Plant and Grow a Ginkgo

Male Ginkgo Tree
GFDL Permission Granted for Use

Ginkgo is nearly pest-free and is resistant to storm damage. Young trees are often very open but they fill in to form a denser canopy as they mature. It makes a durable street tree where there is enough overhead space to accommodate the large size. Ginkgo tolerates most soil, including compacted, and alkaline, and grows slowly 75 feet or more tall. The tree is easily transplanted and has a vivid yellow fall color which is second to none in brilliance, even in the south. However, leaves fall quickly and the fall color show is short.

Quick Facts

Scientific name: Ginkgo biloba
Pronunciation: GINK-go bye-LOE-buh
Common name(s): Maidenhair Tree, Ginkgo
Family: Ginkgoaceae
USDA hardiness zones:: 3 through 8A
Origin: native to Asia
Uses: Bonsai; wide tree lawns; recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway; specimen; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); residential street tree; tree has been successfully grown in urban areas where air pollution, poor drainage, compacted soil, and/or drought are common
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range.


Height: 50 to 75 feet.
Spread: 50 to 60 feet.
Crown uniformity: irregular outline or silhouette.
Crown shape: round; pyramidal.
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: slow

Ginkgo Trunk and Branches Description

Trunk/bark/branches: droop as the tree grows, and will require pruning for vehicular or pedestrian clearance beneath the canopy; showy trunk; should be grown with a single leader; no thorns.
Pruning requirement: needs little pruning to develop except during the early years. The tree has a strong structure.
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: brown or gray

Foliage Description

Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: top lobed


This tree is pest-free and considered resistant to gypsy moth.

The Ginkgo's Stinky Fruit

Female plants are wider-spreading than the males. Only male plants should be used as the female produces foul smelling fruit in late autumn. The only way to select a male plant is to purchase a named cultivar including ‘Autumn Gold’, ‘ Fastigiata’, ‘Princeton Sentry’, and ‘Lakeview’ because there is no reliable way to select a male plant from a seedling until it fruits. It could take as long as 20 years or more for Ginkgo to fruit.


There are several cultivars:

  • ‘Autumn Gold’- male, fruitless, bright gold fall color and rapid growth rate
  • ‘Fairmont’ - male, fruitless, upright, oval to pyramidal form
  • ‘Fastigiata’ - male, fruitless, upright growth
  • ‘Laciniata’ - leaf margins deeply divided
  • ‘Lakeview’ - male, fruitless, compact broad conical form
  • ‘Mayfield’ - male, upright fastigiate (columnar) growth
  • ‘Pendula’ - pendent branches
  • ‘Princeton Sentry’ - male, fruitless, fastigiate, narrow conical crown for restricted overhead spaces, popular, 65 feet tall, available in some nurseries
  • ‘Santa Cruz’ - umbrella-shaped, ‘Variegata’ - variegated leaves.

Ginkgo in Depth

The tree is easy to care for and require only occasional water and a little high-nitrogen fertilizer that will stimulate the growth of its unique leaf. Apply the fertilizer in late fall to early spring. The tree should be pruned in late winter to early spring.

Ginkgo may grow extremely slow for several years after planting, but will then pick up and grow at a moderate rate, particularly if it receives an adequate supply of water and some fertilizer. But do not overwater or plant in a poorly-drained area.

Be sure to keep turf several feet away from the trunk to help trees become established. Very tolerant of urban soils and pollution, Ginkgo could be used more in USDA hardiness zone 7 but is not recommended in central and southern Texas or Oklahoma due to summer heat. Adapted for use as a street tree, even in confined soil spaces. Some early pruning to form one central leader is essential.

There is some support for the tree's medical use. Its seed has been recently been used as both a memory and concentration enhancer with some positive effects on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, Ginkgo biloba has also been suggested as relieving many disease symptoms but has never been approved by the  FDA as anything but an herbal product.