Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia)

If there is a deciduous tree that is very popular both in gardens and in the bonsai world, that is the Chinese elm. Fast growing, it is a plant that can provide a very pleasant shade, or that can look incredibly beautiful worked as a miniature tree.

From experience I also affirm that it is able to resist drought quite well; And that is not to mention that, thanks to its place of origin, the frosts do not harm it ; what’s more, you need them to know when to rest.

Origin and characteristics of the Chinese elm

Our protagonist is a deciduous or semi-evergreen tree depending on where it is grown, whose scientific name is Ulmus parvifolia, although the previous one it had is still accepted as a synonym: Zelkova parvifolia. It belongs to the genus Ulmus, and grows naturally in China, Japan, North Korea, and Vietnam. It can reach a height of 20 meters, with a wide canopy of 5-6m.

The leaves are small, 1cm long or a little longer, simple, oval, serrated and pointed at the end. The color is green, but if the conditions are right (that is, if you get a little thirsty in autumn and the temperatures gradually drop from the end of summer until the return of spring) they turn reddish during the autumn season before to fall.

It blooms in early spring. The flowers are small, hermaphroditic, green, white or reddish in color. The fruits are flattened and circular samaras, green at the beginning that ends up being dry brown later. It usually takes about 20 years to bear fruit for the first time.

How to care for Ulmus parvifolia ?

If you want to enjoy this magnificent tree in your garden, do not hesitate to provide it with the following care:


The Chinese elm must be kept outside, ideally in full sun. Being a plant that takes up a lot of space, and as it has strong roots, it has to be planted as far as possible (minimum 10 meters) from pipes, paved floors, etc.


Image – Wikimedia/ Bostonian13

It is not demanding. It grows even in poor soils, with that I tell you everything . Anyway, it is true that it will be much more beautiful if:

  • the garden soil has good drainage,
  • or if the substrate used to fill the pot is fertile, as for example it would be if 60% universal substrate (on sale here ) were mixed with 30% perlite (on sale here ) and 10% humus worm.


It will depend on where you have:

  • Garden: with about 2 weekly irrigations in summer and every 7-8 days the rest of the year you may have enough.
  • Pot: 3-4 times a week in summer, and the rest about 2 times a week.

This frequency of irrigation is indicative. In hot and dry climates you will need to water more often than in those that are colder and wetter. When in doubt, check the soil’s moisture with a moisture meter (sold here ) or a stick.


It is not very necessary, but it does not hurt either . Fertilize it from time to time with organic fertilizers, such as guano or compost, and you will be able to strengthen its immune system, something that in turn will serve to make it more resistant to pests and diseases.


It multiplies by seeds in winter and cuttings in spring. Let’s know how to proceed in each case:


First, the seeds have to be stratified in the refrigerator, in the section of dairy products, fruit, etc., for three months. This is done by sowing them in a tupperware – transparent plastic with a lid – filled with vermiculite previously moistened with water. Once a week you have to remove it to remove the lid, and thus get the air to renew.

After three months, they are planted in pots or seedling trays with seedbed substrate and left outside, in semi-shade. That way they will germinate in about two to three weeks.


To multiply Ulmus parvifolia by cuttings, you have to cut a semi-woody branch of about 40cm, impregnate its base with homemade rooting agents, and finally plant it in a pot with vermiculite for example.

Related article:The best homemade rooters for your cuttings


At the end of winter you have to remove dry, diseased, weak or broken branches. Also take the opportunity to give it the shape you want, removing some low branches from the trunk so that it acquires a tree-like appearance.


You can be attacked by:

  • Red spider ( see file )
  • Borers
  • Mealybugs ( see file )
  • White fly
  • Aphids


It is quite resistant, but if the conditions are not too good it can have rust, and less frequently graphiosis. In fact, Ulmus parvifolia is one of the elm species that is least affected by this last disease.

Planting or transplanting time

In spring, when the risk of frost has passed.


Resists up to -18ºC.

What uses is it given?

Image – Flickr/ cliff1066 ™

Chinese elm is used as an ornamental plant, either as a garden plant as a single specimen or in groups, or as a bonsai.

Did you like this plant?

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