Drake Elm tree growth rate

mk87October 17, 2007

Hi all...new to GardenWeb. I just (ie: 15 minutes ago, actually) got what I think is a great deal on three, 5-gallon Drake Elm trees. I have plans to place them in a large swale of St. Augustine, to eventually give some shade to that grass. It needs it. Also, I have heard that the Drake is drought tolerant, once established (trying to be a responsible GA gardener...too late for the St. Augustine, but I PROMISE I water only once a week and not even that, if we get even the LEAST little bit of rain...I will let it go brown and dormant before I violate the water restrictions and I MEAN IT!!!). Mainly, I understand they are fast-growers, but I would like to know about HOW fast? I have one Autumn Blaze maple (I splurged for the 30-gallon) in the middle, front of my landscape, and Natchez crape myrtles by the street. I had planned to put the Drake Elms in the middle "layer," if you will. But, of course, they will be a little puny looking to begin with. How quickly will they grow?

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Hello and welcome. You might find more information on the web if you search by the latin name, Ulmus parvifolia or even Chinese Elm.

I don't have one myself so no personal experience to offer. The only thing I found in searching that might be relevant is that it grows fast upward at first and then slows in height and fills out in width.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 6:32PM
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I googled Chinese elm and saw that it was listed as an invasive species in neighboring states and that someone in another forum who lives in marietta or cherrokee has a thicket of chinese elm chocking out some of the fast growing natives such as green ash, tulip poplar and sycamore.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 9:19PM
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Thanks esh and qq...

I drove around town yesterday seeking different sizes of Drakes to get a better idea. esh, you are right...they do seem to have a sort of "lollipop" look for awhile, as they get tall quickly. That's ok with me, so I'm relieved on that point. Someone in the LA/MS forum (I'm from MS and my hubby is from LA...hence our desire for the St. Augustine) told me that one they had grew 15 feet in 5 years.

qq -- This concerns me a little, but the weird thing is, when you go to sites like UGA Co-op, it's listed as a recommended tree. I guess maybe every plant is invasive in one place or another? I hope I am not doing the wrong thing though. I'm down to a list of about 5 trees that would work in the space and only 1-2 of them are available. Chinese Pistache was originally my first choice, but you just can't buy them around here. I'm a relatively new (just in the last 5 years or so) gardener and it drives me about nuts to look in all of the gardening magazines and see all these great looking new plants and trees...and then not be able to get them locally.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 7:20AM
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Chinese pistache is another weed. And yes, you'll have those agricultural extentions commonly recommending stuff that is on the GA- exotic pest plant council's list of invasives. PArticularly when it comes to turfgrass which is very annoying.

Chinese elms really do grow fast. The subdivision next to here is about 10 years old and it has chinese elms that are about 20 feet high. And there is no denying that they are nice looking trees. Fine texture, high quality foliage, drought and heat tolerant and decent fall color. The growth rate seals the deal. But I assure you there are many nice native alternatives. In fact if you want a real fast growing tree, there is a movement to bring back the American Elm and there is the disease resistent Princeton Elm being sold at many Home Depots. It's more of a vase than a lollipop shape and has bigger leaves. This would less direct shade to the grass and would allow some sun to get under there which your grass really does need.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 8:44AM
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Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a great fast growing native tree if you want some alternatives.

If you want specific trees, now is a great time to ask nurseries to special order them (not Home Depot, not sure even about Pikes, but REAL nurseries). I'm sure they'd fall all over you for the business at this point.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 8:52AM
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Again...great information...thanks!

I did see some info online (while I was researching Drake) that referred to some projects in the works to bring back the American Elm. Definitely something to think about. OK, and I know this is probably stupid, but...(forgive the newbie-ness) most experienced gardeners probably feel pretty comfortable ordering trees/plants. But, being on a limited budget, I have been more comfortable with buying trees/plants during their growing season and standing right in front of me at the nurseries. Kind of scary to spend a lot of money having a nursery order trees and then they come in and look bad. I've had SO many nurseries (even Mom and Pops) to say, "Oh yeah, we've got BEAUTIFUL_________ (fill in the blank)!" And, then you get there all excited and the horrible things are dead, or scorched or covered with yellow spots or whathaveyou. I know that's probably just the way OF it though and I should probably just suck it up.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 9:27AM
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WOW...I just took a look at the GA Exotic Pest Plant Web site...is THAT ever an eyeopener! Good grief! It's like a list of every plant you're told TO plant in your landscape by supposed landscape designers...barberry, lantana (I'm a culprit), chinese holly (mea culpa), japanese holly (oops...me again), periwinkle, liriope...

This is AWFUL! Why don't the UGA folks ever update their list of plants that are recommended?? I'm literally shocked.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 9:40AM
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I have 4 young Drake Elm's. Two planted in 2006, one in 2007 and one this year. A 2006 planting is close to a sycamore and both are doing great. I was attempting to get quick shade for my driveway and it worked! When the Drake Elm provides enough shade I will get rid of the sycamore.In north Florida the Drakes hold on to their leaves while the sycamores are the last to get leaves and the first to shed them.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 12:09PM
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Although some classify the Drake Elm to be a fast grower, from my experience I have noticed it to be medium to medium fast. As far as it being invasive, I would have to disagree. The City of Dothan, AL has several planted as street trees. They are established and spread much less than Maples or Oaks. Often confused with the Chinese Elm is the Siberian Elm that is a fast growing, undesirable "weed-tree"

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 8:32AM
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