Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)

Sometimes called Lacebark Elm this elm is a broad-crowned, fast growing tree with an unusual flaking, multicolored bark. A sturdy, adaptable tree, the Chinese elm tolerates a variety of environmental difficulties with grace. It can be grown to have a number of trunks or trained to have just one trunk. It has strong wood that helps it resist wind and ice damage as well as many pests. It can handle poor soil, compacted soil, restriction of its roots and drought. It makes an excellent street or shade tree for residential yards.

Lacebark elms normally grow to about 40 or 50 feet at maturity, although some reach 70 feet. They have a similar shape to the vase-like shape of the American Elm with their branches spreading 30 feet or more from a relatively short trunk. Fast growers in the South, they slow their pace in northern regions.

The Chinese Elm s inconspicuous flowers appear in September in green clusters where leaf stems join twigs. They are insignificant, but yield a heavy crop of papery, disc-winged seeds about 1/3 inch long a bit later in the fall. Green or maroon, these seeds are attractive and are notable since they appear so late in the season.

Chinese Elms are deciduous, dropping their leaves each fall. The leaves of the lacebark elm measure 2 to 3 inches long, and about half as wide. They taper to a point at the tip giving lacebark elms a fine textured look. They are toothed along the edges and grow singly, alternating along the stems. The shiny medium to dark green, lacebark elm foliage turns yellow or reddish-purple in fall and stays on the tree late in the season. They are fairly drought tolerant. Like the American Elm, surface roots can be a problem with this tree. Chinese Elms are usually resistant to Dutch Elm Disease as well as phloem necrosis, another common elm disease.

Chinese Elm Choices
Athena is an Elm that stays relatively small at about 35 feet tall and 50 feet wide. It has small, shiny dark green leaves about 2 ½ inches long and 1 ½ inches wide forming a dense canopy of shade. It has beautiful mottled bark of orange and brown and gray. . Zones 6 through 9.

The Drake Elm grows more upright, has dark green foliage, sweeping branches, nearly evergreen in California and parts of the deep South, for zones 7 to 9. it has small, dark green leaves, sweeping, upright branches forming a rounded crown, and greater leaf retention being almost evergreen in California and Florida.

The True Green Elm retains leaves until very late fall, rounded tree somewhat smaller than others, deep green glossy foliage.

The Prairie Shade Elm is more upright and spreads as ages. The Catlin Elm is a dwarf.

The Dynasty Elm has smooth, dark gray bark, smaller leaves and is vase-shaped, with red fall color in the north, it has faster than normal growth rate. It has proven to be more cold hardy than the species.

The Frosty Elm has a small white-margined leaf which may revert back to green. There are many more choices available. Check with you local garden center.

see all questions...

Do you have a gardening question? Ask Nancy