How to Grow Quaking Aspen

10/31/2023 | Ken Davis Fall, How to Grow.., Trees

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Fall ASpen in the Backyard

The quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), a name that refers to how its leaves tremble at the slightest breeze, is a tree in the willow family. Other common names refer to such features as its fall color (golden aspen), bark color (white aspen), or favorite habitat (mountain aspen).

It’s easily identified by its smooth, light-colored bark, interrupted at intervals by darker knots and horizontal scars. An even better-identifying feature is its flattened leafstalks, which cause the leaves to “quake” when the wind blows. The leaves are rounded to slightly triangular, 3 inches across, and finely toothed.

Botanical Name: Populus tremuloides

Common names:  Quaking aspen, trembling aspen, white poplar

Plant Type:  Tree

Mature Size: 20 – 50 ft Tall, 20 – 30 ft Wide

Sun Exposure:  Full

Soil Type: Well-drained

Soil pH: Acidic, neutral, alkaline

Hardiness Zones: 2 – 8

Native Area: North America

How to Grow Aspens


Grow quaking aspen tree in full sun for best results, although it does tolerate some shade.


Quaking Aspen prefers well-drained soil. Test the planting hole by filling it with water in the morning. If water is still pooling in the dug hole at the end of the day, you have drainage issues that will need more work.


Water newly planted trees regularly with a garden hose for at least one month (2 months in Summer). Automatic irrigation systems may not be sufficient initially. Water frequency will vary according to season, exposure and plant size.

April – Oct Aspen should be irrigated 2 x weekly

Nov – Mar Aspen should be irrigated 2 x monthly

Aspen Leaves in Fall


Feed 4x Times per Year with either 7-4-4 All Purpose Plant Food, Soil Sulfur, or Humic. Here’s the recommendation by season:

Spring = 7-4-4 All Purpose Food + Soil Sulfur

Summer = 7-4-4 All Purpose Food + Humic

September = 7-4-4 All Purpose Food

December = 7-4-4 All Purpose Food


There are several trees in the Populus genus . They are commonly referred to as “poplars,” sometimes as “aspens.” Examples include:

  • Japanese poplar (Populus maximowiczii): A columnar tree with the virtue that it does not produce suckers, thereby reducing maintenance
  • Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra): A columnar tree often planted along property borders, but it does produce suckers
  • White poplar (Populus alba): Although Populus tremuloides is sometimes called “white poplar,” Populus alba is a distinct species. It is valued for its silvery leaves, but its downside is that it’s invasive.


The best time to prune quaking aspen is winter because this is when the tree is dormant, meaning the tree will tolerate cuts better. Quaking aspen must be pruned after heavy winter snowfalls have damaged limbs. The damaged limbs should be cut back. Dead or diseased branches should be pruned off.