Raising Your Elm

Raising Your Elm Tree

About this Tree

            This tree is a variety of American elm (Ulmus americana) named “Princeton”.  It has been tested and shows high resistance to Dutch elm disease.  The elm was one of the premier shade trees in the American landscape until Dutch Elm disease arrived, but many elms have survived, and replanting resistant elms is now possible. Elms grow rapidly and can be spindly in the first several years, so staking is sometimes advised.  Proper staking supports the tree without touching it, except with soft rubber ties touching the tree. 

A Suitable Site

            Planting locations should be selected with the tree’s ultimate dimensions and needs in mind.  The American elm is easily transplanted because of its shallow fibrous root system.  In the wild, the tree is a common inhabitant of wet flats where standing water may accumulate in the spring and fall.  It will grow rapidly to 60-80 ft within approximately 40 years, with a spread of about 2/3 of the height.  Elms respond well to fertilizing in spring and fall.

Observations from Audubon Park

American Elm “Princeton”.  We recommend that we replant elms with Dutch Elm Resistance.  Elms grow happily in wet areas, like on Crossbill.  On dry upland sites, like the top of Valley Drive, they tend to scorch out during the summer heat and drought of August.  They grow so rapidly that some staking support (tripod shape) may be helpful in the first two years.  They have a large arching form and can be difficult to shape properly for street sites, but are great set back into yards where their arching form can fill large spaces and be seen from a distance and provide excellent shade. 


We do have a number of surviving elms, most notably one on the Falcon side of 3228 Eagle Pass, and at 1133 Cardinal.  Fully mature elms tend to surface rooting and with their multiple arching branches develop frequent small branch breakage and shedding high in the canopy.  When they fail, they tend to shear off the vase form at a low junction, where they had included bark.   They should not be planted together, because if one did develop Dutch elm disease, they can form root grafts among adjacent trees, and transmit disease to each other.  Neighbors should space elms at least every other lot if several are planted along a street.