Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Siberian Elm
Ulmus pumila

Family: Ulmaceae (ulm-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Ulmus (ULM-us) (Info)
Species: pumila (POO-mil-uh) (Info)

One vendor has this plant for sale.

3 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring

Good Fall Color

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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There are a total of 22 photos.
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3 positives
2 neutrals
7 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative coriaceous On Mar 26, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Michael Dirr has called this perhaps the world's worst tree.

This species is very fast growing when young, but has no other virtues. Given to branch breakage and general messiness, it's also subject to numerous pests.

It is considered invasive from central Mexico through central and eastern N. America. New Mexico has declared it a noxious weed.

Because they have both been called "Chinese elm", this species is often confused with the lovely (and noninvasive) lacebark elm, U. parvifolia. You can tell them apart by their season of bloom---lacebark elm blooms in late summer, while Siberian elm blooms in early spring.

Negative Rickwebb On Feb 17, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

About 98% of the time this is either a weed tree infesting open forest or waste places or it is an ugly shade tree that is unkempt and messy with lots of fallen twigs and broken branches, and not having fall color. This "Chinese Elm" was planted a lot in the 1950's and 60's when the far superior American or White Elm was being devastated by Dutch Elm Disease. (A problem that is being overcome by resistant cultivars and even natural selection of trees that will propagate by seed) It is still for sale by cheap mail order nurseries, oftentimes as hedge material, but privet is much better for that. Once in a great while, I will see a specimen that looks descent. It is a major weed tree in the Chicago region of Illinois, and other Midwestern US places. It should be exterminated in the eastern and midwestern US.

Negative Cotesa On Aug 12, 2013, Cotesa from Reisterstown, MD wrote:

In 1968 we knew nothing about invasive/exotic versus native. These trees, along with two Norway maples, were helpful when we needed something fast growing. Only crops had been grown here and we wanted to plant a yard with trees and bushes.

As the years passed migrant song birds filled the branches, then the birds passed into oblivian and we've not had a sizable migration for at least 15 years. The Norway maples were "eating" our front yard so we had them cut down. We kept the S. Elms

Presently, the four S. Elms standing at 65-70 ft high, are shading a good portion of the yard. At a cost of $4000 we're bringing them down so that other (native) plants/bushes/trees can survive.
Had we known in 1969 the negative aspects of this tree, we
would have planted a native species.

S Elms grow in peculiar ways. Ours have double trunks. They also reproduce easily in areas where they're not wanted. Ours have no crown but rather a collection of branches at the top. They do break easily.

This tree should never be planted under any circumstance.

Negative tweeber On Apr 16, 2013, tweeber from West Valley City, UT (Zone 7a) wrote:

Annoying tree that grows all over northern Utah. It's invasive and trashy. The tree constantly gets diseased or is under constant attack from insects. Once the branches get to about a 2 inch diameter, they easily break and fall off. Dangerous tree once they get over 20 feet tall. I have seen this type of tree fall on buildings, houses and cars causing extensive damage. The best thing to do is avoid this tree at all costs.

Negative andycdn On Sep 12, 2012, andycdn from Ottawa, ON (Zone 5a) wrote:

The best thing to be said about this weedy tree is that many of them exist. It grows quickly, survives extremes of weather, assumes a pleasing shape if allowed to, provides shade, and harbours few transferrable diseases. It is susceptible to leaf miner.

HOWEVER... all is not roses in this garden. Shallow roots prevent any underplanting; profuse seed-capsule production each spring will litter gardens, yards and nearby walkways, streets and drains, with resulting sprouting seedlings. Branches tend to intertwine and require pruning; twigs die off young and break off.

If you are looking for a specimen tree, I would recommend avoiding this tree. Try an elegant ginkgo (slow-growing but beautiful) or a modest but all-season celebrity, the Amur maple (up to 20', fragrant in bloom and scarlet in autumn; can be pruned lightly to create a Japanese effect).

Some have used the Siberian elm as a hedge subject. The look succeeds for about ten years, but their nature overcomes beauty thereafter, resulting in sparse leaves with gnarled trunks. There are many preferred options for this.

Avoid this tree!

Positive srulison On May 24, 2008, srulison from Exmore, VA wrote:

This is a qualified "positive" rating. I originally planted a row of six trees four years ago as bird cover near my gardens. They serve this purpose very well, having grown tall and thick during this period (about 20 feet tall.) They will grow in practically any soil type, including compacted clay; require no special care; and are drought-tolerant. They can also be pruned severely to control their height. The negatives include a shallow root system which allowed the young trees to heel over in a hurricane two years ago. But since then, due to their fast growth, these trees have largely righted themselves. Branches are also subject to breakage in high winds. Overall a good choice for very specific needs and the right habitat. My trees provide excellent cover for feeder birds in the winter, food sources for migrating birds in spring and fall, and nest sites during the summer. They also attract and support large numbers of ladybird beetles which are useful in other areas of the garden as well. In regard to the potential seed germination problem: I also have free-roaming chickens-hence, no problem.

Negative dicentra63 On Jun 22, 2007, dicentra63 from West Valley City, UT (Zone 6b) wrote:

I have two adult specimens of this tree in or near my yard. Every spring, they produce and drop literally billions of little papery "coins" that cover the ground in a papery goo after it rains.

Each one of those confounded coins is viable, and every time I turn the soil to plant something, I have to pull dozens of treelings a few days later.

Before I knew what the coins were, I tilled them into a flowerbed, planted seeds, and then couldn't find my seedlings because the elms were growing as thick as grass, I kid you not.

The branches are indeed brittle and can't hold up to a good wind or snowfall. My yard is constantly littered with twigs. The trees themselves often develop multiple trunks, each one weak and unsightly. Had I the money to root them out, I'd do it in a red-hot second. Right after I get rid of all the Trees of H#ll, which are first on the list for extermination.

Neutral frostweed On Dec 15, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Siberian Elm Ulmus pumila is Naturalized in Texas and other States and is considered an invasive plant in Texas.

Positive lkz5ia On Nov 19, 2006, lkz5ia from Denison, IA (Zone 5b) wrote:

Tree is inferior in all regards to the red and american elm. But.....I like this species. It doesn't die from DED like the previously mentioned two, and will attain 3' diameter in its lifetime more likely than them, also.

Negative Malus2006 On Mar 22, 2006, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

Never grow this tree! It is invasive, reseed itself heavily, is often seen on roadside and in open areas. It is coarse texture with small leaves and lots of branchlets. It self sow all over my yard, the number two seedling with ash and maple tied for number 1. It is rated zone 4 hardy and the branches are brittle. It grows fast. I have one that grow just on the neighbor side of the fence in a row of lilac bushes. It grew rapidly, in six or seven years already larger than the burr oak nearby. In nasty winds, the entire tree shakes and always seem to be ready to snap!

Neutral washingtonia On Oct 2, 2005, washingtonia from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:

Siberian elm was a very popular tree to plant in central Oklahoma in the drought-ridden 1950's, but is not used much in landscaping here nowadays. It is able to withstand the extremes of heat and cold, but seldom has a very attractive form. It is actually kind of a "weedy" species. The wood is soft and brittle and branches and twigs often litter the ground after a high wind. It is fast-growing and provides useful shade, but American elm is probably a better choice in most cases.

Positive treeeman On Aug 14, 2005, treeeman from Fairhaven, MA wrote:

These trees grow about 5' a year. They have good, dark green leaves and provide usable shade in a couple years.The bugs don't seem to bother them. The wood is not as dense as the slower growing trees.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Fredonia, Arizona
Prescott, Arizona
Keystone Heights, Florida
Alsip, Illinois
Denison, Iowa
Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2 reports)
Auburn, New York
Buffalo, New York
Beach, North Dakota
Belfield, North Dakota
Medora, North Dakota
Middletown, Ohio
Jay, Oklahoma
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Draper, Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah (3 reports)
Exmore, Virginia
Roanoke, Virginia
Kinnear, Wyoming
Pavillion, Wyoming
Riverton, Wyoming

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