Elms are fast growing trees that mature to 40-80’ x 50’ with irregular to globe-shaped canopies. They tolerate most soils and drought and prefer direct sunlight and well drained soils. Messy green flowers and winged seeds in spring and early summer have deterred cities from planting these as prolifically as the American elm and is often avoided by landscapers and city planners. Nonetheless, Siberian Elms are prolific propagators and are often found along fences, roads, alleys and other neglected sites where they grow into forests quickly. They will not sustain in shade.
Prone to storm damage because of weak branch growth habits. Poor branch structure should be corrected through structural pruning every 3-5 years for the first 15-20 years of life. Squirrels are avid visitors to these trees and love to make leaf and twig nests high up in their canopies. They chew the bark in the winter for water and nutrients and to keep their teeth filed down. This can cause extensive damage to limbs and twigs and often results in major dieback of the upper canopy leaving the trees unsightly and compromised.
Wet wood is common, but not of great concern for action. The disease that wiped out the American Elm in much of the United States, Dutch Elm Disease, has been known to hit Siberian Elms, but is a very rare occurrence.
Leaf Miners, aphids, and Elm Leaf Beetles are common. European Elm Scale is quite routine leaving sooty mold to form on the bark and on anything under the canopy from lawns to driveways. Elm Bark Beetle is another common pest that can devastate a tree in a matter of months. If suspected in the tree or nearby it should be treated to avoid damage. Please see these pests in the “Pest Problems” section of this site for more info.
History and Use
Elms were widely planted by the federal government as shelter belts to help in the relief efforts of the 1930’s dustbowl on the Great American Plains. Having become an invasive nuisance, it is no longer planted by cities or landscapers. It is a great candidate for hedges as it does well when pollarded.