Tiglio - Tilia


The linden tree is a tree of innumerable qualities: it has a majestic bearing, beautiful foliage and at its flowering, it gives off a sweet and intense perfume. It is usually used to embellish the avenues, but it can also find a good location in medium or large gardens.
Arboreal deciduous plant of considerable size, originating from the
Europe and the Caucasus, widespread in most of Europe, the linden reaches 35-40 m in height. It has a roundish, imposing crown, dark green oval leaves on the upper side, light green on the lower side; in autumn, before falling, the leaves turn golden yellow or light green.
In spring it produces inflorescences consisting of 4-5 white or cream flowers, very fragrant; the petiole of the inflorescence carries a bract, similar to a leaf, apt to keep the seeds in the air for as long as possible. In Europe it is widespread in the species Tilia cordata, which often hybridizes with Tilia platyphyllos; in North America we find American Tilia, with very large heart-shaped leaves and Tilia tomentosa, whose flowers are poisonous to bees.

Origins and classification of the Tiglio

The genus Tilia, part of the large family of Tiliaceae, includes about fifty species of trees or widespread throughout the northern hemisphere. The only endemics of Europe are the Tilia Cordata (also called wild linden) and the tilia platyphyllos (or large-leaved lime): the most widespread variety in cultivation is precisely their hybrid, the intermediate Tilia x, that is the common lime tree. The Asian tilia tomentosa is also appreciated, but there are also varieties originating from the American continent.

General characteristics of the lime tree

These are very large trees: they easily exceed 30 meters in height. The trunk is quite short, but very straight and regular; the lower branches widen almost horizontally and then become thinner and thinner. The crown is broad or expanded. The leaves are broadly ovate to round, slightly serrated, long and up to 10 cm wide. In spring they are a nice light green and in autumn they turn a beautiful intense yellow.
The flowers, produced at the beginning of summer, are small, about 2 cm wide, light yellow. They are produced in abundant bunches, from the leaf axil. They give off a sweet and very intense aroma, especially in the evening. They then evolve into oval fruits about 3 mm long. At maturity they break off and are carried by the wind.


As for the ideal exposure, the Tilia plants like the positions in full sun, or partially in the shade; they do not fear the cold or even the strong winds.
The best development is obtained with plants that can receive direct radiation for a few hours a day.
These trees prefer a rich, well-drained, basically moist soil; the linden is a very rustic plant and adapts very well to any soil and in any condition, it is in fact often used for city street trees, being a tree variety that has excellent resistance to atmospheric pollution.
It is good to check that the soil has a correct drainage, so that water stagnations that could cause suffering to the plant are avoided.
The ideal exposure for the lime tree is the full sun, but is also satisfied with the partial shade. We choose a location keeping in mind its final dimension: let's avoid placing it too close to a house or near a border.
It is also important to point out that often this tree is struck by aphids: therefore there will be an abundant production of honeydew that will drip from the foliage: and it will not be pleasant on terraces, pavements or garden furniture.


The multiplication of Tilia plants occurs by seed, to be used fresh in autumn; it is sown in a compound consisting of sand and peat in equal parts, which must be kept slightly damp in a cold place, the seeds remain dormant for a long time and often take 8-10 months to germinate.
The linden is a long-lived plant, not too fast growing, therefore the plants obtained from seed must be grown in a container for at least three years before being able to be planted; very young specimens may fear cold and wind, so it is advisable to grow them in a sheltered place, so that they can acquire the necessary strength that allows them to develop at their best.

Pests and diseases

Linden trees are often massively attacked by aphids, which usually do not cause irreparable damage to the plant but which can cause problems for people or objects that enjoy shade under the plant, in fact the presence of aphids cause the release of the so-called honeydew, a dense and sticky substance that falls to the ground.
Some lime trees can be attacked by the American caterpillar, Hyphantria cunea, which quickly devours most of the foliage, causing serious damage. The flowers of the linden attract bees, of this fact should be taken into account by people allergic to the bite of these insects in case they wish to plant a linden in their garden.
The lime tree, although very resistant, is often the victim of insect attacks. The most common are aphids and cochineal.
Aphids are the cause of abundant honeydew fall and, in case of serious infestations, they can considerably weaken the tree: we intervene with specific products and wash away any smoke with special soaps.
The appearance of galls caused by mites is also quite frequent: they do not cause serious damage, except from an aesthetic point of view. We eventually eliminate the affected branches, if the problem is extended.

Cultivation of the lime tree

The lime tree is a tree of simple cultivation: before placing it in our garden we must however make sure we have enough space available. An undersized position would force us, in the future, to drastic pruning, harmful to the plant and not very elegant.

The lime tree in short

Family, genus, species

Tiliaceae, gen. Tilia, about 50 species
Type of plant tree
Foliage frail
Height From 15 to 40 meters



Water needs

Sun, half-shade

Rich and fresh; no calcareous

Isolated specimen, tree-lined avenues

Linden plant

When to plant the lime tree?
The best time to plant a tree is always the autumn: the plant is given time to free itself and already in April vegetative growth can begin. However, the bare-root specimens can be planted from the end of October to March, except for periods when the soil is frozen. Potted plants can always be planted, but avoiding periods of greater stress due to being too cold or hot.
Such as?
We dig a hole that is about 1 meter wide and deep and we dig the walls well with a pitchfork. We insert the earth bread (or the roots) and fill it with a mixture: we prefer slightly clayey soil mixed with abundant flour or pelleted manure.
We put one or more tutors next to it, and we will tie the trunk together.
We compact well and irrigate abundantly.
The isolated specimens need at least 15 meters of free space in each direction (although there are smaller varieties that are satisfied even with only 6). If we want to build an avenue we can leave even 6-7 meters, provided that regular pruning is carried out.


It is very important to follow the growth of the lime tree in the first three years with regular watering. Especially during the hot season we irrigate abundantly at least once a week, in the absence of heavy rain.
The adult trees will need water only in the event of prolonged drought (more than two weeks) or in a soil not perfectly suitable because it is too draining.
To reduce water intakes, it can be useful to prepare a thick mulch based on leaves, straw and other chipping material.


In the early years it may be useful to spread, in autumn, an abundant quantity of flour manure in the area covered by the foliage, incorporating it with slight hoeing on the arrival of spring, then adding a little granular fertilizer balanced in its components.



Autumn-late winter
Flowering Early summer
Flowers collection Early summer
Wood collection spring


Other care

For the rest the lime tree is quite autonomous; in the southern regions or along the coasts it may be useful, in the early years, to protect the trunk with natural breathable materials (jute, vegetable fibers). In the case of strong light the bark could in fact undergo dangerous burns.


Young trees may need training pruning; later this type of intervention will no longer be necessary, especially if the space we have left for growth will be adequate.
The best time for pruning is undoubtedly late autumn, alternatively we can operate in August. Moments of vegetative growth and the end of summer must be avoided.
Training pruning
It may be necessary in case the specimen has an ungainly shape or to eliminate the lower branches freeing the trunk.
The young lime trees must be cut slowly and trying to obtain results progressively: we operate so that the free trunk occupies about 1/3 of the total height. We give the whole an untamed shape and slightly open the branches, leaving the center as free as possible.
Pruning for maintenance
It is a maintenance that should be done regularly, but especially if there are sick or dead branches. These risk breaking and then falling over others or people, causing serious damage.
For the rest we intervene if we want to maintain a certain volume: let us remember that it is better to intervene several times (even twice a year) in a light manner rather than once in a heavy manner. We always remove at the maximum ј of the crown volume and avoid cutting branches with a diameter greater than 10 cm. We also operate with “return” cuts, without leaving any truncated parts that are then easily attacked by cryptogams and parasites. Furthermore we will avoid the emission of numerous new branches.
It is also necessary to monitor the base of the tree by regularly eliminating the suckers.
Renovation pruning is very difficult to implement without causing serious damage: it is therefore to be delegated to experts.

Collection and use

Linden flowers find innumerable herbal uses. They should be harvested with their bract, possibly in the morning and when they are not yet fully open.
The most common method of conservation is drying: they are placed on grids, in a shaded but ventilated area. Let's turn them around frequently and store them in paper bags or airtight jars.
Wood is also very useful for herbal teas, which has a draining effect: it is harvested in spring, obtaining it from specially cut branches. It is cut into pieces about 2 cm long and 3 mm thick which will dry out.

Tiglio - Tilia: Variety

Tilia cordata
Said wild linden, has round leaves, up to 8 cm, finely serrated. It produces cream flowers, very fragrant. The crown is conical in shape and reaches 30 meters in height. Very rustic, suitable for all of Italy.
Tilia platyphyllos
Said linden with large leaves; the leaves are round, up to 20 cm wide, light green and turn to bright yellow in autumn. It produces abundant yellow flowers. It can reach 35 m in height. Very rustic.
European Tilia (or intermediate)
Also known as common lime, it has acid green leaves, with a velvety back. Very fragrant yellow flower. It grows up to 30 meters. Very rustic.
American Tilia
Leaves up to 20 cm in diameter, sharply tapered to the apex, serrated. It produces yellow flowers in bunches. It has a wide column habit, up to 30 meters high. Very rustic.
Mongolian Tilia
It has broadly ovate leaves, up to 7.5 cm long and divided into 3-5 lobes. When young they are reddish, then glossy greens with glaucous backs. The flowers are pale yellow, in clusters, very fragrant. It grows up to 15 m, suitable for medium gardens. Very rustic, even from half the mountain.
Tilia tomentosa (silver linden)
It has gray-green foliage on the front and white and hairy on the back. In autumn it turns to intense yellow. It produces small pale yellow flowers, very fragrant but poisonous to bees. It grows up to 25 m in height and takes on an expanded column shape. Medium rustic and drought resistant.
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