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Grey Alder Sapling Trees

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The details

Alnus incana

Sapling Trees
  • European tree. Grows v. fast. Loves sunny and wet sites. Adds nitrogen to soil.
  • Sizes: Saplings & Big Standards
  • Rough hedging. Good tall screening.
  • Max. Height: 20m
  • Bareroot Delivery Only: Nov-Mar.
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£ 2.28

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Alnus incana: Bareroot Grey Alder Sapling Trees

Delivered by Mail Order Direct from our Nursery with a Year Guarantee

Grey Alder, Alnus incana, is a hardy, vigorous tree that loves wet sites and will thrive on poor soil if it is in full sun. It tends to produce suckering stems from the base of the tree that are good for supporting wildlife. It has silver-grey young leaves and shoots, and the bark is also grey. The decorative, 10cm long, yellow-pink male catkins appear in early spring, alongside the green female cones, which mature by the autumn. The seed is wind borne, but some small birds will still snack on a few of them.
The alders are pioneer species: they are quick to take advantage of open soil, quick to reach maturity and quick to die, by tree standards. After 90-100 years, the main trunk will begin to die back. If its lower stems are in the shade, the whole tree will die. This process is an essential part of woodland ecosystems and alders are often planted as companion trees for other, slower growing plants (like Oak) in forestry projects.
It can reach 30 metres in ideal conditions, but 20-22 metres is more normal.

The plants on this page are young saplings, ideal for woodland planting projects. You can also buy larger Grey Alder trees and the ornamental variety, Alnus incana 'Aurea', either of which will give you more of an instant impact in a garden. Have a look at the rest of our hedging plants and sapling trees.

Grey Alder plants are only delivered bareroot, during winter (Nov-March).

Choosing a size:
For any large scale planting, we recommend that you use plants that are graded at 60/80cms, especially if you are using them for a rough hedge. They are cheaper than large plants, easier to handle, and they will establish well in poor conditions. Use larger plants if you want a tall tree quickly or if your project is small and easy to manage.
All our sapling trees are measured by their height in centimetres above the ground (the roots aren't measured).


  • Size sold: 60-80cm & 90-120cm
  • Height: To 3-4m as a rough hedge, or 20-30m as a tree.
  • Site: Most soils except very alkaline or acidic. Loves very wet places, needs good sun.
  • Use: Wildlife cover, pioneer tree for regeneration projects.
  • Very vigorous.
  • Roots can damage foundations of old buildings.

Growing Grey Alder

This is a vigorous tree that will grow in any soil apart from chalk or very acidic peat. It needs plenty of sun and although it will grow fine on dry soil with your help to establish, in the wild it prefers wet sites that are prone to waterlogging. It is very hardy and will be happy in the coldest Scottish frost pockets or exposed hillsides.

Note on Alder roots: Alder has invasive roots that can break old water pipes and damage the foundations of old buildings or walls. 30 metres away from vulnerable structures is a safe distance. New build, concrete foundations are not at risk.

Spacing a Grey Alder hedge (see note below): Standard country hedging: plant at 3 per metre, 33cm apart in a single row, or 5 per metre in a staggered double row, which has a W shape viewed top-down.

Grey Alder in your Garden

It can be used in a rough country hedge, but we really recommend Italian Alder or Common Alder instead for this. It is a good choice for creating shelter for water fowl, just hack it back every few years to encourage suckering from the roots, and you will end up with a wild thicket of stems before long.

Did You Know?

A European and Russian tree that was introduced to Britain in the 1700's. The wood isn't very strong or good to burn, but it is highly rot resistant in water (although not when in contact with the soil as well) and easy to carve. It is a traditional material for making clogs and kitchen implements, and saw some use as pipes, gutters, and shingles. Because it conducts heat poorly and expands very little in wet or humid conditions, it is a good choice for the interior of saunas, and things like kitchen drawers or barrels for liquid.

Other common names include Speckled or Hoary Alder.

Planting Instructions

Growing Grey Alder:
Grey Alder will grow well in most soils, as long as they are not very alkaline (like chalk) or very acidic (like peat). It needs plenty of sun. It prefers wet sites and will happily grow in boggy terrain or on a river bank. It can grow quite near the sea.
It will not grow well if the site is too acidic or alkaline, and they will not grow in the shade. Young plants will tolerate partial shade, as long as they can grow up into better sunlight.

Prepare your site before planting:
Grey Alder is very tough. The only essential preparation is to kill the weeds in a strip a metre wide along the planting site: improving the soil should not be necessary. If your soil is exceptionally poor and dry, then digging in some well rotted manure and/or compost is worthwhile.

It is not really ideal for a clipped hedge, and will never be tidy (Italian Alder or Common Alder are much more manageable), but if that isn't an issue, watch our video on how to plant a country hedge for full details. The instruction to cut the plants in half after planting only applies to thorny native hedging and plants in the conservation hedge mix: this isn't necessary for Grey Alder. 

Trimming Grey Alder as a hedge: From the winter after planting onwards, your young hedge should be trimmed lightly once every winter, until it is mature. When it is fully grown, you can clip it at anytime. It isn't suitable for neat, formal hedges; it is too vigorous. One way to maintain it as a hedge is to let it grow freely one year and cut it back hard the next year.

Hedge Planting Accessories:

Prepare your site for planting by killing the weeds and grass with Neudorff WeedFree Plus.
You can buy a hedge planting pack with sheets of mulch fabric and pegs to hold it down.
If you are planting in an area with rabbit and/or deer, you will need to use a plastic spiral guard for each plant, supported by a bamboo cane.
If your soil quality is poor, we recommend using mycorrhizal "friendly fungi" on the roots of new trees and shrubs.
You can also improve your soil with bonemeal organic fertiliser and Growmore.

After you have planted your Grey Alder hedge, the most important thing to do is water it in dry weather. You will also need to weed around the plants. Watering should be thorough, so the ground is soaked. Let the soil almost dry out before watering again. Watering & weeding will be necessary for at least a year after planting.

Special notes on caring for Grey Alder:
Grey Alder is a very tough plant that shouldn't need special attention once it has established. If you didn't use a mulch fabric, it is beneficial to mulch around the base of the hedge each year.

Hygiene & Diseases:
Dead, damaged or diseased wood can be pruned off as soon as it appears.
Disinfect your pruning tools between every cut if there is any sign of disease.
Burn or dispose of any diseased material, do not compost it.