Siberian Elm
Ulmus pumila

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

Category:

Trees

Height:

over 40 ft. (12 m)

Spacing:

over 40 ft. (12 m)

Hardiness:

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

Danger:

N/A

Bloom Color:

Inconspicuous/none

Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Mid Spring

Foliage:

Deciduous

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:

Non-patented

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

Regional

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

Fredonia, Arizona

Prescott, Arizona

Keystone Heights, Florida

Alsip, Illinois

Champaign, Illinois

Glen Ellyn, 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

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

3
positives
2
neutrals
7
negatives
RatingContent
Negative

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

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... read more

Negative

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 ... read more

Negative

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

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', fragr... read more

Positive

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, ... read more

Negative

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 the... read more

Neutral

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

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

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

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

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.