How to Grow and Care for Netleaf Hackberry

Netleaf hackberry plant growing in a canyon.

Scott T. Smith / Getty Images

Netleaf hackberry (Celtis reticulata) is a deciduous tree in the Elm family. Indeed, the 3-inch-long leaf of this plant does resemble that of the American elm tree (Ulmus americana) in shape. Its species name, reticulata, means "netted" or "reticulated" in Latin and is a reference to the netted pattern of the veining in the leaf. In addition to the leaf, identifying features include the gray, furrowed bark of its trunk and its spherical berries, which are light red in color and measure 1/4 inch across. Netleaf hackberry usually stays relatively short for a tree; in fact, it sometimes grows to be shrub-like. There are three types of hackberry native to three different regions of the U.S.; netleaf hackberry is native to portions of the western U.S.

 Common Names Netleaf hackberry, acibuche, canyon hackberry, Douglas hackberry, palo blanco, sugar hackberry, Texas sugarberry, western hackberry
 Botanical Name Celtis reticulata
 Family Cannabaceae
 Plant Type  Broadleaf, deciduous tree
 Mature Size  20 to 30 feet; occasionally taller
 Sun Exposure  Full sun to partial shade
 Soil Type Well-drained
 Soil pH Neutral to alkaline
 Hardiness Zones 4 to 10 (USDA)
 Native Area The densest populations are in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Netleaf Hackberry Tree Care

Because of its drought tolerance, netleaf hackberry is a fairly low-maintenance plant. But because it does have a scraggly shape (especially when immature), it's a good idea to put some time into pruning it. Otherwise, sound site selection and a little basic maintenance should allow you to keep the plant healthy.

Light

Netleaf hackberry grows best in full sun but tolerates partial shade.

Soil

The main soil requirement is good drainage. For optimal performance, provide a deep, loamy soil.

Water

Netleaf hackberry is drought-tolerant once established. For best performance, during periods of extreme drought, give the tree a deep watering every other week.

Temperature and Humidity

Native to arid regions with hot summers, netleaf hackberry performs well in the heat. High humidity is somewhat less conducive to optimal performance. In high humidity, the plant may suffer from powdery mildew and leaf spot.

Fertilizer

Fertilize the plant while it's young to get it off to a good start. Apply a balanced fertilizer during the growing season. For example, you can begin applying fertilzer in late April and continue applying it monthly until mid-July.

Types of Hackberry Trees

While the West has netleaf hackberry as a native plant, other regions of the U.S. have their own native hackberry trees. There are also hackberry tree species native to the Old World:

  • Celtis occidentalis: Native to central and northeastern U.S.; zones 2 to 9; 40 to 60 feet.
  • Celtis laevigata: Native to southern U.S.; zones 6 to 9; up to 80 feet.
  • Celtis australis: Native to Europe, North Africa, Turkey; zones 8 to 9; 40 to 70 feet.
  • Celtis sinensis: Native to China, Japan, Korea; zones 7 to 9; 15 to 20 feet.

Pruning

Netleaf hackberry doesn't have to be pruned, but some choose to prune it to improve its appearance or for practical considerations. If the plant is growing where you'll be walking frequently, remove the lowest branches for easy clearance. Begin when the plant is young. Late fall and early spring are the best times to prune.

As always in tree care, prune off crossing branches so they don't rub against each other, and prune off dead or diseased branches whenever you see them.

Propagating Netleaf Hackberry

You can propagate netleaf hackberry most easily via cuttings. Take these simple steps:

  1. Select a green, non-woody stem. Using sterilize scissors with alcohol, cut just below a node. The cutting should contain two leaves and a node and be 4 to 6 inches long.
  2. Dip the end in rooting hormone.
  3. Fill a pot with a soilless mix.
  4. With a pencil, poke a hole in the soilless mix.
  5. Insert the cutting into the hole, and gently firm the soil around it. Water.
  6. Create a "tent" over the pot with a plastic bag to retain moisture.

How to Grow Netleaf Hackberry Tree From Seed

Netleaf hackberry can also be propagated via seed, but this method involves more work because the seeds require stratification. Keep them in moist sand for 120 days at 41 degrees F.

Overwintering

Netleaf hackberry is very cold-hardy. You don't need to take any measures to overwinter it unless you live north of zone 4, in which case you can protect its roots from severe winter cold through mulching.

Common Problems With Netleaf Hackberry Tree

Netleaf hackberry is susceptible to infestations of aphids. As soon as you spot any on the undersides of the leaves, spray with Neem oil. The plant's also susceptible to certain fungal diseases. In its arid native habitats, it's less prone to such diseases, since fungi crave ambient moisture. But if you grow netleaf hackberry in a more humid environment, watch out for these fungal diseases:

Powdery Mildew

A plant stricken with powdery mildew will have a light-colored, powdery covering on its leaves. This fungal disease usually starts on the undersides of leaves, making it difficult to detect in time to prevent a full-blown invasion. While rarely fatal, it does mar the appearance of your plants.

Leaf Spot

Although the spots of leaf spot appear in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, they're usually dark in color (or light with a dark border) and rounded or irregular in shape. They appear on the top of the leaf. Like powdery mildew, leaf spot's rarely fatal, but it inhibits photosynthesis, weakening the plant and making it more susceptible to other diseases.

Both diseases are best controlled through prevention. Avoid late-evening watering: You're not giving the sunlight a chance to dry the plant's foliage before night falls. The result is that moisture lingers all night, creating optimal conditions for fungal diseases. For the same reason, avoid irrigating from above. Moistening the foliage invites fungal infestation. Irrigate at ground level. Finally, practice sound garden hygiene: Properly dispose of diseased plants; rake up leaves that have accumulated around plants; and promote airflow by spacing plants properly.

FAQ
  • How fast does netleaf hackberry grow?

    It's a very slow grower, so this isn't the tree for you if you're in a hurry. Choose one of the faster-growing trees, instead. Additionally, the shape of the tree when it is young and small is not particularly attractive. It's often described as "scraggly."

  • How long does netleaf hackberry live?

    Netleaf hackberry is long-lived (normally at least 100 years).

  • Does netleaf hackberry have good fall color?

    Its leaves turn yellow in autumn, but there are better choices for fall color. In the West, quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) has superior fall foliage.

 

 

 

 

Article Sources
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  1. "Neatleaf Hackberry." LEAF Network (Linking Edible Arizona Forests). leafnetworkaz.org