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Plant Persian Ironwood Tree for Colorful Leaves and Bark

Virtues: Persian ironwood is a small tree that offers year-round interest despite losing its leaves in the fall. Its main attributes are its foliage, which is colorful in both spring and autumn, and its overall form and attractive bark, which stand out in winter. 

The fall foliage of Persian ironwood.

The fall foliage of Persian ironwood.

Common name: Persian ironwood

Botanical name: Parrotia persica

Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Flowers: Small red flowers appear in late winter or early spring, before the leaves emerge. Because they are small, the blossoms are not considered an ornamental aspect of this tree.

Foliage: The leaves of Persian ironwood are broadly oval and deciduous. They emerge a deep purple-red color in spring. They turn dark green for the summer, then show beautiful shades of yellow and orange in the fall.

Habit: This tree can have one trunk or several. The crown is a rounded oval, with upright branches. Persian ironwood grows 20 to 40 feet tall, with a spread of 20 to 30 feet. The bark of mature trees peels to reveal patches of green, white and tan.

The peeling bark of a mature specimen.

The peeling bark of a mature specimen.

Origin: Iran

How to grow it: Plant Persian ironwood in full sun for the best growth, although it can take some light shade. It prefers well-drained, moist, acidic soil but it will tolerate alkaline soil and dry spells. It will not tolerate poor drainage or a soggy site. USDA Zones 4–8.

Image credits

Foliage: Wendy Cutler/CC BY-SA 2.0 

Bark: Plant Image Library/CC BY-SA 2.0