Imperial Honeylocust

Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis

Valued for its delicate fern-like leaves, the Imperial honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis ‘Imperial’) is one of the most popular shade trees. This thornless tree features bright green foliage that creates a rounded crown above the trunk. The Imperial honeylocust produces a few seed pods in the summer, and the green leaves slowly fade into a yellow color by the fall. Unlike other honeylocust species that have thorns, this variety does not produce any barbs. The Imperial honeylocust is an excellent choice to add to your landscape.

Ornamental Features

This deciduous tree produces medium-sized leaves. The fern-like leaves are composed of numerous leaflets with serrated edges. Throughout the year, you can expect to see bright green foliage. As the summer season changes towards autumn, these leaves will turn into a brilliant shade of yellow.

These trees have a rounded form, and it is the perfect variety to add some subtle texture to a landscape. You can also use this tree as an accent element. However, the Imperial honeylocust is best known for producing shade. It remains a popular choice for many landscapers who want to add a shady spot to an outdoor space.

Imperial Honeylocust



  • Watering Needs: Water regularly – weekly, or more often in extreme heat.
    Botanical Pronunciation: DAF-nay berk-WOOD-ee-eye
    Plant type: Shrub
    Deciduous/evergreen: Semi-evergreen
    Growth rate: Moderate
    Average landscape size: Moderate growing; reaches 3 ft. tall, 4 ft. wide.
    Special features:


  • Dramatic Foliage: Color, Easy Care
  • Foliage color: Variegated
  • Blooms: Spring, often repeating in fall.
  • Flower color: Pink
  • Flower attributes: Fragrant, Showy Flowers
  • Garden style: Asian/Zen, Cottage, Rustic
  • Design Ideas: Ideally sized shrub for a wide range of applications. Perfectly tailored to foundation beds where floral fragrance is enjoyed at entries and windows. Add to the back of the perennial border for bright accent. Exceptional in small city gardens where just a few plants are allowed and therefore must be the best. Well adapted to the partially sunny conditions at the edge of large old shade tree canopies. An essential in the Southern and Victorian garden.
  • Companion Plants: Gardenia (Gardenia); Camellia (Camellia); Hydrangea (Hydrangea); Azalea (Azalea); Heath (Erica)

Imperial Honeylocust Horticultural Uses

The Imperial honeylocust is a low-maintenance tree. With its broad habit of growth, it will leaf out later than other shade trees. In one way, this action protects the tree from late spring freezes and heavy snows. The honeylocust also drops its leaves earlier in the autumn season to protect itself from the early hard freezes.

These trees can be used in large parking lot islands. Along sidewalks or highways, they are also recommended for buffer or median strips. The Imperial honeylocust is a magnificent residential street tree. For any space where you need extra shade in your landscape, you should consider adding an Imperial honeylocust tree.

Planting and Growing

This shade tree is very tolerant of adverse growing conditions. The Imperial honeylocust tree grows best in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8. It can adapt to low water conditions and is tolerant of heat. Since the roots stay well below the surface, this tree is an excellent choice for lawns with shallow roots.

At maturity, the Imperial honeylocust will grow to be 35 feet tall, and it will have a spread of 30 feet. If you live in an area with power lines, you might want to find another species. This honeylocust has a high canopy and a seven-foot clearance from the ground. As the tree matures, the lower branches are often removed to provide a canopy for street traffic underneath it. The Imperial honeylocust does grow at a faster rate than other species. Under ideal conditions, you can expect this tree to live for about 70 years or more.

The Imperial honeylocust should be grown in full sunlight, and it is adaptable to moist and dry locations. Under average home landscaping conditions, these trees should remain healthy. This honeylocust is not particular to a specific pH or soil type, and it can handle environmental salt. The Imperial honeylocust thrives in city environments and is highly tolerant of urban pollutants.

Once the threat of extreme cold has passed, this tree species should be pruned in late winter. In addition to adapting to different climates, the Imperial honeylocust is deer-resistant as these animals will choose other plants in the yard. Even though the tree is hardy, you will have to watch out for signs of stress that can lead to yellowing, cankers, or root rot.

Choose an Imperial Honeylocust for Your Landscape

Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis

The dappled and light shade provided by this tree is one of its most attractive features. This particular tree is adaptable and durable, and it can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, including droughts and road salt. In the fall, you will be treated to a lovely shade of yellow color. For that reason, honeylocusts are used in suburban and city landscapes. While many of these species are known for large thorns on the bark and stems, this variety does not have any of those attributes.

At Arbor Valley Nursery, we carry a large selection of plants, trees, and shrubs, including the Imperial honeylocust. If you want to add this incredible species to your landscape, you should contact us. We are here to answer all your questions and make sure that this tree species will be a great fit for your home or business. For those who want to learn more about the Imperial honeylocust, please take a few minutes to fill out the contact form.

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