Frontier Elm

Ulmus minor x parvifolia ‘Frontier’

Frontier Elm

Ulmus minor x parvifolia ‘Frontier’


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


The Frontier Elm is a hybrid elm that grows into a smaller tree 25 to 40 feet tall, with a rounded crown. Its attractive glossy leaves turn burgundy-purple in fall, a rare coloring for an elm, and the leaves hold well on the tree after they have colored. This tree was created to resist Dutch elm disease and it is a good substitute for missing American elms, especially in urban conditions, where it thrives. It makes an attractive specimen tree, screen or avenue, and it doesn’t produce any messy seeds or unwanted seedlings sprouting in beds and paved areas.

  • Unique hybrid tree of medium size for smaller spaces
  • Fabulous long-lasting fall colors of burgundy-purple
  • High resistance to Dutch elm disease
  • Reliable in harsh urban conditions
  • Grows well in many climates and types of soil

Full sun will give the best fall coloring, but this tree will grow in partial shade too, reaching the sun as it grows taller. It grows in all soils that are not permanently flooded, and it tolerates dryness well. It has very good resistance to Dutch elm disease and elm yellows, and only experiences light damage from elm leaf beetles. Normal formative pruning for shade trees will develop a sturdy tree that is resistant to storm damage.

Plant Hardiness Zones 4-10
Mature Width 15-30
Mature Height 25-40
Sun Needs Full Sun
Zones 4-10

It is too bad that many people think, ‘disease’ when they hear ‘elm’, because there are many trees among the elms, and many of them are not affected by the killer Dutch elm disease. Since the tragic loss of our majestic American elm trees, experts have worked to give us new and better elms to replace them. One of the best is the Frontier Elm, a unique hybrid tree that is beautiful, tough and resistant to disease. This tree is not just another shade tree, but truly different, with purple-red fall leaves – very different from almost every other elm tree. Lack of strong fall color was always a weakness of elm, so the Frontier Elm overcomes that beautifully. It forms a striking medium-sized tree, ideal for modern gardens, and it is highly recommended by arborists across the country. You don’t need to look further for a unique shade tree – here it is.

Growing the Frontier Elm

Size and Appearance

The Frontier Elm is a medium-sized deciduous shade tree reaching a height of 25 feet within 20 years, with a spread of 15 feet. It will grow to be around 40 feet tall, and probably spread about 30 feet wide. It has a sturdy trunk, branching into a broad crown of vertical and spreading branches. It has smooth, gray-green bark that doesn’t shed, creating an elegant look. The small, oval leaves are glossy, between 2½ and 4 inches long and up to 2 inches wide, with small serrations along the edges. with parallel veins radiating from the central leaf vein. In summer the leaves are a rich and attractive green, and with the first cold of fall they turn rich burgundy-purple, making a unique show for an elm tree. This tree is worth growing for its fall color alone, and the leaves hold on the tree for a long time after they color, creating a very worthwhile display. Because it is a hybrid tree it only very rarely produces any flowers (which are seen in fall, if they should appear), and none of the potentially messy seeds of some other elms.

Using the Frontier Elm in Your Garden

The Frontier Elm is a great choice for a lawn specimen, or for planting along the sunny edge of a wooded area. Grow a row as a boundary marker or privacy screen, gaining wind and noise protection as well as beauty. With its adaptability it can be used in many different situations. Allow enough room when planting for this final size – and don’t plant beneath low utility lines, or within 20 feet of buildings or boundaries.


The Frontier Elm is very hardy, growing in zone 4, and just as well in southern Florida and Texas. Almost everyone can grow this elm in their garden, wherever they live.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Full sun will give the best fall coloring, and develop a sturdy, attractive tree. The Frontier Elm is a tough tree, able to grow well in a wide range of soils, from clays to sands and from acid to alkaline. It is drought resistant and grows in damp soil too. In fact, it will grow anywhere except in soil that is flooded for extended periods. It even grows well in harsh urban conditions, making it an excellent choice for a city garden.

Disease and Pest Resistance

The Frontier Elm has a high level of resistance to Dutch elm disease, which caused the loss of millions of American elm trees across the nation and around the world in the 20th century. It also has moderate resistance to elm leaf beetles, doing better in trials than most other elms, and showing no more than 10% leaf damage, making these pests not a serious issue for it. Although, like many other varieties, it can become infected with elm yellows, another serious elm disease, in laboratory experiments, it doesn’t become infected naturally when grown in the landscape. All-in-all this tree is an excellent choice when compared with many other forms of elm.

History and Origin of the Frontier Elm

The Frontier Elm is a unique hybrid elm, created by the Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit of the U.S. National Arboretum Plant Introduction, part of the USDA, in Washington. Dr Alden Townsend was a research geneticist in that unit, specializing in elm tree breeding. In 1971 he collected pollen from a spring-flowering elm, Ulmus minor, the smooth-leaf, or field elm. This is the most common elm in Europe, and it is also known as Ulmus carpinifolia. He stored that pollen at low temperature, and then used it to pollinate flowers of the lacebark elm, Ulmus parvifolia, which naturally flowers in the early fall. After almost 20 years of testing and screening plants, the best seedling from this cross was released in 1990 with the name ‘Frontier’.

Buying the Frontier Elm at The Tree Center

It is wonderful that we have elm trees again, and the Frontier Elm is truly unique. This great shade tree is suitable for any garden, and highly recommended. Order now, because it is always in high demand, and it is always difficult to find. Once gone we don’t know when we will have it again.

Back to top

Frontier Elm

Ulmus minor x parvifolia ‘Frontier’