If in the past Dutch Elm Disease has troubled your elm trees, this impressive and durable tree might be just what you’re looking for. The Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata) comes from the elm family and has many of the same features as the America Elm. Additionally, you will rarely find a case of Dutch Elm Disease with your Zelkova tree.
While the America Elm has a unique splendor that can seldom be matched, the Japanese Zelkova will provide you with a large and hardy shade tree with an appealing symmetrical vase shape, a subtle peeling bark, and beautiful fall foliage, without the risk of Dutch Elm Disease. The Green Vase and Village Green cultivars most resemble the America Elm’s shape.
The Zelkova will reach heights up to 100 feet, with an average height between 55 to 80 feet. It will spread out to about 75 feet. Another notable feature of the Zelkova is its large trunk, which can grow up to four feet in diameter. If you’re familiar with the American Elm, you’ll notice that one of the main differences between these two trees is that the Zelkova generally has smaller branches and more of them than its cousin.
The Zelkova grows well in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 8, and prefers to be in full sun. You don’t need to worry too much about the soil where you plant your tree, but the tree will do best if you’ve got a moist deep loam. This is not a fast growing tree, so you’ll need a little patience for it to achieve its full height. Once the tree is established, it will be resistant to drought, but until then it will need regular watering. During the time that you’re tree is growing you’ll also need to keep it regularly pruned for it to become a strong tree. Your tree will be moderately susceptible to breakage if not pruned corrected.
This brings us to an issue with the Zelkova that you should observe before you buy one for your landscaping. Many nurseries unfortunately do not have the proper training to give a young Zelkova the proper shape, leaving many branches clustered together on the trunk. Make an effort to look for a young tree with the branches spaced evenly along the trunk and make sure that the branches are considerably smaller in diameter than the trunk. Multiple trunks are common on this tree so make sure you avoid this problem before you buy and plant your tree. If you can’t initially find a tree with a single trunk and nicely spaced branches, you may want to check a couple other nurseries. After all, this is a lifetime investment!
While your Zelkova will be resistant to Dutch Elm Disease http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/trees/pp324w.htm, you’ll still want to look out for Elm leaf beetle and canker diseases. These problems aren’t as serious as Dutch Elm Disease, and you can avoid canker diseases by making sure your tree isn’t repeatedly wounded.
Enjoy your Zelkova and we hope you won’t be seeing Dutch Elm Disease again for a very long time!