The bonny rowan tree is a hardy little mountain ash tree with soft, delicate, fern-shaped leaves. Often planted as an ornamental tree for its beauty, it is also useful in providing an excellent source of shade in the summer. It blossoms generously in the spring with creamy white flowers. Round, reddish-organge berries follow after flowering. In autumn, when it comes time to rake up all of those dainty little leaves, the rowan tree’s splendid fall color alone will leave you inspired enough to find the labor well worthwhile.
The rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) is the most widely planted ash tree. It will grow well in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 3 to 5. It grows in the wild throughout northern Europe in the most inhospitable of glens and crags. The berries are a staple for migrating birds and other wildlife.
The rowan enjoys a rich history in its native land. Adored by many, it has been planted for its protective powers in mountain and cottage gardens for centuries. It is believed to ward off witches and evil spirits with its mystical virtues. It is also revered as the “Tree of Good Luck.” The rowan tree’s greatest virtue may simply be its benevolent gift of beauty through the seasons.
How to Plant and Care for a Rowan Tree
The best time to plant a rowan tree is in late fall after the young tree has gone dormant. Plant your rowan tree in a full sun or partly shaded location. Dig a hole three times the width of the root ball, place the tree in the hole, and fill in the soil around it. Ideally, the soil should be well draining, although the rowan tree is not too finicky about its conditions and will adapt to rocky and clay soils, too. Water your new transplant deeply, and stake your tree for support.
After your rowan tree has deeply rooted, it prefers to have its soil moist. However, it can be trusted to withstand drought, winds and cold.
A rowan tree may need to be pruned when it is young to remove vertical branches or those that crossover other branches. Once the tree is mature, it will no longer require pruning.
The berries of the rowan tree are rich in Vitamin C. While they have a bitter flavor, they can used to make a tasty jelly. Or they can be harvested after they are overripe or after a frost as they will sweeten a bit if the birds will leave them alone for that long.
Rowan Tree Pests and Problems
The rowan tree is tough and tenacious. It is not prone to many diseases as long as it is planted in the cold regions it prefers. If grown in warmer environments, it is prone to fire blight. Prune away the affected branches, as there is no other cure for this bacterial disease.
Lichen will sometimes grow on the bark of the rowan tree, but this is rarely a problem.
Deer love to eat the leaves of the rowan tree . This may be a problem for some while at the same time attract some to planting this tree.
Varieties to Try
- ‘Fructo Luteo’ is a nice garden-sized tree reaching 25 ft rather than the common rowan tree height of 50 ft. This variety produces a golden fruit in the fall.
- ‘Sheerwater seedling’ is a narrower upright rowan that is often used to line streets.
The Rowan Tree – The Woodland Trust
Identify Species of Rowan (Mountain Ash) Trees – Garden Action