How to Grow Guazuma Ulmifolia | West Indian Elm Care

Last Updated: 19.10.2023

Guazuma Ulmifolia, also popular as the West Indian Elm can be a good addition to any garden. Let’s have a look at how to grow it.


Guazuma Ulmifolia is a species of flowering tree in the family Malvaceae and is also famous as West Indian Elm or Bay Cedar. It is native to the tropical regions of South America, and the Caribbean. The tree is popular for its ornamental beauty and its medicinal properties. 

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Guazuma Ulmifolia Information

Guazuma Ulmifolia is a fast-growing, deciduous tree that can reach up to 30-50 feet in height. The leaves are alternate, simple, and ovate, with a serrated edge and a pointed tip.

The tree’s bark is famous for its uses in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, including fever, cough, and diarrhea. Its leaves are also a natural remedy for diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma. 

In addition to its medicinal and ornamental uses, the West Indian Elm has several other practical applications. The tree’s wood is popular for furniture construction and as a firewood source. People also use its bark to make rope, and the leaves as animal fodder.

How to Grow Guazuma Ulmifolia?


Here are the general steps to grow Guazuma Ulmifolia from seeds:

  • Collect fresh seeds from the tree in the fall when the capsules have dried and opened, revealing the tiny seeds inside.
  • Clean Guazuma Ulmifolia seeds by removing fruit or debris from the seed coat. Rinse the seeds in clean water to remove any remaining pulp or debris.
  • Soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours to soften the seed coat and improve germination.
  • Choose a well-draining potting mix and fill a container with it. A pot with drainage holes is ideal.
  • Sow the seeds about 1 cm deep in the soil. Water the soil gently to keep it moist but not waterlogged.
  • Place the container in a warm and bright location with indirect sunlight. The temperature should be around 25-30°C.
  • Water the seeds regularly, keeping the soil moist but not soaked.
  • When the Guazuma Ulmifolia seedlings have grown to 15-20cm and developed several leaves, they can be transplanted into a larger container or the ground.

Note: It’s important to remember that the germination rate of Guazuma Ulmifolia seeds can vary, and not all seeds may sprout. It’s recommended to sow multiple seeds to increase the chances of success.

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Requirements to Grow Guazuma Ulmifolia

Guazuma Ulmifolia 3
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Guazuma Ulmifolia can tolerate shade but prefers bright, direct sunlight for at least 4-6 hours each day to grow and flower. Do not choose a shady location as it will limit the growth of the West Indian Elm.


The West Indian Elm tree prefers well-draining, fertile soils rich in organic matter. It can grow in various soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay. However, Guazuma Ulmifolia is sensitive to saturated soil, and it’s essential to ensure good drainage to prevent root rot.

The soil pH should be neutral to slightly acidic (6.0 to 7.5).


Guazuma Ulmifolia requires regular watering, especially during the first few years of growth. It’s essential to keep the soil moist but not soggy. The frequency of watering depends on the soil type and weather conditions.

Generally, the tree should be watered deeply once or twice a week during the growing season and less frequently during the dormant season.


West Indian Elm grows well in warm tropical and subtropical climates. The tree is sensitive to frost and prefers temperatures between 20-36°C.

Guazuma Ulmifolia can tolerate brief periods of drought but performs best in consistently moist conditions.

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Guazuma Ulmifolia Care


A balanced, slow-release fertilizer, applied at the beginning of the growing season, can help promote healthy growth and flowering. It’s important not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to excessive development and reduced flower production.

Do read the instructions on the label for dosage and details.


Guazuma Ulmifolia requires minimal pruning, but occasional snipping can help maintain a desired shape and size. Pruning can be done in the late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

It’s essential to remove any dead or diseased branches and to thin out any crowded or crossing branches. West Indian Elm can also be lightly pruned to promote bushier growth.

Pests and Diseases

The tree is generally resistant to pests and diseases. However, Guazuma Ulmifolia can be susceptible to some fungal diseases, including powdery mildew, leaf spot, and root rot, especially in poorly draining soils.

Regular monitoring and prompt fungicide treatment can help prevent and control these diseases. Pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects can also attack the tree.

Insecticidal soaps or oils can be used to control these pests.

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Advantages of Guazuma Ulmifolia

  • West Indian Elm has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, including coughs, colds, fever, and inflammation. The bark, leaves, and flowers contain bioactive compounds with antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
  • The wood of Guazuma Ulmifolia is lightweight, strong, and durable, making it ideal for construction, furniture, and boat building. The wood is also resistant to decay and insect damage.
  • Guazuma Ulmifolia is an attractive tree with a spreading canopy that provides shade and ornamental value. The tree produces small, fragrant flowers and small, round fruit attractive to birds and other wildlife.
  • It has a deep taproot system that helps stabilize soil and prevent erosion. The tree is often planted in coastal areas and riverbanks to protect against erosion.
  • Guazuma Ulmifolia is an effective carbon sink, sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in its biomass. Planting more trees can help mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It is also used in agroforestry systems as a shade tree for crops such as coffee, cocoa, and bananas. The tree provides shade and protection for crops, improves soil fertility, and increases biodiversity.
  • The flowers of Guazuma Ulmifolia are a source of nectar for bees and other pollinators, and the tree is often used in honey production. The honey produced from the nectar of Guazuma Ulmifolia flowers has a mild flavor and is highly valued in some regions.

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