Aspen trees are known for their beautiful trunks and magnificent foliage, and it’s no wonder that many people consider adding them to their home landscapes. However, before you head out to your nearest nursery, it’s important to learn about an aspen’s needs, so you can determine whether it will thrive in your unique yard, soil, and climate.
What Do Aspen Trees Look Like?
Aspens are easily identified by their bright white bark that’s dotted with black scars where branches have been self-pruned along its lower trunk. Golden heart-shaped leaves contrast with the white bark, making these trees a fan favorite for home landscaping purposes. Unfortunately, aspen trees don’t grow particularly well in every region.
Where Do They Grow?
Aspens have learned and adapted to grow in many regions, but they prefer gravelly soil that’s acidic, well-drained, and moist. This type of soil is most common in higher elevations. Here, in Denver, the soil is much different. Our soil is more alkaline (meaning it has a higher pH), and it contains more clay. This makes drainage more difficult, and fragile roots have more trouble reaching to find a water source. Denver’s climate is also drier and hotter than aspens prefer, making it more difficult for them to grow and thrive in our region.
Although Denver’s soil and climate are not an ideal environment for aspen trees to grow, they can successfully thrive in our region — with a lot of help.
How Do They Grow?
Aspens are truly remarkable trees. In fact, one tree is just a small part of a larger organsim, called a stand. A stand of aspens is considered the world’s largest living organism, with a main life force of roots connecting all of the trees below ground. The stand of aspens in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest has been in existence for over 80,000 years, and it’s the world’s oldest — and heaviest — living organism.
These stands (or clones) reproduce new aspen trees by sending up sprouts from the roots, and each new tree is a genetic replicate of all the growing nearby.
How Long Do They Live?
In ideal climates, aspen trees can live for 150 to 200 years. In Denver, their life expectancies aren’t nearly as long. Since aspens are prone to disease and insect damage, they’re already fragile, and Denver’s soil and climate aren’t ideal for them to grow and thrive. Because of this, most aspen trees in Denver only live up to 25 years before they succumb to disease, insect infestation, or poor health.
How to Grow Aspen Trees in Denver
Although Denver is not the perfect location for aspen trees to grow, it’s still possible to have a healthy aspen in your landscape. In order to successfully grow this particular tree, you’ll have provide extra TLC, and you’ll have to amend your soil. When choosing the right spot to plant your aspen tree, make sure the soil is slightly acidic and well-drained. You may need to add gravel and the proper nutrients in order to achieve the right pH level.
It’s also important to think about the root structure before planting your aspen. Will it have room to grow and spread out, without damaging the foundation of your home or other structures? Make sure you give your tree plenty of room to spread out, or else you’ll end up with problems several years down the road.
If you’d like to learn more about aspen trees, or if you’d like to know what trees to plant in Denver, we’d be happy to help. Contact us today.