Balm of Gilead is a deciduous tree that grows at a fast rate, reaching up to 100 feet tall at maturity. It is a hybrid tree resulting from a cross between the poplar and cottonwood trees.
These trees have oval leaves with pointed tips that are dark green on top and whitish-green on the underside. The veins often have an orange color to them, giving the leaves a rusty appearance. The leaf buds are coated in resin and put off a pleasant turpentine aroma, particularly when unfurling. As a result, the buds are often collected and used for fragrances or herbal medicines. The flowers of this tree are not showy. However, like other poplar trees, they do produce seeds attached to fluffy, white fibers that float through the air. Some people enjoy the flurry of these seeds, but others avoid planting these trees due to the mess from spreading seeds.
|Common Name||Balm of Gilead|
|Botanical Name||Populus x jackii|
|Mature Size||100 ft. tall, 40 ft. wide|
|Soil Type||Loamy, sandy, moist but well-drained|
|Flower Color||Red, yellow, green|
|Hardiness Zones||2-7, USDA|
|Native Area||North America|
Balm of Gilead Care
Balm of Gilead is a hardy, deciduous tree that is very easy to grow. A member of the Salicaceae family like its cousin the willow tree, Balm of Gilead prefers moist, cool soil in a location near water sources. Because of the tree's fast growth and large size, this hybrid species should be planted away from buildings.
These trees do not require much attention other than watering. They are generally problem-free, though they may struggle with bacterial canker and poplar or willow borers.
This tree prefers full sun and can tolerate partial sun. However, it cannot tolerate shady conditions.
Balm of Gilead prefers rich, moist, cool soil with a pH level that is circumneutral—between 6.5 and 7.5. It thrives near freshwater sources.
Balm of Gilead enjoys damp soil, such as that found near rivers, lakes, or other cool water sources. If you are growing this tree away from readily accessible water, be sure to water regularly to keep the soil moist. It is best not to allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Temperature and Humidity
Balm of Gilead is grown in USDA hardiness zones 2-7. This tree is not suited to growing zones with warmer temperatures. It thrives in the upper regions of North America and easily withstands freezing temperatures.
Because of its naturally fast-growing rate, Balm of Gilead should not need much fertilizer. Prepare the soil before planting by mixing in a healthy amount of compost. If soil conditions are poor or the tree's vitality seems to be subpar, apply compost or a well-balanced fertilizer in the spring each year to encourage healthy growth.
Propagating Balm of Gilead
Propagating Balm of Gilead trees can be done with suckers or cuttings. For cuttings, be sure to take the current year’s growth. For suckers, it is best to cut them in the spring. To propagate cuttings, you will need sharp garden snips, moist, well-draining soil, and a small pot, if desired. Here’s how to propagate through cuttings:
- Using clean, sharp snips, remove a cutting 7 to 12 inches long. Make the cut below a node.
- Remove any lower leaves.
- Plant the cutting in moist, well-draining soil. You can use a pot placed in a protected area, or plant the cutting in the tree's permanent landscaping location.
- If started in a pot, keep the soil moist and the tree protected until roots form. Once this occurs, plant the tree in its permanent location.
To propagate through suckers, you will need a small shovel, sharp garden snips, and moist, well-draining soil. Then follow these instructions:
- Using the small shovel, gently loosen the soil around the sucker.
- With the root system exposed, use the shovel or garden snips to cut the sucker and its root system away from the mother tree.
- Plant the sucker in moist, well-draining soil in its permanent location.
- Keep the soil moist as the tree establishes.
How to Grow Balm of Gilead From Seed
Starting balm of Gilead from seed is very easy. However, because this tree is a hybrid, seeds will not produce an exact replica of the parent tree. To start a new tree by seed, follow these instructions:
- As soon as the seeds ripen in the spring, collect them. Plant them immediately.
- Plant the seeds in moist, well-draining, rich soil. Lightly cover them and keep them in a protected area, such as a cold frame.
- Keep the soil moist.
- Once the seedlings sprout and are several inches tall, plant each seedling in its own pot.
- If the seedlings are strong by summer, plant them in the ground. If not, continue to grow them in a protected area until next spring. Then plant them in their permanent landscaping location.
Because Balm of Gilead trees are naturally found in areas with frigid winters, they do not require special attention to survive the cold temperatures. If you wish, simply apply an extra layer of mulch around the base of the tree to help insulate the root system.
Common Problems With Balm of Gilead
Balm of Gilead trees don't suffer from many common issues. However, they are susceptible to bacterial canker, which causes lesions on the trunk or branches.
Lesions on the trunk or branches
Bacterial infections, called cankers, may cause sunken, water-logged lesions to appear on the tree's branches or trunk. Sometimes the areas above this infection will stop growing. The leaves may turn yellow and curl.
This problem can occur when the bacteria responsible for the canker infects the tree from a wound or cut. To treat this, remove the infected areas, if possible. Prune out several inches from the canker to ensure complete removal of the bacteria. Always use a tree pruning sealer to seal any open cuts on the tree. Additionally, it's important to clean any pruning equipment before and after pruning activity.
What is Balm of Gilead?
As referred to in North America, balm of Gilead is a deciduous hybrid tree from poplar and cottonwood. These trees are fast-growing and can reach a height of 100 feet at maturity. Their buds are often used in herbal medicine.
Where do Balm of Gilead trees grow?
The balm of Gilead tree is native to North America. It is often seen in the eastern part of the U.S., throughout Canada, and up into Alaska.
How big do Balm of Gilead trees become?
Balm of Gilead is a fast-growing tree that can reach up to 100 feet tall with a canopy 40 feet wide at maturity.