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How to Care for a Japanese Elm Tree

By April Sanders ; Updated September 21, 2017

The Japanese elm tree actually encompasses several different types of native Japanese elms, all of which are stronger than American elms. In addition, the trees are quite beautiful, with smooth, gray bark and an attractive, umbrella-shaped canopy. For these reasons, Japanese elm trees are becoming more and more popular with American gardeners, who are replacing their disease-prone elms with these hardier trees. Care instructions for Japanese elm trees are the same regardless of the specific variety.

Plant your Japanese elm tree in a sunny location, with well-draining, loamy soil that has a pH level of between 5.5 to 8.0. The tree can withstand cold temperatures and is hardy to USDA Zone 2. While the Japanese elm can grow in hard, clay soil, the growth will be a lot slower than if it is provided with rich, loose soil.

Water your Japanese elm tree at the edge of the canopy and not the base of the trunk. Like all elms, the root hairs of the Japanese elm, which absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil, are found at the very tips of the roots. These roots usually reach the edge of the tree's canopy. Place a drip hose in this area and give the tree a long, slow watering during periods of extended drought.

Remove all weeds found under the tree's canopy, and keep the area weed-free. These weeds will compete with the tree for nutrients and water found in the soil.

Prune away any dead or diseased branches each fall. In the spring, look for signs of pest infestation or fungal diseases, such as holes or spots on the leaves, and treat with a fungicide or pesticide.


Things You Will Need

  • Drip hose
  • Pruning shears


  • Fertilize Japanese elm trees carefully, if you fertilize them at all. They should not be fertilized during the first year after planting and only once a year thereafter. Use a fertilizer formulated for elm trees. Fertilizers high in nitrogen content can weaken the wood.