Great Design Plant: Quaking Aspen for 3-Season Beauty — on Its Own Turf

If you have seen groves of quaking aspen from the wild in full fall glory, your likely query is,”Can I grow them at home?” The quick answer is yes, if you live where the trees grow naturally. If not, developing an aspen in a house garden is nearly as difficult as raising a rainbow trout at a goldfish bowl. To be honest, I have observed aspens successfully planted a couple of miles from San Francisco Bay, but took commitment and perfectly re-created ailments. I haven’t seen a rainbow trout happy in a goldfish bowl.

In the right landscape scenario, quaking aspens are fast-growing trees, amazing even if they’re not sporting fall color — with dark green foliage in summer and white trunks against the snow in winter.

Quaking aspen grows wild all over the northern U.S., as far north as Alaska and south into the mountain areas of California and the Southwest and Rocky Mountain states. The tree is deciduous, a species of poplar, which as a group tends to be quickly growing and occasionally weedy. The aspen’s roundish leaves, deep green in summer and gold in autumn, inspire the frequent title: They quiver and quake at the slightest wind.

Common title: Quaking aspen
Botanical name: Populus tremuloides
Where it will grow: USDA zones 1 to 6 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Full sun (light shade is OK)
Mature size: 20 to 40 or 50 feet tall and 15 to 30 feet wide

Distinguishing attributes. The trees are slim, with greenish white to creamy tan trunks while young, turning white with black scars as they age. In the wild, aspens grow in clusters or huge groves, often by the acre. They spread underground by roots, and so all trees in a grove are all related, considered as clones with similar traits, which explains why a grove changes colour in fall all at one time.

Growing tips. Aspens generally thrive where winters are cold and summers cool. In the wild they grow in a variety of soils, from damp to dry, deep into rugged. In a garden, however, moist and well-drained soil is greatest. (Too much mowing hinders fall colour.)

Don’t expect a long life from planted trees. Bear in mind that trees that like their situation will spread by the origins and send up suckers — begin with a few and wind up with many. Prune to shape or cut out dead wood. Watch for pests and diseases, which can be frequent, particularly outside the natural aspen range. In recent decades even trees from the wild have been struck with a widespread dieback.

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How to utilize it. A natural-style landscape adds to a sense of place — like here, together with aspens and native grasses. In case you’ve got wild aspens in your premises, you might choose to plant more. When the trees are flourishing, you may need to cut back youthful ones that come up from the roots.

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The normal landscape usage of quaking aspen is within an informal grove, together with trees randomly spaced. A somewhat grid-like positioning produces a modern look here. Aspens do nicely with lawn watering. Be aware that the trees can have single or multiple trunks.

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Aspens look best along with other natural elements, like boulders and native ferns. Also, you can sow wildflower seeds among them.

A single aspen specimen may be focus one of low-growing native plants, such as manzanita and ceanothus, shown here. Don’t overlook that a solo tree will most likely produce more.

Character lesson. When you plant an aspen, you’re developing a piece of Americana. Native Americans and pioneers used the trees to make canoes, log cabins and medicines. Aspens frequently leave markers of that was there before — like a beaver, who indicated this tree nearby Lake Tahoe. And in certain woods, you might still place black carvings on the white trunks left by Basque shepherds over a century past.

More: 5 Uncommon Trees for Gorgeous Fall Color

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