Elm Trees - how big?

Andy P
May 12, 2019

Location: Calgary, Alberta (USDA Zone 3)

I have a 40x50ft front garden that we removed a Birch from a couple of years ago (old age) and want to replace it with an Elm.

It would either be an America Elm or Brandon Elm as they are the two varieties available here.

My question is, how big will they eventually get in my location? Depending on the website the American Elm varies from 60-100ft high and 35-50ft wide, with the Brandon Elm varying from 45-60ft by 25-40ft wide. That’s a pretty big variation! I’m going to take a stab and suggest that due to the short growing season (<100 days frost to frost) I’m going to be looking at the low end of the scale there, with the American elm probably reaching around 60ft by around 40ft rather than getting to the enormous 100ft by 50ft that may be possible in warmer climes?

Does anyone in Zone 3 have any input on the size these can grow?


Comments (8)

  • wayne

    You are very close size wise, after many years of course. I don't remember how many Elms Calgary has but if you took a drive in some of the older areas similar to your area that would give you the best idea.

  • Embothrium

    American elm is Dutch Elm Disease susceptible and has long since been eliminated by this imported problem from extensive sections of North America where it used to be a major feature of the landscape.

    Otherwise even if you plant a hybrid elm known to be DED resistant most elms become large trees. Making these a poor choice for your situation, unless you intend for pretty much the whole garden to end up being beneath a shade tree in time.

  • Smivies (Ontario - 5b)

    The elms in Edmonton aren’t big trees relative to what we have in Ontario...50’-60’x40‘-50’ sounds like a reasonable top end for you.

    There are still numerous elms in southern Ontario....the fast growing mono-culture stands that get to 30 years before all expiring at once and a large number of big trees growing in open situations (in or between fields usually). Urban foresters are also planting the DED resistant American Elm selections now (no mono-cultures though).

    Andy P thanked Smivies (Ontario - 5b)
  • bengz6westmd

    A surprising number of Amer elms grow in my brother's forested lot in PA, but some show decline from DED.

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

    i dont understand the affection peeps have for elm ..... well.. i do.. but i dont ....

    these trees seemed tied into old memories of the street grandma lived on ... or where you grew up ... nothing wrong with all that ...

    but i dont get wanting to replant the memories .... by planting a tree that will probably die due to the disease ...

    these tree are resistant ... sooner or later.. they may not resist ....

    but the key is ... by that time.. you will have a decade or two into it.. and will probably have to pay a lot of money to remove it ....

    when you can avoid it all by planting anything but an elm ... [like planting an ash.. at least you avoid DED ... lol]

    if it were me ... i would plant just about anything other than an elm.. or an ash ... and i would go with a small tree ... on your size lot ... i would plant nothing that will overhang the house ... especially on a tree with a death wish ...


  • Andy P

    Thanks for the comments.

    I am well aware of DED, along with Elm scale - which is a bigger problem in Alberta/Calgary than DED, but is treatable - (Alberta is currently free of DED and still has all its Elms). Living where I do there aren’t too many shade trees that survive/thrive, so the selection is limited.

    I‘m looking for a large shade tree with a high canopy, which is why the Elm seems like a good option.

    Green Ash is another option, but that has problems with Emerald Borer.

    Replacing with another Birch is also a possibility, but every other house has one as it was one of two options when the community was built 60 years ago (the other being Norway Spruce) I’m also not keen on that as it’s a dry south facing aspect; we have several birch and Aspen in our back garden and Bronze Birch Borer is becoming increasingly common in the neighbourhood.

    There are other options like the Mayday tree, one of which we also have in our back garden, but it’s too messy for my liking. There’s also Poplars, which line the street next to ours. They have very fragile branches, and while the tree won’t overhang our house (plant spot is 30ft from it), I’m conscious of that.

    All are in the 50-60x30 foot range that i’m interested in, which is why I’m debating between the American and the Brandon cultivar of the Elm, depending on how big they grow.

    I’m happy to take suggestions for other trees that may be an option.

  • Embothrium

    I wouldn't count on an open-grown elm that was 60' tall having a spread only half its height. Unless it was a specifically narrow growing selection, with a conical habit.

  • davidpeaceriver__2b

    There's nothing wrong with choosing an American Elm if you have the space. I haven't seen any truly massive specimens growing anywhere in Alberta, but they still get pretty large in protected areas. They reach about 40-50' here -- less than half the size of trees that (still) grow in Southern Ontario.

    You do have lots of other options, though. Hackberry never seems to be planted and while it does, yes, suffer from winter dieback, it's an interesting tree with edible fruit. I have one planted here in Peace River.

    American Linden / tilia x is a fine choice that's also really underplanted across Alberta. Mature trees top out here at about 50', and they have a bonus of incredibly fragrant flowers in June.

    You can try a Butternut -- I had one in Calgary -- but it's a slow grower and it's now really hard to find healthy stock.

    I'd avoid planting any ash trees aside from perhaps blue ash, which is impossible to find anyway. Green ash is native to southern Alberta, so you know that the Ash borer is going to make its way here.

Need help with an existing Houzz order? Call 1-800-368-4268 (Mon-Sun).