 inches long and fragrant yellow flowers that are densely packed, this tree is highly ornamental.
Native to Southern Europe, the golden chain tree is part of the pea family (Fabaceae). Its cultivation presents moderate difficulty, but my plant care tips below will help you get the best out of your Laburnum tree.
Golden Chain Tree Plant Care Tips
Despite some of the drawbacks of growing the Laburnum tree, many will choose to have it in their gardens.
Therefore, if your area has a climate that’s suitable for the golden chain tree, you should certainly give the golden chain tree a try.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind.
When it reaches maturity, the golden chain tree can be 15 to 25 feet tall and spreads to almost the size of its height, but it’s often smaller in width, usually ⅔ of its height.
The drooping clusters of flowers can reach a length of 24 inches.
The golden chain tree has a relatively fast growth, adding 2-3 feet to its height each season.
You can grow it as a tree or keep it as a shrub.
The Laburnum enjoys full sun to partial sun. Sometimes excess sun exposure can scald the branches of the tree.
Find a location that ensures full sun in the first half of the day, and partial shade in the afternoon.
This will help avoid any damage that may be caused by too much exposure to the sun.
With average watering needs, the Laburnum does not need extra watering unless it’s an especially dry season with droughts and heat waves.
Temperature & Humidity
If you’re planning on growing this tree in the US, check your USDA hardiness zone.
The golden chain tree is hardy down to USDA 5 but it’s not recommended for zones that are USDA 7 and above.
The Laburnum does not thrive in areas with high humidity, so plant in environments with normal humidity.
Climate is the biggest factor in successfully growing this tree.
The golden chain tree thrives in well draining alkaline loam. As long as the soil is not waterlogged, this tree will grow in any type of soil.
Laburnum trees don’t require extra fertilization. Adding mulch on top of their soil in early spring will ensure the extra boost needed for each season.
Potting & Repotting
Whether you’re growing the Laburnum as a tree or a shrub outdoors, potting is not something you would need to worry about.
If you’re propagating Laburnum from seeds you will need a pot to germinate the seeds and make sure the plant gets established enough to be planted outside.
Alternatively, Laburnum can be grown in containers if you want to keep them on the patio.
Golden Chain Tree Plant Propagation
After the flowering period, seed containing pods will form. After the pods dry out, you can harvest the seeds for germination.
You can start their germination indoors at a temperature of 55 to 70 F. You can expect the seeds to germinate in 30-60 days.
You can also propagate from root cutting and stem cutting.
To propagate from stem cutting, choose a section of stem with a leaf and node on it.
Use a flowerpot and add moist germinating mix to root the cutting.
Tip the cutting into rooting hormone and cover with a clear plastic to lock the moisture in.
When propagating from root cutting, do so in the dormant season. Choose healthy new roots near the root crown.
Golden Chain Tree FAQs
Despite its undeniable beauty, there are a few things to consider before planting a golden chain tree. The FAQ section below deals with some of the less appealing aspects of Laburnum trees.
Is the golden chain tree toxic to pets?
Yes, all parts of the golden chain tree are toxic to animals and humans.
The toxic principle is the quinolizidine alkaloid cytisine, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, and convulsions and even death.
Because of its toxicity, you should avoid keeping this plant in your garden if you have pets, children, or other animals that might eat the seeds or other parts of the plant.
When does the golden chain tree bloom?
The golden chain tree blooms in late spring and the blooming period lasts around 2-3 weeks of the weather is a bit cooler.
Late frost in spring may ruin the blooms and shorten their display. Weather that is too warm will also shorten the blooming period.
Is the golden chain tree frost resistant?
The golden chain tree is relatively cold hardy, but especially vicious winters can cause damage to the trees.
The tree will not thrive in USDA hardiness zones that are below 5.
To better shield it from the winter frost, plant in a nook or area close to your patio or other structure.
How to prune the golden chain tree?
It’s best to prune this tree right after the blooming period is finished. Yearly pruning is enough to keep the tree at a desired shape or size.
Before you attempt any pruning, wear protective gloves as the sap of the tree can irritate the skin.
Here are some good pointers in which branches to cut while pruning the golden chain tree:
- Remove any dead branches or those that are otherwise damaged or diseased
- Cut branches that grow at a bad angle or branches that are crossed or rubbing together
- Cut seed pods at their base right after they form.
The golden chain tree requires some maintenance, but it’s not a plant that needs to be looked after extensively, especially if environmental conditions are otherwise optimal.
The golden chain tree is undeniably a beautiful addition to any patio or garden.
The short blooming period and the fact that it’s poisonous are certainly things to consider before you plant one in your garden.
If you don’t have pets, small children or livestock in your garden, you can safely plant Laburnum trees in your garden.