Why plant Audubon® Native American Elm Treeling?
Bring back the majestic American Elm! This iconic shade tree was hit hard by Dutch Elm disease, but it was not knocked out. Survivors remain, and you can grow a seedling yourself and be a part of the effort to restore this species to greatness. Birders will be especially motivated to take part when they learn how beneficial this tree is to birds! Finches, chickadees, sparrows, and grosbeaks relish the seeds, and songbirds of all sorts rely on the caterpillar-protein its foliage supports. In fact, American Elm feeds up to 171 different species of moth and butterfly caterpillars, making it a top stop for birds!
Grand old American Elms once lined our streets, their lofty, arching canopies meeting overhead and casting cooling shade below. In the 1930s, an accidentally imported disease began killing these gentle giants. By the 1950s and ’60s, millions of trees had died. But not all! Contrary to what many people believe, some American Elms were able to survive. The two largest survivors live in Baltimore, Maryland, and Chesapeake, Virginia. The Maryland tree is 112 feet tall and 84 feet wide; the Virginia specimen is 110 feet by 116 feet. Both have trunks that are more than six feet in diameter.
How to use Audubon® Native American Elm Treeling in the landscape?
If they don’t become bird food, the caterpillars that feed on your American Elm Tree may become beautiful butterflies to grace your garden. Look for red spotted purples, mourning cloaks, question marks, and commas. Many of the moths this tree hosts are interesting and lovely, too, such as the elm sphinx, the large lace border, the crocus geometer, the io, and the cecropia moth. Those cute, fuzzy, banded woolly bear caterpillars also feed on Elm.
Hardiness Zone: 4-8
How To Plant Audubon® Native American Elm Treeling
Give American Elm a position in full sun in deep, fertile, well-drained soil. Water regularly and mulch with wood chips or bark to keep the rootzone cool and moist. This is not a fussy tree, and it will grow in less-than-ideal conditions, but because of the continued threat of Dutch Elm disease, it should not be subjected to any unnecessary stresses. Your tree may be resistant to the disease, but it may not be immune. In good conditions, American Elm is a fast-growing tree, and it will get right to work creating choice bird habitat and cooling shade.
How To Water
Water twice weekly for the first 3-5 weeks; then water weekly for the remainder of the year until winter. When you water, water very slowly and very thoroughly. The water needs to reach to the bottom of the root ball and that takes time. Watering needs may be altered due to extreme weather conditions.
How To Fertilize
Incorporate Elements Starter Plant Food granular form into the soil when planting. If planting in spring or summer, start fertilizing late fall using Elements Starter Plant Food granular form on an annual basis each fall. Continue this for the first three years to get your plant well established as it gives your tree the nutrients it needs to produce lush new growth for the following spring.
How To Prune
A young tree may need a little extra support to ensure that it lives a long and healthy life. Stake your new Treeling with a 6-8 foot tall wood or bamboo stake. Use expandable ties that will stretch as the tree grows, fastening the stake to the main trunk from the base to the top. Check the ties every few months, at least twice a year; ensuring the ties are not digging into the trunk. If there is any sign of this, take the tie off and reattach it, giving the tree more room to grow.
As your tree grows, remove a few of the lower branches each year in mid to late summer. Remove these lower branches before they reach 1/2 inch in diameter. It is better to make small cuts to avoid cutting a large, more mature branch - this is too stressful for the tree. Each year, make any corrective pruning needed, paying particular attention to removing damaged branches, rubbing branches, multiple leaders at the top, or suckers at the base. Limit any pruning to no more than 25% of the branching structure in a given year. Pruning benefits the tree and helps to achieve a balanced tree form.
After two or three years you can feel free to remove the stake from the tree.