Quaking Aspen in the Landscape

populus-tremuloides-aspen-fall-color-gleneagle-area-18oct2005-lah-018Stands of bright gold aspen shimmering in the sunlight are a spectacular sight, so it is no surprise that many people plant aspen in their home landscapes. Sadly, aspen is probably not the best choice for local gardens. The same qualities that make aspen perfectly suited for colonizing mountainsides denuded by fire, rock slides and avalanches create problems in more constrained spaces.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) are fast growing and relatively short-lived relatives of cottonwoods and poplars. Ranging from 40 – 65 feet tall, they have a smooth white trunk and bright green, heart-shaped leaves. Female trees produce 2-inch catkins that develop into tiny long, narrow cones. They spread aggressively by surface roots and suckers that pop up everywhere and crowd out other plants.

Plants offered for sale may be nursery-grown or collected from the wild. While they are best situated in full sun in moist, fertile loam with plenty of calcium, they tolerate poor soil and can withstand temporary drought. Stressed trees are particularly subject to a myriad of  pests and diseases. Fall clean-up of fallen leaves is critical to reduce the spread of fungal leaf spots.

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