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Siberian Elm As a Fast Growing Hedge

Hardy and fast growing, Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) is sometimes marketed as a quick hedge. There are advantages and disadvantages to every plant, but gardeners should think twice before planting Siberian elm.

Advantages

The two principal advantages of Siberian elm are hardiness and rapid growth. The species is cold-hardy to USDA hardiness zone 4, although several cultivars are hardier than that. Growth rate is extremely fast, more than 18 inches per year. The tree eventually reaches a height of 50 to 70 feet.

Disadvantages

Siberian elm has numerous disadvantages, including extreme susceptibility to insect, disease and herbicide damage. The wood is brittle, causing limbs to split from the tree during storms. The shallow roots lift and crack sidewalks and patios. Siberian elm suckers freely and is hard to eradicate from the landscape. The tree is considered an invasive pest in some parts of the country.

Alternatives

The University of Tennessee recommends planting Chinese or lacebark elm (U. parvifolia) in place of Siberian elm. Other fast-growing hedge trees to consider are Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis Leylandii) and Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana).

Grow A Siberian Elm

Pick a location with full sun exposure for your Siberian elm. Wet the roots and the soil before planting and gently fill the hole with soil once the tree is planted. Space Siberian elms at least 20 feet apart. This tree reaches a mature height of 50 to 75 feet and has a rounded growing habit that reaches approximately 25 feet in width. Planting saplings closer together will stunt their growth, which may be a desired practice for wind breaks. Siberian elms rarely need supplemental water after establishing strong roots due to high drought tolerance. Fertilization works best in the early spring before the first new growth appears. Prune weak or damaged branches each spring before the Siberian elm opens its leaf buds. Rain and wind that has no effect on other trees could cause the Siberian elm to lose dozens of branches due to the brittle nature of the tree's limbs.

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