Siberian Elm (Pumila)

The Siberian Elm (Pumila) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is not native to the U.S. (United States) and has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until spring. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Siberian Elm (Pumila) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Siberian Elm (Pumila) will reach up to 70 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 40 feet.

The Siberian Elm (Pumila) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -38°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: The dried inner bark was grounded into a powder and used as a thickener in soups or added to cereal flours when making bread. The immature fruit was used to produce a sauce and a wine (Facciola 1990). The hardy, heavy tough wood was used for agricultural implements and boat making (Vines 1987).

Agroforestry: Ulmus pumila is used in tree strips for windbreaks. They are planted and managed to protect livestock, enhance production, and control soil erosion. Windbreaks can help communities with harsh winter conditions better handle the impact of winter storms and reduce home heating and cooling costs.

General Characteristics

General: Elm Family (Ulmaceae). Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) is an introduced, fast-growing, small tree, five to ten meters high. The leaves are alternate, simple, elliptic to oblong-lanceolate, usually simple serrate and 2.54 to 8 cm long. The flowers are greenish, clustered, short pediceled and appear with or before the leaves from March through April (Vines 1960). The bark is light grayish-brown, irregularly furrowed, and often streaked with stains caused by bacterial wetwood. The fruit is a long and broad samara, appearing from March through April, composed of a central, dry, compressed nutlet surrounded by a thin wing. (Ibid.).

Required Growing Conditions

Siberian elm is a fast-growing tree that was introduced to the United States in the 1860's. Native to northern China, eastern Siberia, Manchuria, and Korea. It is the hardest of all elms and does well even in areas with cold winters and long periods of summer droughts. Because this, elm tolerates a variety of conditions such as poor soils and low moisture, it is found in dry regions, along roadsides, in pastures and grasslands. For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Ulmus pumila is easily grown in any well-drained soil type but prefers well-drained fertile soil. This species prefers full sun and succeeds well in arid regions. The tree also grows in moist soils along streams. It invades dry and mesic prairies, including sand prairies, drought resistant and fairly wind tolerant.

Cultivation and Care

Propagation by Seed: Siberian elm seeds should be sown as soon as ripe in a cold frame. Excessive drying and dewinging should be avoided as they reduce viability (Dirr & Heuser 1987). Twelve to twenty seeds are sown per linear feet in drills ten inches apart and covered ¼ inch with firmed soil. The seedbeds should be kept moist, but not particularly shaded. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, place them into individual pots and grow them in the greenhouse for the first winter. Plant them into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer of the following year.


Considered a noxious weed in New Mexico.

General Upkeep and Control

Siberian elm has been planted in the Upper Midwest in shelterbelts and as a shade trees along boulevards and in parks (Rosendahl 1955). Some of the plantings have proved successful while others have not because the seeds were derived from climatically different areas of the species geographical range, which varies in the level of winter hardiness (Ibid.).

Siberian elm seeds with three to eight percent moisture can be stored at 36 to 40ºF in sealed containers for eight years (Dirr & Heuser 1987). Seedlings should not be allowed to grow in a nursery bed for more than two years because the plant will develop a taproot that make lifting harder and reduces outplanting survival rates.

Weediness Considered invasive by several sources. Consult the sources cited on the Invasive portion of the PLANTS Web site.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Introduced to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 70
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Green
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Spring
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -38
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.5–8 pH
Precipitation Range 16–16 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–800 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 24
Minimum Frost-Free Days 90 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA