Mountain Ash: How To Plant And Use The Rowan Tree

Last updated on June 12th, 2022 at 02:24 pm

The rowan is not only a colorful eye-catcher in the garden, but also attracts birds. How to plant and care for the tree in your own garden and how you can use the rowan berries, you will learn here.

The mountain ash is a native deciduous tree, which is also known as rowan. Its characteristic feature is the yellowish to bright red, round fruits that attract birds and other animals and are therefore also called rowan berries. The leaves of the rowan vary depending on the variety: For the most part, they are elongated and composed of several smaller leaves arranged in odd pairs.

Mountain Ash: How To Plant And Use The Rowan Tree

The berries are widely considered poisonous, but this is not entirely true. Rowan berries are much more likely to be rich in vitamins: according to the Federal Center for Nutrition, they contain plenty of vitamin C and provitamin A, which is converted into vitamin A by the body.

Note, however, that eating them in large quantities (especially raw berries) can cause stomach and intestinal problems and inflammation. Therefore, it is recommended to cook the bitter-tasting fruits. In this way, the bitter parasorbic acid is converted into more digestible sorbic acid.

Planting and caring for mountain ash

Mountain Ash: How To Plant And Use The Rowan Tree

According to the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, the mountain ash is ideal for a bird-friendly and nature-oriented garden – so planting it is worthwhile! What’s more, it’s very easy to do:

  • Timing: the best time for planting mountain ash is in the spring after the last frost. However, autumn is also possible.
  • Location: It is best to choose a semi-shady to sunny location. The hole you dig should be as large as the roots of your purchased young tree. Be generous in width and depth. The roots of the mountain ash require sufficient space, so choose a location with a distance of about three to four meters from the nearest rooting tree or larger shrub; two meters from smaller plants is sufficient. You should also make sure that there are no wires running at least two meters below.
  • Soil: Mountain ash is a hardy tree that thrives in a variety of soils and can handle numerous acidities. However, it grows best in loose soil with high nutrient content. That means you can loosen the soil, put the young plant in it and top it up with organic fertilizer, such as compost. If you also mix the soil with sand, you not only loosen the soil, but also make it more permeable to water.

The care is not costly:

  • Watering: The rowan does not like dryness, but you should avoid waterlogging. Make the watering frequency and amount dependent on the weather. Water more when it is dry for a longer time and less when it rains for a longer time. As a young tree, you should water the rowan regularly. Since the lime content is not important for the mountain ash, you can use both tap water and rainwater. The latter is sustainable and easy to do: collect rainwater: How best to collect and use it.
  • Fertilizing: You usually don’t need to fertilize the rowan. If you notice that the flower or fruit is growing less, you can fertilize the tree, for example, in the fall with your own autumn leaves.
  • Pruning: You should only prune the mountain ash if it is proliferating or if you want to keep it small as a shrub. It is best to prune the mountain ash in spring. Cut directly above the shoot base so that the tree is not weakened unnecessarily. Note, however, that the tree will not bear fruit afterwards. So, if possible, do without it.

Advantages and disadvantages of mountain ash in the garden

Mountain Ash: How To Plant And Use The Rowan Tree

There are numerous points in favor of having a rowan tree in the garden:

  • Easy to care for and robust, rowan trees can handle a variety of soil and weather conditions. Thus, the rowan tree hardly needs attention. There is no need for measures to protect it from winter cold.
  • Light crown: It offers a little shade, but also lets light through. Depending on the variety, rowan trees can also grow like shrubs, such as the American rowan.
  • Bee-friendly: In summer, the flowers of the rowan attract insects and especially bees.

Bird-friendly: Mountain ash trees contribute to a bird-friendly garden. The fruits serve as a food source for birds.

  • Beautiful to look at: In spring and summer (from May to June), white, bushy flowers adorn mountain ash trees. In the fall (from late August to October), the berries glow white, pink, yellow, orange or red, depending on the variety. The leaves are green in spring and summer, and in autumn they appear in yellow-red color. You can use falling leaves as colorful fall decorations if you like.
  • Berries: If you want to use the berries and process them further, you should harvest them in the middle of autumn. We recommend leaving some of the berries on the tree for animals to benefit from. Harvested berries can be used in many ways. However, as mentioned above, you should always cook rowan berries to make them more digestible. For example, you can make jam, juice or liqueur from them:

Only a few points speak against it:

Danger to children: rowan berries can attract the attention of children due to their bright red color. High amounts of raw rowan berries cause stomach and intestinal problems as well as irritation of the mucous membranes.
Space: If you want to plant a rowan in the garden, you should be aware that the tree needs space for its roots. In addition, the tree grows at least four meters high, bush species often grow in width.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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