Siberian Elm Bonsai Use

I am curious if anyone has used Siberian Elm for bonsai and your experiences. I’m hoping for better info than I’ve found around the internet because of the knowledge I assume we mostly have from Ryan. I’m thinking that these would definitely fit into “aggressively growing” deciduous trees. I know people say they randomly drop branches, which I see in the landscape around where I live, but I’m curious if there is some horticultural reason for this that we can manipulate as a bonsai to avoid this. If so I have a LOT of digging to do since these are about ever 10 feet in my town and people abhor them.

Some info I was able to find:

It hybridizes with native elms, which can lead to the potential for why European siberian elms are used more in bonsai? Maybe, maybe not.

This about water use may be interesting:

U. pumila can exist in extremely dry sites, through various adaptive techniques. They
prefer contact with the water table as indicated by their natural occupation of seasonal stream
beds. They will not tolerate standing water however (Dulamsuren 2009, 23). The water
seeking root systems grow to seek pockets of water in the soil substrate as well as widen out to
take advantage of the rain that may fall. “The shallow and wide distribution of tree roots
facilitated the utilization of shallow water when ground water was not available. This
belowground biomass allocation strategy is common and critical for plants distributing in the
semi-arid environments to collect water through vast root systems” (Li Gang 2011, 222).
These trees are evolved to withstand insecure water supplies. They do not regulate
their transpiration in response to drought stress as some desert plants, but rather continue full
transpiration to evaporatively cool the high leaf temperatures during the day. U. pumila
instead employs the technique of altering the osmotic potential in the roots to raise the water
uptake to counter the continuing water loss. (Dulamsuren 2008, 23). This immediate
physiological adaptation to drought stress is aided by continued growth incorporating structural
improvements to improve water use efficiency and further drought resistance. Small xylem
vessels are developed to resist cavitation of the vascular system in the transport of water to the
Sibirische Ulme (Wikipedia)
leaves (Dulamsuren 2008, 23). Drought damage occurs only under severe conditions. In a study
near the Aral Sea, “U. pumila exhibited reduced water use in response to the termination of
irrigation water supply. As its stem and canopy growth continued, the enhanced water use
efficiency of U.pumila may be an adaptation to the


U. pumila grows very quickly into forms structurally unsound for its size. It develops low
branch attachment angles that are structurally weak and prone to breakage in storms. It’s
habit of shutting down portions of its crown in response to drought stress causes large amounts
of dead material.

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I had one that died on me and I am not sure why, but it is supposed to be quite hardy and I’ve seen Ulmus pumila as bonsai in the past.

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They make great bonsai. They are very vigerous. I can trim them more than five times in the growing season if you trim back to 2 once you get a shoot with more than 5 leaves. If you want a branch to thicken then let it run, these can get long and messy but in the fall it will look great when you trim to clean up. You need to repot every couple of years to keep the vigor.

Regarding the tendency to drop branches: these elms tend to want to put out shoots from the base of existing branches. If you let these shoots grow the tree will many times divert energy to these small shoots and drop the main branch that they are growing from the base of, and/or existing older branches higher up on the tree. So be sure to get rid of those shoots as they start to grow to prevent branch die-back elsewhere on the tree.

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So this definitely falls under the “Don’t let it get too vigorous otherwise you’ll have dieback” types of deciduous species that Ryan keeps talking about.

@Robin @Roger_Snipes How long have you both worked with Siberian Elms? I’ve read that they don’t seem to do the “branch dropping” damage for around 5 to 6 years after you’ve been refining the trees. Just curious if you’ve run into the problem and been able to avoid it with different technique, or if you’re doing techniques that others have had success with.

Fantastic information though, thanks a TON!

I don’t currently have any Siberian elms, I’ve passed the ones I had along to others. However a few people in our club have them and have been working on them for many years. You shouldn’t have any branch dropping problems as long as you don’t let unwanted low shoots or shoots from the base of existing branches grow.

This is my siberian elm, a year after buying it, then a year later in 2016, and now. Due to go in its first nice pot this spring.

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Awesome to know, thanks for the clarification.

Beautiful. Fantastic transformation. I love the angle change and branching choices.

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The best thing about the siberian elm is the ability to produce tiny twigs, which really give a sense of scale. I baught this material because it had great bark and some interesting movement at the base, the top was rubbish, and that was three years before listerning to ryan talk about the base as the most important part. I am trying to fattern up the defining branch now, having pulled something out of the apex area. I have addressed some of the bad parts of the nebari, and will go further in the spring when I repot it, I will post another pic after spring.
It was apparently in the ground for 8 years and left to just grow before I got it.