There is a park just down the street from my house that has two large Japanese Pagoda trees planted among a collection of birch and evergreens. If you were strolling by this group of trees, you may overlook the Japanese Pagoda as just a common deciduous tree without any unusual features. Depending on the season, however, the Japanese Pagoda can put on a rather spectacular show. This website from the University of Connecticut http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/s/sopjap/sopjap1.html will give you a good idea what this tree has to offer.
In the spring, the tree has creamy yellow/white flower petals. It also maintains unusual yellow seed pods throughout most of the winter, providing a nice touch of color in a usually grey season. If you pay close attention to the seeds, you can tell the Japanese Pagoda is from the Leguminosae family, as the seed pods resemble beans. Another interesting feature of this tree is that the dried flowers can be boiled to make a yellowish dye. There are several unique cultivars available, including a weeping variety and a cultivar that will begin to bloom at an earlier age (“Regent”) than the regular cultivars.
Japanese Pagoda (Sophora japonica) is also known as the Scholar Tree. It will grow to about height of about 40 to 60 feet and has a spread of 30 to 45 feet. It is a fast grower and has a nice round canopy. This is a great tree for big cities as it tolerates heat, drought, and pollution.
With this tree you’ll need to be on the lookout for a few common pests and diseases, but once the tree is established, it will generally do fine. Potato leafhopper can be a threat as well as fungus cankers. It your area gets a sudden hard frost, your tree may be more susceptible to disease. Pruning out any damaged and dead branches will help your tree stay healthier. You may get a case of powdery mildew but this is rare and not very serious.
Plant this tree in a sunny place with well-drained soil. It will do best in zones 5 through 8. When you buy your tree from the nursery, make sure it has a single trunk, and as it grows, trim off other leaders that may appear. You may find that the branches tend to sag a bit. Prune the branches if your tree is planted in a place with lots of people traffic to avoid it being a disturbance. Fortunately, you will not have to worry too much about the roots lifting up sidewalks or other landscaping. The tree requires very little maintenance as the leaves are small and will blow away. The flowers may create stains if you have a patio or sidewalk nearby, so keep this in mind.