Lacebark Elm Information – Care Of Chinese Lacebark Elm In Gardens

Lacebark Elm Information – Care Of Chinese Lacebark Elm In Gardens

Although lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia) is native to Asia, it was introduced to the United States in 1794. Read on for more helpful lacebark elm information.

Lacebark Elm Information

Also known as Chinese elm, lacebark elm is a medium size tree that typically reaches heights of 40 to 50 feet (12 to 15 m.). It is valued for its shiny, dark green foliage and rounded shape. The multiple colors and rich textures of lacebark elm bark (the focus of its name) are an added bonus.

Lacebark elm provides shelter, food, and nesting sites for a variety of birds, and the leaves attract a number of butterfly larvae.

Lacebark Elm Pros and Cons

If you’re thinking about planting lacebark elm, growing this versatile tree is easy in well-drained soil – although it tolerates nearly any type of soil, including clay. It is a good shade tree and withstands a certain amount of drought. It is happy in prairies, meadows, or home gardens.

Unlike Siberian elm, lacebark is not considered to be a trash tree. Unfortunately, the two are frequently confused in nurseries.

One strong selling point is that lacebark elm has proven to be more resistant to Dutch elm disease, a deadly disease that often befalls other types of elm trees. It is also resistant to elm leaf beetle and Japanese beetle, both common elm tree pests. Any disease problems, including cankers, rots, leaf spots, and wilt, tend to be relatively minor.

There aren’t a lot of negatives when it comes to lacebark elm tree growing. However, the branches sometimes break when exposed to strong winds or laden with heavy snow or ice.

Additionally, lacebark is considered to be invasive in some areas of the eastern and southwestern United States. It’s always a good idea to check with your local cooperative extension office before growing lacebark elm trees.

Care of Chinese Lacebark Elms

Once established, care of Chinese lacebark elms is uninvolved. However, careful training and staking when the tree is young will get your lacebark elm off to a good start.

Otherwise, water regularly during spring, summer, and early autumn. Although lacebark elm is relatively drought tolerant, regular irrigation means a healthier, more attractive tree.

Lacebark elms don’t require a lot of fertilizer, but a once or twice yearly application of a high-nitrogen fertilizer ensures the tree has proper nutrition if soil is poor or growth appears slow. Fertilize lacebark elm in early spring and again in late autumn, well before the soil freezes.

It’s critical to select a fertilizer that releases nitrogen into the soil slowly, as a quick release of nitrogen can cause weak growth and severe structural damage that invites pests and disease.

Chinese Elm Tree Also Known as the Lacebark Elm

The Chinese Elm tree is similar to the old American Elm tree and there are relatively new varieties available. The American Elm tree can be seen in Andrew Jackson Downing's old photos of the American landscape. estates to be more specific. They were just beautiful with there vase shape forms, slightly weeping. Unfortuntately, they succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease and were not used for many years.

However, much research has been done and many new and disease resistant cultivars have been created. There are various types of Elms:

  • American Elm
  • Chinese Elm (Also known as Lacebark Elm)
  • Asian Elms
  • Hybrid Elms

Elm Tree Features

Without getting too technical, the main thing to know is the difference between the American Elm Tree and the Chinese Elm Tree. The Chinese (Lacebark Elm) tree is smaller than the American Elm tree. Smaller of course is relative because in my opinion it still gets quite large.

Many Lace Bark Elms get around 50 feet high and 35 feet wide. Also, many have beautiful exfoliating bark in various earthy colors. a wonderful feature, especially in the winter.

There are many new types of both the American Elm tree and Chinese Elm tree available now. However, not only do you want the tree to be disease resistant, you also want it to be resistant to Elm leaf beetles and Japanese beetles.

When I lived in Virginia, I had an Elm tree in my front yard. I rented there so did not know the history of the tree. Actually it took me awhile to figure out that it was an Elm.

However, it was not a great variety as it had all types of problems. Each summer it got Japanese beetles which exfoliated the entire tree. It also got cankers. the poor thing really had its problems but I still loved its beauty. The shape and elegance could not be compared to any other tree around.

Where to plant an Elm tree? I think the best place is out in the open lawn as a beautiful focal point. It will get more beautiful each year as it matures.

If you are interested in adding one of those old fashioned type Elm trees to your property, either the American or Chinese types, consider purchasing one of the newer disease resistant varieties that also are known to not have any of the other problems.

For more helpful information (and some great photos) on trees, take a look at my ebook Trees For Landscaping

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  • 1 Description
  • 2 Wood and timber
  • 3 Taxonomy
  • 4 Pests and diseases
  • 5 Cultivation
    • 5.1 Bonsai
  • 6 Cultivars
    • 6.1 Hybrid cultivars
  • 7 Accessions
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

A small to medium deciduous, semi-deciduous (rarely semi-evergreen) tree growing to 10–18 m (33–59 ft) tall and 15–20 m (49–66 ft) wide with a slender trunk and crown. The leathery, lustrous green single-toothed leaves are small, 2–5 cm long by 1–3 cm broad, and often retained as late as December or even January in Europe and North America. The apetalous wind-pollinated perfect flowers are produced in early autumn, small and inconspicuous. The fruit is a samara, elliptic to ovate-elliptic, 10–13 mm long by 6–8 mm broad. [2] The samara is mostly glabrous, the seed at the centre or toward the apex, borne on a stalk 1–3 mm in length it matures rapidly and disperses by late autumn. The trunk has a handsome, flaking bark of mottled greys with tans and reds, giving rise to its other common name, the lacebark elm, although scarring from major branch loss can lead to large canker-like wounds. Ploidy: 2n = 28. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Young U. parvifolia in new leaf, May

U. parvifolia juvenile

Many nurserymen and foresters mistakenly refer to Ulmus pumila, the rapidly growing, disease-ridden, relatively short-lived, weak-wooded Siberian elm, as "Chinese elm." This has given the true Chinese elm an undeserved bad reputation. The two elms are very distinct and different species. Among other obvious differences, with age the Siberian elm's bark becomes deeply ridged and furrowed, and possesses a very rough, greyish-black appearance, while the Chinese elm's smooth bark becomes flaky and blotchy, exposing very distinctive, light-coloured mottling, hence the synonym lacebark elm for the real Chinese elm. [10]

Elms, hickory and ash all have remarkably hard, tough wood that has made them popular for things like tool handles, bows and baseball bats. Chinese elm is considered the hardest of the elms. Owing to its superior hardness, toughness and resistance to splitting, Chinese elm is said to be the best of all woods for chisel handles and similar uses. Chinese elm lumber is used most for furniture, cabinets, veneer and hardwood flooring, as well as specialty uses such as long bow construction and tool handles. Most of the commercially milled lumber goes directly to manufacturers rather than to retail lumber outlets. [ citation needed ]

Chinese elm heartwood ranges in tone from reddish brown to light tan or flesh coloured, while the sapwood approaches off-white. The grain is often handsome and dramatic. Unlike other elms, freshly cut Chinese elm has a peppery or spicy odour. While it turns easily and will take a nice polish off the lathe without any finish, and it holds detail well, the fibrous wood is usually considered too tough for carving or hand tools. Chinese elm contains silica which is hard on planer knives and chainsaws, but it sands fairly easily. Like other woods with interlocking grain, planes should be kept extra sharp to prevent tearing at the grain margins. It steam-bends easily, holds screws well but pilot holes and countersinking are needed. It tends to be a "lively" wood, tending to warp and distort while drying. This water resistant wood easily takes most finishes and stains. [ citation needed ]

Subspecies, varieties, and forms:

The Chinese elm is highly resistant, but not immune, to Dutch elm disease. It is also very resistant to the elm leaf beetle Xanthogaleruca luteola, but has a moderate susceptibility to elm yellows. [11] In trials at the Sunshine Nursery, Oklahoma, the species was adjudged as having the best pest resistance of about 200 taxa [12] However, foliage was regarded as only "somewhat resistant" to black spot by the Plant Diagnostic Clinic of the University of Missouri. [13]

Cottony cushion scale or mealy bugs, often protected and "herded" by ants, exude sticky, sweet honeydew which can mildew leaves and be a minor annoyance by dripping on cars and furniture. However, severe infestations on, or obvious damage to, otherwise healthy trees are uncommon. [ citation needed ]

The Chinese elm is a tough landscape tree, hardy enough for use in harsh planting situations such as parking lots, in small planters along streets and in plazas or patios. The tree is arguably the most ubiquitous of the elms, now found on all continents except Antarctica. It was introduced to Europe at the end of the 18th century as an ornamental, and is found in many botanical gardens and arboreta. It was introduced to the United States in 1794, [14] and has proved very popular in recent years as a replacement for American elms killed by Dutch elm disease. The tree was distributed in Victoria, Australia, from 1857. [15] At the beginning of the 20th century it was marketed by Searl's Garden Emporium, Sydney. [ citation needed ] In New Zealand, it was found to be particularly suitable for windswept locations along the coast. The tree is commonly planted as an ornamental in Japan, [16] notably around Osaka Castle.

Ulmus parvifolia is one of the cold-hardiest of the Chinese species. In artificial freezing tests at the Morton Arboretum. [17] the LT50 (temp. at which 50% of tissues die) was found to be −34 °C (−29 °F).

Ulmus parvifolia, State Nursery, Campbelltown, New South Wales (c.1908)

Lacebark Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)


Lacebark Elm’s narrow habit and tight canopy of leaves make it an exceptionally good choice for urban settings where space might be an issue. The tree gets its common name, “Lacebark”, from its lovely exfoliating bark, that also provides an element of interest year-round. Produces beautiful autumn color in shades of green to yellow. Super easy to grow and tolerant of most soil types

Provides instant shade and structure to the landscape. Best for large scale landscapes.

Plant Feed

Apply a balanced fertilizer before new growth appears in spring.


Water regularly until established.

Basic Care Summary

When planting, keep the base of the trunk exposed. Best in organic-rich, well-drained soil. Water regularly until established. Prune when dormant, in late autumn or winter.

Planting Instructions

Plant in spring or early fall to give plants the best start.

Choose a location that will allow roots to spread and branches to grow freely. Space plants far enough from building foundations, walls, and decks so that the growing foliage won't crowd the structure. Consider whether tall trees or shrubs will block windows or interfere with the roof or power lines.

To prepare the planting area dig a hole as deep as the root ball and three times as wide. After removing the soil, mix it with some compost or peat moss. This enriches the soil and loosens the existing dirt so that new roots can spread easily.

To remove the plant from the container, gently brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot. The container can also be removed by carefully cutting it down the side.

Set the plant in the hole. If the root ball is wrapped in burlap fabric this must now be removed along with any string or wire securing the burlap. If roots are tightly packed gently rake them apart with your fingers.

Return the soil to the planting area packing it firmly around the root ball. Fill the hole until the soil line is just at the base of the plant, where the roots begin to flare out from the main stem.

Water the plant well then add a 2” (5cm) layer of mulch, such as shredded bark, around the planting area. Keep the mulch at least 4” (10cm) away from the trunk of the plant as this can keep the bark too moist and cause it to decay.

Watering Instructions

Depending on rainfall, new plants need to be watered weekly through the first growing season. A slow, one-hour trickle of water should do the job. During hot spells thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.

To check for soil moisture use your finger or a hand trowel to dig a small hole and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.

Monitor new plants through the first two years to make sure they are getting the moisture they need. After that they should be sturdy enough to survive on their own.

Fertilizing Instructions

Established trees should be fertilized every 2-3 years. Feed in early spring when plants start growing.

Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product designed for trees and shrubs, or go with a nutritionally balanced, general-purpose formula such as 10-10-10.

Always follow the fertilizer package directions for application rates and scheduling. Over-fertilizing plants or applying at the wrong time during the growing season can result in plant injury.

Pruning Instructions

Pruning may be needed to remove dead branches, encourage bushier growth, promote more flowers, or maintain a specific size or shape.

Dead branches should be removed close to the trunk, flush with the bark. When pruning to control a plant's size or shape, cuts should be made just above a leaf bud and at a slight angle. This bud will be where the new growth sprouts.

Many shrubs can be regularly sheared to keep them shaped as a hedge, edging or formal foundation planting.

Always use sharp, clean tools when pruning. There are many tools available depending on the job. Hand shears, pruners, and loppers are ideal for most shrubs. Pole pruners and tree saws are better for large, mature shrubs or trees. If a tree is so large that it can't be safely pruned with a pole pruner, it is best to call in a professional tree service.

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