7 Benefits of Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ – Why I Changed My Scathing Review

– Posted in: Garden Design, Trees and Shrubs

Several years ago I wrote an article titled ‘ Why I Won’t Plant Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia‘ again : A Love Affair Gone Awry.

It was about how I fell in love with a Golden locust some 2o plus years ago when I first saw it in London.

How I knew I was going to find a place in my garden for it at the right time and was able to do so after a major renovation.

How I was swept away by my vision of what the end result would be.

How I knew that the benefits of Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia‘ would be numerous. Within a year after buying these 2-3’ tall leafless sticks from Gosslers Farms Nursery, the first 3 Robinias had become stars of the garden.

What started out as 3 Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ on the top level of my garden, within a few years grew to 6, and then 9 .

Robinia entryway Chanticleer

Robinia pseudoacacia ‘frisia’ – entryway at Chanticleer

The shortcut version of the story is that after 5 years of marveling at their early spring green ovate leaves, followed by fragrant white pea like flowers, the chartreuse/yellow foliage in summer, then a vibrant yellow into the fall before dropping their leaves, the Golden locusts had become problematic.

I ended the article by saying that I absolutely would not use Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ in my garden again.

To learn read the entire article, click here.

How A Visit To Chanticleer Re-Ignited My Love of Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’

Fast forward 5 years later. I am presently gardening on an urban rooftop in Tel Aviv.

Any thoughts of Robinia pseudocacia ‘Frisia’ have long been shelved in the recesses of my memory.

Until I visited Chanticleer this past spring.

Before I knew what had happened – like a streak of lightening, 2 Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’, grabbed my heart again.

I stopped in my tracks and thought ‘ No wonder I fell madly in love with this tree – it is absolutely breathtaking!’

One was outside the entry gate welcoming visitors to the garden.

The other was at the end of a parking strip close to the entry. As I walked to my car, I felt this voluptuous Golden locust taunting me with its beauty and saying  ‘Are you ready now to admit that you made a mistake’?

Golden leaved black locust

Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ -parking lot at Chanticleer

I paused and realized that I needed to re-think my position.

So – here’s my update … and why you might want to think about planting Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ in your garden.

7 BENEFITS of Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’

1. It’s an extremely fast growing tree – 4 to 6 feet per year. When designing a new garden, this can be a big plus.

2. In spring its ovate leaves are bluish green on top followed by chartreuse yellow foliage that gets more yellow and brighter right up to autumn. When the sun shines through, it looks like an Impressionist painting.

3. It produces clusters of scented, white flowers between May and June that are intoxicating.

4. It can be pruned back hard each year to grow as a shrub or keep it within its boundaries. In hindsight, this is something I should have done with more rigor.

5. It is native to North America and can handle sandy and rocky soil. Although listed as a sun loving tree, I had a few in partial shade and they did just fine. It’s hardy in USDA Zones 4-9.

6. It complements and contrasts with practically any leaf color. I love its sharp yellow leaves partnered with the deep burgundy Cotinus coggyria as well as with green and yellow leaved hostas like Hosta ‘Sum and Substance ‘ or fortunei  ‘Aureo Marginita’ or ‘Frances William’ and grasses like Hakonechloa macra Aureola and Carex elata ‘Aurea’.

For more information on these plants, click on Kurt Bluemel mail order.

7. It has medicinal uses – its dried leaves are helpful in treatment of wounds caused by burns. It acts as a pain reliever. Used internally, it calms stomach burns, and is usually recommended to individuals who suffer from hyperacid gastritis and distensions.


1. Golden locust branches are brittle and have thorns. With the slightest wind, they break off, make a mess and take quite a bit of time to clean up.

2. This robinia needs a lot of maintenance. Because it grows quickly, 30-50 ‘ high at maturity and up to 30’ wide, when broken branches are left hanging on to the tree, it is not easy to cut off. Frequently an arborist or some other professional needs to be called in to take care of it.

Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ needs a heavy pruning at least once a year – I often had it done 2 times a year.

3. Its root system is aggressive and a rapid grower – making it difficult to cut through underground roots.

4. It self seeds prolifically. Unless you are rigorous about digging these mini pop-up robinias, they can invade not only flower beds but also the lawn.

5. In the last several years, there have been many reports to the RHS Advisory Service of ‘Frisia’ failing to come fully into leaf in spring. Some reports suggest that the leaves tend to lose their leaflets but the leaf rib remains on the tree. The tree commonly fails to recover and ultimately dies.

What I’ve Learned From My Experience with Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’

1. It would have made more sense for me to buy only a few for the first years to learn their habit and how they looked in the garden. Doing so would have saved me a lot of emotional and monetary investment.

2. The creative process is one filled with passion – where intuition often takes center stage. Risks need to be taken if you want to have extraordinary results. Sometimes you make a home run and other times you strike out.

3. Having more knowledge about the tree prior to buying would have helped me make better decisions on how best to maintain it.

Now It’s Your Turn

Have you ever had a Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ in your garden?

Did you ever fall in love with a tree and plant it in your garden – only to find out later that it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be?

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
14 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Donna September 16, 2013, 12:41 pm

Hi Fran. My friend the grower does well selling Frisia. It is too big a tree for many residential properties, in addition to the other negatives that you listed, but it does have wonderful form and color.

pete veilleux September 16, 2013, 12:49 pm

i put several in a design i did for this beautiful, moorish adobe, walled compound in Galileo, New Mexico – where it’s native to. the chartreuse against the very deep brown color of the adobe walls is spectacular. unfortunately, the homeowner lost her house in the economic crisis, so i never got to see them mature.

Fran Sorin September 17, 2013, 1:15 am

Hi Donna-
Well – I always thought of it as too big for certain residential properties but now that I’ve seen how compact and lush it can look, it might work well in a mixed border. I say that with caution because of the root growth and it prolific self seeding but if a gardener remains vigilant, it could work~ Fran

Fran Sorin September 17, 2013, 1:18 am

Hi Pete –
I’m sure it did look magnificent….do many gardeners use robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ in New Mexico? My hunch would be that Colorado Aspen would be a top choice (talk about a beautiful tree!)…Fran

larry September 18, 2013, 10:42 pm

I have indeed tried Robinia Frisia as well as Robinia Purple Robe. The Frisia died in short order but the Purple Robe grew into a nice tree with gorgeous blooms… until it split down the middle that is. After cutting it down, the understock sent up a very thorny tree that was quite nice in bloom as well. Eventually that died and the roots sent up a literal grove of Robinias. These eventually died leaving behind a small forest of vicious thorns on dead trees. We live in farm country and the neighbor was quite perplexed as to how these strange growths ended up in his pasture. I, of course, took credit and am now in the process of procrastinating on cleaning up the disaster because of the thorns. While the Robinias are quite lovely, I doubt that I’ll ever plant one again! Larry

Fran Sorin September 25, 2013, 5:56 am

Hi Larry-
You’ve got yourself quite a history with Robinias. Purple Robe is a stunner as well. I had 4 on the edge of my part on a cul-de-sac. As people walked by, they would stop and smell – I even saw a few that pulled off branches to take home – which didn’t bother me.

An ‘oh boy’ is all that I can say is about the havoc that they wreaked in your neighbor’s pasture. Would like to think that a deep rototilling might help- even then, you would still need to dump them. you better have thorn proof gloves.

After reading your comment, I think when I have an opportunity on another property, I’ll go for Catalpa bignoides ‘Aurea’ – fran

Mark October 3, 2013, 8:06 pm

I consider them horribly invasive, by seed and by root. If you want to plant another invasive plant to weed throughout the growing season, by all means, plant it. Yes, the flowers are fragrant, especially in the evening, but the flowers are high up where you won’t see them, and it is also so very messy and weak wooded.

Lyn Smith November 2, 2016, 12:35 am

I love my Robinia…I know it suckers a bit…but it’s beautiful. The colour is like nothing else & it’s just so graceful.

Fran Sorin November 17, 2016, 5:28 am

Lyn- I agree about the beauty and gracefulness of Robinia pseudocacia. A suggestion….keep it well pruned and be vigilant about it. Because I don’t believe in ‘topping off’ trees, I told the arborists who did major pruning for me NOT to cut off anything from the top, just week branches on the side. I was wrong about that. Over the years, the trees (I had 9 of them) became very lanky and narrow. Fran

Chrisda October 5, 2017, 7:12 am

Are you sure you are not confusing Robinia with Gleditsia. They are both locust trees but Robinia is the honey locust – without thorns and gleditsia is the black locust which has thorns. I planted a robinia which got damaged whilst I was away from home and asked for it to be replaced. A couple of years later I realised it was producing thorns – unlike my previous one. I investigated and discovered that a gleditsia had been planted instead of a robinia – a common error. Robinia pseudacasia do not have thorns.

Curtis November 11, 2017, 11:57 am

Robinia most certainly do have thorns!

Fran Sorin December 30, 2017, 11:41 pm

I never say that I am 100% sure but throughout the years, I bought what were labeled Robinias from both Gossler Farm Nurseries and Greer Gardens: 2 very reputable sources. Plus, I even gifted on to Chanticleer Garden in St. Davids, Pa. I’m 99% sure that they are, indeed, robinias. Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year. Fran

Anthony January 24, 2018, 7:41 pm

I have A gleditsia tricnanthos (Three thorns in my back yard) it is the honey locust and grew quickly and provided a beautiful umbrella. It needed better pruing as I lost a third of the canopy due to a water split. In Canberra Australia it provides welcome shade in summer and light in winter.
I planted a Robinia pseudoacacia ‘frisia’ in the front when my spaniel died in 2007. Ten years on it is now 8 to 10 metres tall. No suckering and no seedlings anywhere. beautiful scent, and lovely flowers worth looking up to see. I Pruned a large water split early. all is going well with it.
I believe the competition of other trees (2 huge chinese elms,photinia hedge, judas tree and manchurian pear along with roses and camellias are stopping suckering. I also heard “disturb not the roots and aye verily it will not sucker. Disturb the roots and you will unleash the hydra” I love the dappled shade of the locust trees. Cool but not dark. thanks for your blog.

frank November 30, 2018, 4:54 am

we moved into a new premises a few years ago and there was this sickly sapling in the backyard – the local government planner had made the builder plant it to be ‘energy efficient’

the builder had just chucked the plant in the ground, plastic pot and all and its few roots had to grow over the pot to escape. I dug down and smashed the pot so the roots could access the soil and 4 years later my tree is magnificent – in excess of 30′ high already and with a glorious canopy.

its also a home to local wildlife – crested pidgeons, ringtail possums and noisy miners.

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