Tree of the Month: Elm
The Tree of the Month for September is the stately elm. As green summer leaves give way to fall colors, keep an eye out for the elm trees’ beautiful golden leaves. If you’re interested in adding this magnificent tree to your yard, learn more about it first.
About Elm Trees
Elms are adored for their graceful canopies and stately appearance, with branches that spread like fountains. These trees come in many varieties native to Europe, North America and Asia. While each cultivar has slightly different characteristics, elms tend to grow 100 to 120 feet tall with wide-spreading canopies for excellent shade. Keep in mind that elms have shallow root systems, so growing a garden beneath them isn’t an option or the plants will end up fighting for nutrients from the same soil depth.
Caring for Elm Trees
Growing an elm tree in your garden is sure to provide cooling shade and unrivaled beauty for decades to come – as long as you care for it properly. Follow these tips to ensure your elm tree grows to maturity and becomes a striking feature in your yard.
Depending on the variety of elm you choose, you can expect this type of tree to grow in hardiness Zones 5 thru 9. As for specific planting locations, elms prefer full sun or partial shade in well-drained, fertile soil. While bare root, balled and burlap-wrapped elms do best when planted in spring or late fall, you can plant container-grown elms any time of year. Add a little compost to the fill dirt and mulch the tree immediately after planting to help the soil hold moisture and keep weeds at bay.
Water young elm trees weekly when nature fails to bring rain. A good method is to bury the end of a garden hose at the base of the tree and let the water trickle out for about an hour. Once the tree is a few years old, it only needs water during prolonged periods of drought.
No matter what time of year you plant your elm, wait until the following spring to fertilize with a complete and balanced fertilizer. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid over fertilizing. Apply fertilizer annually while the elm is still young. Older trees don’t require annual fertilization, but a light scattering every now and then is still beneficial.
Cutting back dead, damaged and overcrowded branches is important for any tree, but timing is especially important for an elm. Because open wounds can attract the elm bark beetle, you should only prune from mid-April to late-July when these beetles aren’t active. Major pruning every three years with minor pruning annually helps keep your tree looking beautiful and growing strong.
Dutch Elm Disease
Elm trees are incredibly susceptible to Dutch elm disease. Caused by elm bark beetles that carry a harmful fungus from tree to tree, the disease wiped out many elms in Europe and North America starting in the 1930s.
American and European species of elms are vulnerable to Dutch elm disease, but Asiatic elms, including lace bark elm and Siberian elm, are highly resistant. Several elm hybrids are also available or still being developed that can resist the disease. When purchasing an elm tree for your property, make sure you choose a resistant cultivar.
If you’re interested in planting an elm on your property, or your existing tree shows signs of Dutch elm disease, contact The Grounds Guys to take advantage of our comprehensive tree services. We want to help you get the most from your landscaping this year!