Family: Ulmaceae

This genus of five or six species of fine, decidu­ous trees or shrubs occurs naturally from the Mediterranean to the Caucasus and eastern Asia. Similar to elms, to which they are related, they are grown in gardens for their graceful, spreading shape and beautiful autumn colour. They are also cultivated for their timber in China and Japan. Zelkovas have smooth bark, coarsely serrated leaves and insignificant, but fragrant, flowers. Male and female flowers are borne sep­arately on the same tree.


Z. carpinifolia is a slow-growing though long-lived tree, 20-30 m (65-100 ft) tall when mature. It has a dense, rounded crown and slender, upright branches.

Z. serrata, Japanese zelkova, is an elegant, spreading tree, growing to about 30 m (100 ft) in its habitat, but generally 10-15 m (33-50 ft) in cultivation. The smooth bark is dappled gray and brown.

Z. sinica, from China, grows to 18 m (60 ft). The leaves are pink and hairy when young, and the bark peels to reveal rust-coloured patches.


Zelkovas grow best when planted in a deep, fairly rich soil which is well drained, yet able to retain sufficient moisture. They will be equally happy in a sunny or partially shady position. In cold climates, try to plant in a shel­tered position. Propagate from seed sown out-side in autumn, or from semi-ripe cuttings in summer, rooted with bottom heat.


Zone 5; zone 6 for Z. sinica.