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TREES & Plants

Elm cultivars

A number of elms are available that can resist the pathogen that causes the devastating Dutch elm disease. Since the disease first began mowing down American elms in the 1930s, scientists and breeders have been developing alternatives. Most of these trees are hybrids that cross various species of American, Asian and European elms. Some are selections of species that were observed to resist the disease. Not all these trees have the characteristic vase- or fountain-shaped arching branch structure of the beloved American elm, but some come close. Some also have resistance to other disease and pests that trouble elms. As time goes on, better cultivars are developed, but some of the older ones may still be on the market.

Botanical name: 
Ulmus
All Common Names: 
Elm
Family (English): 
Elm
Family (Botanic): 
Ulmaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Growth Rate: 
  • Fast
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Arching
  • Oval
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Shade
  • Parkway/street
Time of Year: 
  • Early summer
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
  • Mid fall
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Generally, elm cultivars prefer sun

Adapt easily to extremes in soil pH, moisture and heat and wind tolerance

Disease, pests, and problems

Older hybrids may be more susceptible to Dutch elm disease. Some may be susceptible to elm bark beetle, elm leaf beetles, elm yellows, elm leaf miner and verticillium wilt.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

All the cultivars listed here have been selected to be relatively resistant to Dutch elm disease, but they have varying resistance to other diseases and pests.

Native geographic location and habitat

Various crosses between American, European, and Asian elm species.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Oval, pointed leaves have tooth-within-tooth margins. Leaf is shorter on one side of center vein than on the other. Leaves turn golden brown in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous flowers in early spring

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Seed in small oval samara (seed case with wings for wind dispersal)

Cultivars and their differences
Accolade elm (Ulmus 'Morton')Accolade elm (Ulmus 'Morton')photo: John Hagstrom

Accolade® (Ulmus davidiana var. japonica 'Morton'):  An Asian hybrid that grows 40 to 60 feet high and 35 to 40 feet wide with an upright to vase-shaped form.  Good resistance to Dutch elm disease, elm yellows and elm leaf beetle. Glossy green leaves, yellow fall color. The Morton Arboretum introduced this cultivar through Chicagoland Grows. Useful as street, parkway, or shade tree.

Commendation™ (Ulmus ‘Morton Stalwart’):  A fast grower than can reach 60 feet high and 50 feet wide, upright but more oval than vase-shaped. Vigorous, robust, tough. Large leaves. Extremely tolerant of drought and cold. Resistant to Dutch elm disease but moderately susceptible to insect problems, notably elm leaf beetle, Japanese beetle and gypsy moth. Use along streets and in large yards. The Morton Arboretum introduced this cultivar through Chicagoland Grows.

Danada Charm (Ulmus ‘Morton Red Tip’): A tall, vase-shaped tree that grows to 60 to 70 feet high and 50 to 60 feet wide with long arching limbs. Fast grower. Very good Dutch elm disease resistance but suscpetible to elm leaf beetle. Very cold hardy. Emerging leaves are glossy red, turning dark green in summer and yellow in fall.  Use along streets and in large yards. The Morton Arboretum introduced this cultivar through Chicagoland Grows.

Emerald Sunshine® (Ulmus davidiana var. japonica 'JFS-Bieberich'): A small elm with a vase-shaped, spreading canopy, growing 35 feet high and 25 feet wide. Asian hybrid.   Resistant to Dutch elm dislease. Large, thick, deeply corrugated leaves emerge brone and turn glossy green; yellow fall color. Fast grower. Tolerates heat and drought.  Useful as street, parkway, utility, specimen or small shade tree.

Frontier (Ulmus ‘Frontier’):  An upright to pyramidal medium-sized tree that grows 25 to 40 feet high and 15 feet wide with a stiff, rounded crown. Fast grower. High tolerance to Dutch elm disease and elm yellows, moderate resistance to elm leaf beetle. Tolerates urban conditions, drought, poor soil and compaction. Gray bark with orange markings. Small leaves, reddish-purple fall color. US National Arboretum introduction. Use in smaller landscapes, along city streets and under power lines.

Homestead (Ulmus ‘Homestead’):  Fast grower that can reach 55 feet high and 35 feet wide with a symmetrical, pyramidal to oval crown and arching branches. Dark green foliage turns yellow in fall. USDA introduction. Excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease and elm yellows, but can be susceptible to elm leaf beetle. Best used as street tree.

New Horizon (Ulmus ‘New Horizon’) Grows up to 40 feet high and 25 feet wide, with slightly arching branches that give it a finer textured appearance than most elms. Large dark green leaves have a rusty-red tint in fall. Excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease, elm leaf miner and verticillium wilt. Useful as street, parkway, or shade tree.  

Patriot (Ulmus 'Patriot') Grows to at least 45 feet high and 25 feet wide with a vase shape. Resistant to Dutch elm disease, excellent resistant to elm leaf beetles, some resistance to elm yellows. Complex hybrid. Fast-growing, vigorous and easily established. Tolerant of urban conditions. Glossy green foliage, yellow fall color. US National Arboretum introduction. Useful as street, parkway, or  shade tree.

Pioneer (Ulmus 'Pioneer') Grows 50 to 60 feet high and 45 to 50 feet wide with a rounded canopy. European hybrid. Excellent resistance to Dutch elm disease but susceptible to elm leaf beetle. Large dark geen leaves, yellow fall color. Tolerant of urban conditions. Useful as street, parkway, or specimen shade tree.

Prospector (Ulmus davidiana var. japonica 'Prospector') Grows  to 50 feet tall and 25 feet wide with a vase-shaped crown. Selection of Asian species. High resistance to Dutch elm disease and elm leaf beetle. Fast grower; prune regularly to maintain vase shape. Need regular pruning to maintain vase form. Leaves emerge orange red and mature to green; good yellow fall color. US National Arboretum introduction. Useful as street, parkway, or shade tree; smaller than American elm.

Regal (Ulmus ‘Regal’) Grows to 50 to 60 feet high and 30 to 35 feet wide with an oval to pyramidal form and an open crown. Fast grower. Good Dutch elm disease resistance. A University of Wisconsin introduction. Use as a specimen or in groups for streets, parks, and large yards.

Triumph elm (Ulmus 'Morton Glossy')Triumph elm (Ulmus 'Morton Glossy')photo: John Hagstrom

Triumph™ (Ulmus ‘Morton Glossy’)  Grows to 50 to 60 feet high and 40 to 50 feet wide in an upright to oval form. Branches that begin to arch as tree matures. Resistant to Dutch elm disease and elm yellows; good resistance to elm leaf beetle. Easily transplanted, quick to establish and regain rapid growth. Adaptable to most soil types unless excessively wet. Large, lustrous, dark green foliage in summer; yellow fall color. Use for home and commercial landscapes or parks or as street tree.
 
Vanguard™  (Ulmus ‘Morton Plainsman’) Has waxy, lustrous leaves and a vigorous upright shape. A fast grower that can reach 50 feet high and 45 feet wide, it prefers sun and adapts easily to extremes in soil pH, moisture and heat and wind tolerance. Good resistance to Dutch elm disease and elm leaf beetle. Useful as a street tree, parkway, or shade tree.  The Morton Arboretum introduced this cultivar through Chicagoland Grows.