Rowan Tree Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Mountain Ash” Trees

Rowan trees small ornamental trees, also known as "mountain ash." they are an excellent choice for gardeners looking to bring more character into their yard
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Rowan trees are deciduous, ornamental trees, also known as “mountain ash.” These tiny trees are an excellent choice for gardeners looking to bring more character into their yard. Rowan trees suit small gardens that don’t have the space for ordinary trees, and they look fantastic in the springtime when they start to flower.

As the tree develops fruit in the fall, the tree sends a spectacular display of color, with its foliage turning brilliant hues of orange, red, and yellow.

Where to Plant Rowan Trees in the Garden?

Gardeners should plant their bare-root rowans in the months between November and March. If planting in pots or containers, then gardeners can plant at any time of the year, except the summertime.

Planting in the colder months of the year helps to reduce the stress of a transplant if you’re growing full-size trees, allowing the plant to settle before the start of the growing season.

To plant your rowan, dig a hole that’s 2ft x 2ft, and 12-inches deep. Fork out the ground at the bottom of the hole, and then line it with a layer of organic compost. Those gardeners planting in containers should place a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot or container to improve soil drainage. Adequate drainage is critical to root development, so make sure you don’t skip this step.

Rowan Tree

Place the roots of the rowan in the hole, and adjust the plant height by backfilling the soil until the top of the roots are just below the surface of the ground. Mix more compost with the excavated soil, and then fill in the hole.

Lightly pack the soil around the roots of the rowan, and then water thoroughly. If the tree is still young, then tie it off to a stake to ensure that high-winds don’t knock it over during a storm.

Gardeners can add some granular, slow-releasing fertilizer around the soil at the base of the rowan, and then add a 2 to 3inch layer of mulch, well-rotted compost or bark chips on the soil around the roots of the tree.

If you’re planting in the lawn, then the gardener can build a turf-free circular flowerbed around the rowan, with a clearance of 2-feet to other plants.

Suggested Planting Areas

Gardeners can plant their rowan trees in flower beds, along flowerbed borders. The trees also offer excellent aesthetics for courtyard gardens, as well as natural gardens, informal and cottage gardens.

The hardy nature of the rowan tree allows it to grow well in a variety of planting locations. However, we recommend you plant it in an area of the garden that receives full sun throughout the day. The more sun the tree gets, the faster and larger it grows.

Rowan Tree in the Wild
Rowan Tree in the Wild

Pretreatment of Rowan Trees

Extracting Rowan tree seeds is challenging for any gardener, but the seeds sprout readily, and you shouldn’t have any hassles with germination. Gardeners can mix extracted seeds with equal parts of compost and horticultural soil. If you’re planting seeds, then the addition of nutrient-rich compost can break the dormancy cycle of the seed, causing it to germinate.

  • For best results, gardeners can use a blend of 50% horticultural soil and peat-free compost or leafmould for the balance of the substrate. For every handful of rowan tree seeds you sow, you’ll need to add 3-handfuls of the soil mixture.
  • Gardeners should select a pot or container that has plenty of room for the seeds and soil mixture. Place a 1-inch layer of gravel on the bottom of the pot before filling it with soil. The gravel assists with soil drainage, preventing root rot.
  • After placing your seeds in the pot, cover them with a ½-inch layer of soil mix, and then label the pot before you put it outdoors. Gardeners should place the container in a shady spot while the seeds germinate. Leaving the seeds in the full sun will dry out the top layer of soil, causing the seeds to die.
  • Leave the pot outside for the winter, and provide water if necessary to prevent the container from drying out during the daytime. It’s also essential for gardeners to protect the pot from birds and mice that eat the rowan tree seeds.

Gardeners should ensure the soil in the pot stays moist at all times. Letting the seeds dry out may either force them to die, or push them back into the dormancy phase until next spring.

Ash Rowan Live Seedling, Available from Amazon

Sowing Your Rowan Tree Seeds

In March, the gardener can check the pot for signs of sprouting. If 10% of the seeds or more are in the process of germinating, then it’s time to sow them. Take a half-gallon pot and sow six seeds evenly apart. Cover the seeds with a half-inch of soil mix, and then press down gently before watering thoroughly.

If the gardener is planting in a flowerbed, make sure that they sow the seeds in a dense formation, with around half an inch between the seeds. Firm the planted seeds gently using a board or roller to press them into the soil. Cover the seeds with a half-inch of compost and then water thoroughly.

Rowan Tree Seeds, Available from Amazon

Cultivation of Rowan Trees

Most of the rowan tree varieties aren’t very fussy about their position in the garden. The trees grow well in the full sun or partial shade, with the best results in full sunlight. However, the gardener will have to ensure that they prepare the soil properly to give the tree the nutrients it needs to grow.

Rowan trees will grow in almost any soil type, but they prefer loose, airy, and loamy soils that have plenty of nitrogen. If the rowan experiences water logging, then the gardener will start to notice the foliage falling off of the tree, and they should move it to another planting site.

Growing Rowan Trees

Gardeners must remove the weak seedlings and leave the strongest to continue growing. Your rowan seeds will germinate and grow if given the right climate and growing conditions.

After around two-years, the seedlings will be strong enough to plant into the ground in the garden or flowerbeds.

Maintaining Rowan Trees

The rowan is a low-maintenance tree, requiring little attention and maintenance once it establishes roots in the garden. The gardener will only need to water in prolonged dry spells. Gardeners can also water thoroughly at the start of the spring to ensure the establishment of the roots and rapid growth during the summer months.

Feed your rowans with a granular fertilizer in the springtime, and then prune the trees to remove any dead or diseases foliage. Most rowan trees don’t require any pruning throughout the year.

If your rowan tree needs pruning, it’s best between the late fall to early springtime.

Harvesting Rowan Berries

Rowan trees produce small scarlet-colored berries on the crown of the tree. The berries start to emerge in the later summertime, and they’re ready for harvesting in the weeks between August and early September.

If the gardener picks the berries too early, it results in immature seeds that won’t germinate. However, if you leave your harvest too late, the birds might devour all the berries before you get round to picking them from the tree.

Rowan Berries

Gardeners can collect the bunches of berries by clutching the branch below the berries and cutting it with a pair of sharp garden shears or secateurs.

Take care not to remove next year’s bud! In this way, there is no damage to the tree.

You need to ensure that you’re careful when harvesting the berries. If you accidentally remove next season’s buds, then the tree will not flower or produce more berries the following season.

Rowan Tree Seed Extraction and Storage

Gardeners can store their rowan tree berries in a bucket or breadbasket for two to three weeks. You must ensure the seeds are in a cool, dry place. During the two to three weeks of drying, the seeds mature until they are ready for extraction.

Unfortunately, extracting the seeds from the berries can be an arduous task, even for experienced gardeners. Seeds that are under-ripe are tough to extract.

  • When breaking open the berry, you’ll notice that the seeds stick to the soft inner flesh of the fruit. Some gardeners recommend that you leave the berries to rot a bit before extracting the seeds, making the process easier. However, there is also the risk of damaging the seeds using this method.
  • Mashing is another method for extracting the seeds from rowan berries.
  • Use a bucket, a flat-bottomed pole or the head of a mallet, and a kitchen sieve to extract the berries. Gardeners should also ensure they have a hosepipe nearby.
  • Place the berries in the bucket, and then mash them gently. Fill the bucket with water, and then drain it through the kitchen sieve. Gardeners might find it helpful to squash the seeds through a riddle using your fingers.
  • Gardeners must ensure that the riddle is large enough for the seeds to slip through. However, they must also check that the riddle is small enough to allow the effective crushing of the berries.

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at or follow on twitter

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