The Quaking Aspen Tree

Ola, Bonjour, Kon’nichiwa… welcome, welcome, welcome. Here you are, earnestly waiting, begging like Oliver Twist to have ladles full of quaking aspen info poured into your bowl.  Fear not,  a Lee Lockman trait is being upfront, so let me just do that; reading this article comes with a couple of rewards (lucky you): 1) you’ll become a bonafide expert on all things quaking aspen 2) you’ll be able to grow an entire forest of aspen in your backyard if your pretty little heart desires so.  Oh, and I almost forgot, if you’re a real glutton, and want to fill that tum-tum of yours with some more trembling aspen factoids, move that sexy pointer finger of yours over here and click to read Everything A Man Should Know About The Quaking Aspen.

What is a Quaking Aspen Tree?

You guessed it, it’s a tree, but more specifically it’s “a world record holding deciduous tree that resides in the cooler regions of North America. I read somewhere once that 65% of people are visual learners (that fact comes free of charge ladies and gentlemen), so let Lee paint you a picture. 

Plant yourself in the middle of autumn. The air has some bite to it again, your nostrils washed with the cleansing alfresco breeze. You’re in the thick of it. Consumed on all sides by porcelain white trunks and branches adorned with chick yellow leaves. That teeth-like wind pushes through the leaves evoking a sound of quivering. 

Alright, come back to me, that right there, that masterpiece I just created in your mind is what the quaking aspen tree is. Let’s get technical with it because you didn’t solely come here for art you came for facts. 

The quaking aspen tree in Latin is known as populus tremuloides, and it has more nicknames than you have with your partner (and if your single, more nicknames than you give your pet, and if you don’t have either of those maybe it’s time to reevaluate your life…). The quaking aspen goes by the trembling aspen, golden aspen, and for all you patriots out there the American aspen. 

As humans we often try and overcomplicate things, but not with the naming of this tree. The leaves “quake” and tremble when the breeze hits the leaves. So, we added an adjective in front of aspen and were done with it already.

How Do Quaking Aspen Reproduce

You probably haven’t thought about sex for a couple of minutes since you’ve been captivated by every word written here so far (please men just try and wait till your done reading this article before you go take care of business… or just at the very least keep this tab open). So, let’s talk about trees bumping and grinding on one another and making sexy little tree babies.  

Ok, even though it is quite a visual to see trees getting down and nasty with it (use your imagination I can’t paint all the pictures for you), quaking aspen trees actually have two methods of reproducing some offspring. They reproduce by seeds and by root sprouts, with root sprouting being the more common and successful form of reproduction. 

Due to the aspens root sprouting ways, there are many trees that are genetically identical aka they’re cloning themselves. Basically, you can have an entire forest of trees from an aspen that has command + c’d and command + v’d (don’t worry PC people here you go – ctrl + c & ctrl + v) itself. All those copied and pasted aspens share one single root, hence the identical characteristics, hence why root sprouting is the most effective form of reproduction, and I hope at this point you hence get how these trees reproduce.

Where Do Quaking Aspen Trees Grow 

Now that your inner food basket has been satiated with some wholesome quaking aspen facts, you probably want to know where these trees reside so you can be in their embrace sooner than later. 

Quaking aspens have been able to spawn at such a rate that they are the most widely distributed tree in North America. They grow all the way up in Alaska, creep through Canada, move down through the good ol’ U.S. of A, and touch down in Mexico. 

They are able to grow so widely in part to their IDGAF attitude towards climatic conditions. The aspen grows at low altitudes in the north, high altitudes in the south, and in all types of soil. I’ll get a little more specific with the soil; the aspen lust for sandy gravelly slopes, and they quickly congregate in disturbed sites where there is an abundance of bare soil. Furthermore, yes furthermore, the deciduous cloning tree grows best where the soil is moist and where the rays of sun are bountiful. 

Now, we all know I’m going to say that the quaking aspen grows best in the PNW (I live here if that wasn’t implied enough), and we all know that I’m being biased, but we all know I’m also correct in my assertion. I mean if you were to do some digesting of the little nuggets of facts, I have force fed you so far (still at it… I know), you should be able to deduce why we; the PNW, are ideal for the quaking aspen to reside in our hood over any other region. We’ve got moist brown butter soil, we’ve got high altitudes, we’ve got low altitudes, and whenever that sun does decide to come out… it sprays its beams of warmth a plenty. So, I ask you, am I being biased, or am I being right?

How to Propagate Quaking Aspen Trees

At this point you’re probably so enthralled with the idea of quaking aspen you want to put your botanist regalia on, and get out there and make your own forest of clones. So, let Lee sow some seeds of instruction. 

How to breed these mutants:

Step 1: Root Collection

  • You want to start slicing and dicing between the months of February and May on days the frost is absent
  • Find a mature growth area, we don’t want to be hacking away at the little ones
  • Expose and detach the root and cut about a foot in length 
  • Place in a plastic bag and be sure to keep the roots moist, a way to do this using damp moss

Step 2: Treatment of Roots

  • Preventing the roots from drying out should be your primary concern
  • Plant in boxes that can hold about 10 of those foot-long root sections
  • Cover them with a compost peat mix – this helps keep the roots moist
  • If you have a polytunnel/greenhouse place those boxes in there with no heat, but make sure you keep the compost mixture wet
  • Suckers (these look like new baby branches shooting from the root) will come alive around 4-6 weeks after this, and if you harvest regularly, you’ll be in sucker heaven for about 12 weeks

Step 3: Prep of Cuttings

  • When the suckers get 1-3 inches in height, it’s time to bring your scalpel and cut them off individually where the sucker and mama root meet
  • Dip the cuttings like a beef dip into a rooting compound
  • Plant the cuttings using a dibber (it’s basically an ice pick for gardening) into a tray with compost and perlite
  • Label with date of cuttings

Step 4: Final Care

  • You want to be periodically misting the planted cuttings
  • Cuttings usually begin to produce roots in approximately 2-3 weeks
  • Once they are done being delicately misted, they need to be carefully introduced into the outdoor conditions by placing them in a cold frame where there is adequate shade
  • After another 14 to 21 days they are ready to be potted into their own pots with either peat or coir-based compost
  • Then it’s time to release them into the wild… rather your backyard

How Much Water Do Quaking Aspen Trees Need

Like any tree, the quaking aspen enjoys a thirst quenching watering schedule. This is even more true during the infancy of the trembling trees life. The best way to ensure your roots are going to be healthy is to give them a good soaking for the first six weeks (Relax BYU, I’m not talking about that type of soaking). 

Soak that soil until it is 20 inches deep, and avoid getting the foliage wet… insert that’s what she said joke here … Then add about 2-3 inches of mulch so it can stay nice and damp. A method to ensure that the roots will be able to slurp up the water they need is by laying a soaker hose under the mulch, and make doubly sure that you let the soil dry before you water again. 

A good indicator if you’re over or underwatering your tree is if the leaves begin to go limp, and droop like my grandmother Elanor’s eyelid. This is where you have to use your discretion and adjust your water habits as needed (I can’t do it for you, and even if I could I wouldn’t). 

When To Plant A Quaking Aspen

Now that I’ve germinated some paramount propagation and watering seeds of info into your mind, it would be ill conceived of me, and actually quite inadequate of me to not inform you on when to plant your quaking aspen. 

The primetime for planting is spring, once the film of frost has dissolved. Why spring? Not solely because I am telling you that spring is the best, but because spring actually gives the young aspen time to establish that integral root system. Without a proper root system your quaking aspen will desiccate and parish like my grandma (don’t worry Eleanor and her droopy eyelids are still alive. It’s the other grandma you know the one who you don’t really know, anyways enough about my family tree). 

The quaking aspen has a peculiar lifespan. It’s unique because an individual quaking aspen often lives for about 50-60 years, and in the west up 150 years (remember when I said it grows best in the PNW… how much more evidence do you need). However, the trembling aspen also has a perennial lifespan, meaning it can live forever. This is due to it’s root sprouting reproduction; one stem has a short life, but the clone can live for eons.

Where To Buy A Quaking Aspen

If propagation isn’t your thing, and if you yearn to have your backyard filled with cream cheese coloured trunks and shivering yolk leaves then purchasing a nursery tree may be your best option. Obviously, I can’t specifically tell you where to buy your quaking aspen, but if you are having trouble finding a specific location I created this interactive guide that might help some of you.

However, there are two common sources where you can begin your mutant forest of cloned trembling trees: a local tree farm/nursery or a big box retailer. Now, I’m not going to ramble about the differences between a tree farm and a retailer, I already did that here. Rather, I’ll just reiterate the importance of finding the perfect young tree. It’s important to be picky and really take the time in finding your quaking aspen (similar to picking that random craft-brewed beer you’ve chosen due to how “cool” the label looks), this tree will hopefully outlive you, so choose wisely my dear friend.


So, we’ve finished a seven-course meal on quaking aspen, and now you are pleasantly full with all that wholesome information. Now let that belch out you’ve clearly earned it!

Now, I’m not the Oliver Twist type to be begging for your support by subscribing to our newsletter, but if you genuinely enjoyed the content it would be beyond rad if you could! Uncle Lee will be coming at you with only the info you need! Cheers to you and yours my darlings! 

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