How to Grow Silver Linden Trees

Silver Linden tree (Tilia tomentosa)

Globetrotter19 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The silver linden tree is a common sight in cityscapes, commercial landscaping plans, and large backyards. This tree has become a go-to option for planting in these locations thanks to its adaptable nature and easy-care requirements.

The Tilia tomentosa, commonly referred to as the silver linden tree, reaches heights between 50 and 70 feet. Its growth rate is moderate—not particularly fast or slow at a rate of about 2 feet per year. These deciduous trees are noted for being drought-tolerant, relatively pollution-proof, and hardy enough to survive cold weather conditions. They’re part of the family of linden (or basswood) trees and are also referred to as lime trees in Britain.

Theses trees feature a smooth, gray bark when young that gradually develops ridges and durability with age. The silver linden is easily recognized for its broad green leaves with a silvery sheen on the underside that looks beautiful when blowing in the breeze. Early in the summer, small clusters of yellow flowers form. These are fragrant and attractive to bees, although they are hard to spot among the dense foliage of the tree. In the fall, the leaves turn to a striking yellow before falling to the ground. 

Foliage of Silver Linden Tree (Tilia tomentosa)
pcturner71 / Getty Images
Flowering silver linden tree
Flowering silver linden tree. By Eve Livesey / Getty Images
Fall foliage of silver linden tree
Fall foliage of silver linden tree. Rosmarie Wirz / Getty Images
Botanical Name Tilia tomentosa
Common Name Silver linden
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 50 to 70 feet tall; 25 to 30 foot wide
Sun Exposure Partial to full sun
Soil Type Moist and well-draining
Soil pH Alkaline
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Pale yellow
Hardiness Zones 4 to 7
Native Area Europe, Asia

How to Grow Silver Linden Trees

Growing a silver linden tree is more about patience than perfection. These trees are not particular about many aspects of their care, and can adapt to various soil, light, and climate conditions. However, to reach their full height of 50 to 70 feet may take several decades, since they grow at a rate of 1 to 2 feet per year.

The early summer blooms of the silver linden tree attract bees, but the small, inconspicuous fruit that follows is not known for being an attractant to wildlife. There are a few pests or diseases that may appear on silver linden trees, including aphids and some types of tree boring insects along with mites. The aphids may cause the largest nuisance, since they secrete a sticky substance that covers the tree and may also coat anything underneath the tree in a sticky, black secretion—including patios, driveways, vehicles, or outdoor furniture. 

Light

For this tree to reach its full potential, it benefits from full sunlight—somewhere between 6 and 8 hours per day is ideal. However, in keeping with this tree’s adaptable nature, it can survive even in partly shady spots. 

Soil

The silver linden tree grows well in a variety of soil conditions, including sandy, clay, or loamy soils. As a common choice as a shade tree in urban areas, these trees have proven themselves capable of growing in ground with poor drainage or compacted soil. However, the best growing results are typically seen in locations with well-draining soil.

As far as soil pH is considered, these trees tend to do best in neutral to alkaline soil conditions of 7.0 to 8.0, but they can tolerate slightly acidic soil as well. 

Water

You’ll find that silver linden trees are among the most drought-resistant types of linden trees. They generally require no additional watering once the tree has been established. However, if a period of drought extends for a month or more, give the silver linden a helping hand by watering it thoroughly every few weeks. 

Temperature and Humidity

This deciduous tree is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7, and is frequently found in cold weather climates where winter temperatures can drop well below freezing. At the same time, it handles the seasonal change of weather with ease and can adapt to warmer temperatures that support its blossoming season.

As mentioned, its drought-resistant nature helps it to cope with dry spells, but it should be noted that very hot and humid weather can take a toll on these trees.

Fertilizer

While the resilient nature of silver linden trees makes them easy-to-grow in a variety of conditions, a fertilizer can help to fortify the tree and ensure healthy growth.

A layer of organic fertilizer spread over the surface of the ground above the roots can provide additional nutrients, especially in less-than-ideal soil conditions. You can also use a balanced formula of slow-release fertilizer, applied in the fall or spring (before new growth begins). 

Varieties of Silver Linden Trees

  • Tilia tomentosa ‘Green Mountain’: Similar in appearance to most other silver linden trees, this cultivar offers the advantage of a faster growth rate, along with increased tolerance to drought and heat. 
  • Tilia tomentosa ‘Sterling Silver’: Another cultivar intended for hotter climates, the ‘Sterling silver’ variety (also sometimes just referred to as ‘Sterling’) is drought and heat resistant and also has increased resistance to pests such as the gypsy moth and Japanese beetle.
  • Tilia tomentosa ‘Princeton’: This cultivar extends the long life of the silver linden tree by supposedly compartmentalizing decay better than some other varieties. 

Toxicity of Silver Linden Trees

The silver linden tree is not known to be toxic to humans or animals. While not considered an edible species of plant, there is no cause for concern if you plant this tree in your backyard. 

Pruning

Similar to many other tree types, the best time to prune the silver linden tree is in the fall or winter while the tree is dormant. Early spring pruning may be possible if there are no buds on the tree and the growing season has not yet begun. Pruning is typically done to shape young trees, but is not absolutely necessary. Silver linden trees generally grow into an appealing broad pyramid canopy without much assistance.

While a well-established and mature silver linden tree may not require much in the way of regular pruning (and is generally to tall for DIY tree-trimming), it could require dead or wayward branches to be removed—especially if they are in close proximity to power lines, roofs, etc. 

Landscape Uses for Silver Linden Trees

The large size of the silver linden tree means it may not be suitable for small patches of grass or gardens, but this shade tree is excellent if you have a larger yard and would like a beautiful, strong tree to enjoy for years to come. With little ongoing pruning required and no persistent and highly invasive pests or diseases to regularly worry about, these trees are easy-keepers.

It’s also a common choice for landscaping residential streets or office parks.