Aspen, or quaking aspen as it is also often known, is a deciduous, broadleaf tree that is native to the UK and commonest in the north-west of Scotland, though it is found throughout much of the British Isles in ancient woodland and heath. It is also found in gardens, as it is a particularly beautiful tree with lovely shaking and shimmering foliage.

Growing aspen:

While aspen are most commonly seen in Scotland, they are not particularly fussy when it comes to soil variations and climatic conditions and it is likely that they are more common in the wild in these remoter regions simply due to deforestation and the fact that many, many stands of these trees elsewhere in the British isles have been lost. This is good news though for gardeners who hope to grow two or three of these beautiful trees in their gardens, since with a few exceptions, most gardens that are large enough will provide suitable growing conditions.

Aspens are great at establishing themselves quickly. They are a pioneer species and like other pioneer species it reproduces by means of suckers and can readily form copses for a natural and wildlife-friendly woodland garden. Though individual trees only live around 50-100 years it is thought that the clones to which they belong can continue for 10,000 years or more, and some aspens have been found to be amongst the oldest living organisms on the planet.

Aspens do not often create seed and when they do it is fluffy and nigh on impossible to work with so the way to create new saplings is to take a root cutting from a mature tree in late winter or early spring. (Or of course buy one from your garden centre or plant nursery.) If you decide to go down the DIY route then you will have to plant the small root sections and wait for the bright green suckers to appear within a few weeks. When these suckers are 5-7cm tall you have to cut them off. These cuttings should be dipped in rooting hormone to give them the best chance. Plant in gritty compost and keep moist. These cuttings should root and grow quickly. After being acclimatised to outdoor conditions, aspen cuttings can be planted out into their final positions in autumn.

Why grow aspen in the garden?

Aspen trees put on a good show in a woodland garden all year round. The young leaves are coppery, turning vivid green in summer and then vibrant yellow and occasionally red in the autumn. Leaves are flexible near the leaf blade which is what allows the leaves to flutter so freely and gives the quaking aspen its name.

Aspen trees are the perfect addition to a wildlife or woodland garden. They attract a range of beneficial garden creatures and add to the biodiversity of your garden. Aspen wood is lightweight and has had many different traditional uses.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Populus Tremula