The alder tree is a common sight in our gardens. Not only does it look good and provide pleasant shade it is also a nitrogen-fixer – so useful to other plants in your garden too.

Growing alder:

The alder thrives in damp, cool areas like wet woodlands, marshes and the banks of streams or rivers. It grows well from seed, will tolerate a soil that is low in nutrients and can thrive in some rather unpromising looking locations. It will quickly colonise bare ground.

Most common alders will live for only around 60 years, so are a relatively short lived species. They do, however, give pleasure in the garden with their shape, size and appearance. While it can all to often sadly be viewed as a weed, in fact this pioneer species can improve the soil quality in your garden.

To grow alder, you can collect cones and go through the process of separating the seeds, pre-soaking and sowing them. If you do choose to go down this route then you must be careful to always water the seeds you are waiting to germinate and the potted saplings well and consistently.

Most people will simply pick up a one or two year old sapling and plant that, though it is still important to remember that this is very much a water-loving tree, and make sure that the tree gets enough of it, especially during the stage when it is just becoming established.

As when planting any tree, be sure to dig a big enough hole to accommodate the root ball and plant the tree to the same depth that it was at in the pot. Fertilising or adding nutrients is not necessary due to alder's ability to fix-nitrogen in collaboration with the bacteria which live in its roots.

Alders can grow fast as long as they are happy in the location they have been placed in and receive enough water to sustain them, though they will never grow to excessive size so will be fine in some even moderately sized gardens.

Why grow alder in your garden?

Alder is a spectacularly useful tree. Not only does it look pleasant and add nutrients to the soil it also attracts the bees and the catkins are a good early source of pollen for them. Many birds like the seeds of the alder tree and the conditions beneath many alders make them perfect habitats for several types of butterfly.

Alder can be coppiced for charcoal and it is also of use to use as it will not rot underwater. Crucially, alder are also used in flood mitigation so if you have a problem with flooding then planted alder can be a really good idea.

Quick Facts

Latin Name