Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Chinese Parasol Tree, Varnish Tree
Firmiana simplex

Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Firmiana (fer-mee-AY-nuh) (Info)
Species: simplex (SIM-plecks) (Info)

Synonym:Firmiana platanifolia
Synonym:Sterculia platanifolia

One vendor has this plant for sale.

16 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

over 40 ft. (12 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall

Grown for foliage

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds

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There are a total of 27 photos.
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12 positives
2 neutrals
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive stellab3 On Nov 9, 2013, stellab3 from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:

I like my Chinese Parasol Tree. I put it in the wrong place, and it does multiply. The wrong place is over the walkway to my front door. When it blooms, it drops the sweet smelling little blooms on the walk in front of my house leading to the front door. If I sweep it up - almost daily, it's okay. Every fly, bee, butterfly, moth and wasp in North America likes these blooms. If they get wet, they make a gooey paste which tracks into the house. If it weren't over the walkway to the house, it wouldn't be a problem. I think the seed pods are nothing short of art. They look like a piece of art deco, and I love them. The little berries do plant themselves in my flower beds, but I know what they look like, and pull them up when I see them. I wouldn't want them to grow every where they turn up. I potted a couple of seedlings up for my mother over ten years ago. She couldn't decide where to plant them, so they remain in the pot. This stunts them and they don't grow beyond their current height of about 3 feet, and they don't bloom. Not a bad deal. They're wonderful. Every fall, the leaves drop and leave two green stems with little brown velvet "leaflets" in a ball at the top. In the spring the neat parasol top comes back and is lovely. I have trimmed the one in my doorway back so it didn't bloom over the walkway this year. I will try to maintain it this way. Planted in the big open it would be perfect. It has it's virtues and it's problems. You can't let the seedlings grow everywhere, same with maples, elms, pecans. Every tree has some drawback. I'm in Oklahoma City, it takes the summers and the winters well and doesn't seem to have any health problems.

Positive Raylan On Apr 30, 2013, Raylan from Lake Worth, TX wrote:

I found this seedling growing in the container of another plant I bought at a nursery. On a whim, I planted it along with the plant I purchased. I had no idea what it was. I planted in the garden behind my pool and as it grew I wondered if it could damage the pool as it was above the pvc that operated the waterfall. I took a leaf to the nursery where it had hitchhiked from and was shocked when they showed me their tree which although gorgeous was easily 30 feet. We moved the tree to another garden where it has grown to approximately 20 feet in 6 years. It has survived one exceptionally cold winter and a couple record-breaking summers. I have read negative reviews of this tree on this site, but I love it and its beautiful foliage.

Positive burien_gardener On Jun 17, 2012, burien_gardener from Burien (SW Seattle), WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

It appears this tree could be an invasive in the warmer US southeast. Since it prefers moist soils, it's less likely to be a problem in the warmer southwest -- though it might colonize areas with dependable moisture (seeps, stream riparian).

Here in the Pacific Northwest it is unlikely to be a problem, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be vigilant.

Positive Little_D_Farm On Mar 3, 2012, Little_D_Farm from Eastman, GA wrote:

We inherited one of the chinese parasol trees with our home thirty years ago. It was brought to my husband's grandfather from Texas 20 years prior to that as a seedling. The unusual thing about it was that it never produced flowers or seed until about 15 years ago and it was all of the sudden and for no obvious reason. It was right outside our kitchen window so we would have noticed had it produced flowers and seeds over those earlier years. Once it began to flower and shed seed, it died a few years after that. Because of the sentimental value of the tree to my husband, we had saved a few trees that came up from the seed and now we have several mature trees in the yard. Invasive is not what we would call it but we do have several trees to come up every year from the trees we have transplanted. It's a pretty tree and provides very good shade. Our old tree was very well established when we moved to the house. The soil was very harsh where it was planted and it did not get a lot of water in the summer. I don't have to pamper the ones we have now at all either. The few we have grow well. If we pampered them with fertilizer and regular water, they might become an invasive problem though. We are in the middle Georgia area.

Positive 1moretree On Feb 11, 2012, 1moretree from Bethel, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Very interesting looking tree. There's several growing near me at the Cincinnati, OH Zoo & Botanical Gardens, so surviving Z6b at least. I collected some seeds off the ground last season and sprouted a few. They are currently in the ground and trying out their first winter in my yard, one will be in fairly open shade, the other one part sun. I have lots of room, so looking forward to them. No complaints, yet.

Positive ChuckArk On Sep 11, 2011, ChuckArk from North Little Rock, AR wrote:

I live in North Little Rock, AR (zone 7 - + 5 f) and have planted a few of these three years ago from seeds that I bought on line. One is 20 ft tall and blooming and producing seed pots.
These are beautiful and exotic trees. I have limited success propagating but am learning how to do this.

Negative gigi4two On Apr 10, 2011, gigi4two from Spring Hill, FL wrote:

I agree that the plant does provide wonderful shade and the leaves and trunk are very pretty. That being said, the negative about this tree is that it's over-running my (smallish) backyard, as well as all of the neighboring yards. The tree was given to me, in a coffee can, by a co-worker over (20) years ago, with the promise that in 5 years I would be sitting under it; well, that's for sure! My 1st tree is over 40' tall and spreads over 25' wide!! .... and, I'm always pruning it --- trying to keep it in the confins of my own yard, althought it's too late for that now! :)

Negative scshul On May 16, 2010, scshul from Birmingham, AL wrote:

please help me. my yard is over run with this plant. i'm sure if i only had one tree there would be no problem. they are everywhere!! i don't know how to get rid of them. if anyone knows, please let me know.

Positive OKplantnerd38 On Apr 3, 2010, OKplantnerd38 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

I became familiar with this tree when I lived in Houston and New Orleans, so I was surprised to discover one growing in OKC (Zone 7A) in the landscaping around the back patio of one of my favorite bars/hangouts. It's in a slight microclimate at best and has had no winter damage in the 3 years I have lived here. Interesting greenish bark in the winter, and it always makes a great conversation-starter because most locals have never seen one and wonder what "that tree in the corner with the big leaves" is. I've made a lot of acquaintences and even a few good friends because of Firmiana simplex!

Negative edthetreeguy On Feb 24, 2010, edthetreeguy from Cowarts, AL wrote:

Do the United States a favor and DO NOT plant this tree! It is a noxious invasive species, as are many plants which produce copious amounts of flowers. Makes sense, really, since thousands of flowers easily translates into tens of thousands, even millions of invasive seed (see Chinese & Japanese Privet Hedge, Japanese honeysuckle, Kudzu, cogon grass, sawtooth oak, et al.). Birds eat the seed, then plant them in all of your neighbors yards, and their neighbors yards & so on and on.

If you want to plant something in the good ole' US of A, plant something NATIVE to your area! It will do well in your area You'll pay less for it in the long run.

Positive patdhen On Jul 4, 2009, patdhen from Baton Rouge, LA wrote:

Our landscape architect planted the Chinese Parasol tree in the front courtyard that faces the west in 2003. I was not aware that all the leaves would fall off during the mild winter here in Baton Rouge La. However, in the spring, all the leaves came back. The trunk is very limber and it had to be tied down to keep it growing straight. Last year there was blooms in the top of the tree only. This year there are blooms everywhere on all the branches. The tree is about 20' tall and provides good shade and the birds like to hide beneath the leaves. We love the tropical look of this tree! In 7 years we have not noticed any sprouts coming up in the courtyard.

Neutral luckymama1311 On Sep 14, 2008, luckymama1311 from Round Rock, TX wrote:

I don't know if I am allowed to ask questions but I don't see anything against it, so here goes?
I am assuming this plant is poisonous?
I live near austin, tx. will it do well here?
I have two small children is it safe to have in the yard?
how hard is it to clean up to keep from multiplying all over the yard? thanks!

Positive cactusman102 On Apr 10, 2008, cactusman102 from Lawrence, KS wrote:

Interesting Foliage! Beautiful winter green bark! Hardiness listed is too conservative. Have seen growing at OBGA gardens (OSU) in Stillwater (zone 7a) and in Lawrence KS (zone 6a) in a protected spot. In Stillwater, the tree survived -19 with damage to top half. Suckers came back and made it more bushy. In Lawrence KS, the tree survived many nights of 0 to -8 and highs in the teens for many times over 3 winters.

Positive Nkytree On Nov 9, 2006, Nkytree from Burlington, KY wrote:

Cox Arboretum in Dayton, OH has an impressive specimen considering how far north they are above zone 7. Their tree is about 30ft tall with multiple trunks, and has been said to have survived -20F winters. A few people are propagating seed from this tree in hopes of extending this species range.

Positive jeri11 On Oct 27, 2006, jeri11 from Central, LA (Zone 8b) wrote:

There is a chinese parasol tree at the door to Jax's Brewery in New Orleans that has been there forever. I collected seeds and planted them and everyone came up. I've given them away and have one in my yard. It's doing great. No flowers yet.

Negative escambiaguy On Jul 29, 2006, escambiaguy from Atmore, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

While the foliage may be attractive, the flowers and seeds are ugly. It has also started to be invasive around my area as I have seen many sprouting up on the roadsides.

Positive zsnp On May 12, 2005, zsnp from Pensacola, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

If you want some shade in your yard during the summer, get this tree. It has huge leaves. And it grows almost like a mushroom; it grows very quickly!!

Neutral enalter On Jun 2, 2004, enalter from Leakesville, MS (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have one large tree, probably 20 years old, and has weathered many a storm, the large trunk keeps putting on new sprouts, and continues to bloom and put off many seeds which come up all over the yard, easily transplanted to pots, which I have done, and given away. This tree is a very fast grower, at least 5 to 6 foot each year.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (2 reports)
Atmore, Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama
Brantley, Alabama
Cowarts, Alabama
Daleville, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Loxley, Alabama
Vincent, Alabama
Phoenix, Arizona
Little Rock, Arkansas
North Little Rock, Arkansas
Aptos, California
Fresno, California
San Marcos, California
Keystone Heights, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Spring Hill, Florida
Blakely, Georgia
Eastman, Georgia
Elberfeld, Indiana
Evansville, Indiana
Lawrence, Kansas
Louisville, Kentucky
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Greenwell Springs, Louisiana
New Iberia, Louisiana
Shreveport, Louisiana
Thibodaux, Louisiana
Jarrettsville, Maryland
Braxton, Mississippi
Florence, Mississippi
Hernando, Mississippi
Leakesville, Mississippi
Madison, Mississippi
Mathiston, Mississippi
Natchez, Mississippi
Rienzi, Mississippi
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Bethel, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Edmond, Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Stillwater, Oklahoma
Florence, South Carolina
Arlington, Tennessee
Pocahontas, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Baytown, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Garland, Texas
Kerrville, Texas
Kyle, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Shepherd, Texas
Norfolk, Virginia

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