Plant Spotlight on Hybrid Elm

Elm trees were used as street trees and truly represented Mainstreet USA in the beginning of the 20th Century until Dutch elm disease, a wilt fungus, decimated the trees. It is reported that by 1970 over 77 million trees were dead and a new understanding of the importance of planting diverse tree varieties within our communities became mainstream. Hybridized varieties of the elm tree have made a strong comeback because of their resistance to Dutch elm disease. Native varieties have been known to grow over 100 feet tall, but most hybrids get to be about 60 feet tall. Elms have winged seeds called samaras that are well loved by squirrels, chipmunks, songbirds, and game birds. Baltimore orioles love to weave their pendulous nests in elms.  

When, Where, and How to Plant a Hybrid Elm

Plant a hybrid elm in a sunnier location, garden zones 5 through 10, with morning sun as it will help prevent fungal problems. They will tolerate most any soil as long as it is well drained. Remove all burlap, rope, and wire then water the root ball well before planting. Dig a hole the same depth of the root ball, but at least 2 times as broad when planting. Water consistently until the tree is established. Also water the trees in drought conditions because plants in distress are more likely to contract fungal disease problems.

Growing Tips

Mulching the tree with several inches of compost annually will help the hawthorn hold moisture, but also allow nutrients to trickle down through the soil. Do not fertilize otherwise unless the tree is showing signs of malnutrition. Prune trees in early spring before foliage develops. Cut back deadwood, water sprouts, and suckers at any time.

Wildlife enjoys the spring seed litter; tidy seeds by blowing or raking them up. Fungus is the enemy of the elm. While new varieties are resistant to Dutch elm disease and other funguses, they can still be attacked by fungal problems. Some of these fungal conditions can be controlled by planting the elm in full, direct sunlight with good air circulation. Do not plant the elm in shady or crowded conditions, it will perform poorly.

Companion Planting and Design

Elms handle pollution, winter salt, and high traffic areas well. Additionally, they are very adaptable to most any soil, which makes the tree a stupendous selection for the urban landscape, particularly inner-city areas. Its glossy leaves make the elm ideal as a shade tree near patios and pathways.

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