How to Trim Lacebark Elm

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Things You'll Need

  • Pruning clippers

  • Pruning saw

Leaves of lacebark elm trees turn reddish in autumn.

Noted for its peeling, decorative bark, the lacebark elm tree (Ulmus parvifolia), also called Chinese elm, is a fast-growing shade tree suitable for urban sites. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 4 through 9, lacebark elm is resistent to Dutch Elm Disease, which decimated the American elm population in the 20th century. Prune Chinese elm in late summer. If pruned in late winter or early spring, elm trees exude a sticky sap.


Step 1

Remove any branches that are dead, diseased or broken. Cut them back just above the branch collar next to the branch from which they grow.

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Step 2

Prune low-hanging branches off of Chinese elm trees to facilitate people and cars passing beneath them.


Step 3

Remove any subordinate leaders in the canopy, leaving one strong, central leader that is a continuation of the trunk.

Step 4

Thin the scaffold branches so the remaining ones are evenly spaced around the central leader and measure 18 to 24 inches apart vertically.


Step 5

Head back the lateral branches by about one-third their length.

Step 6

Remove water spouts, which are vigorous, upright growths originating from the scaffold or lateral branches. Water spouts should be removed any time of the year they appear.


Step 7

Cut off suckers emerging from the base of the tree, making the cut at ground level. Remove these energy-sapping branches any time of the year you notice them.


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