How to grow and care for a rowan tree

How to grow rowan - Sorbus 'Eastern Promise'

Rowan trees, also known as mountain ash, are deciduous, berrying trees in the Sorbus genus. They bear attractive spring blossom followed by bright red or yellow berries, against a backdrop of fresh green, pinnate leaves. Many of them are suitable for growing in small gardens, and some varieties have spectacular autumn foliage. Their flowers are visited by pollinators and their berries are an important source of autumn fuel for birds such as blackbirds and robins.

How to grow a rowan tree

Grow your rowan in a fertile, well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Water regularly in the first two years to help it become established, and stake it to prevent root-rock.


Where to grow a rowan tree

Rowan tree growing in an ornamental border
Rowan trees growing in an ornamental border

Rowan trees do best in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Plant your rowan at the back of a border or make a feature of one in a lawn.


How to plant a rowan tree

Checking tree ties on a rowan tree
Checking tree ties on a rowan tree

Plant bare-root trees between November and March, and pot-grown trees any time of year unless the soil is frozen. Dig a square hole and remove weed roots. Fork the soil to make it pliable. Place the tree in the planting hole and check its depth – ensure it sits at the same level it was in the ground or in its pot, for bare-root plants look for the ‘soil tide mark’ towards the base of the stem. Once you’re satisfied with the depth, fill around the roots with soil until the hole is filled, and firm gently. Water well.

Add a tree stake to prevent root rock, this will need to be in pace for around two years.


How to care for a rowan tree

Pruning a rowan tree
Pruning a rowan tree

Rowans need very little attention after they’ve become established. Water in very dry weather and mulch annually with well-rotted horse manure or compost. You may need to cut back suckering shoots coming from the base of the tree. Prune out dead or damage stems from late autumn to spring.

Advice on buying rowan trees

  • Make sure you have enough space to grow your rowan – some varieties can grow to 15m over 50 years
  • Rowans are availble in garden centres but you’ll find a wider range online or in specialist nurseries
  • Remember that bare-root trees are much cheaper than pot-grown trees

Where to buy rowan trees

Varieties of rowan to grow

Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia
Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia

Sorbus aucuparia – our native rowan, this is an upright tree with clusters of white flowers in late spring, followed by orange-red berries in autumn and yellow autumn leaf colours.

Sorbus cashmiriana – this white-berried rowan can be grown as a large shrub or small tree. Attractive pink flowers in spring.

Sorbus ‘Eastern Promise’ – this is a small, rounded tree with white flowers and pink berries. It’s autumn leaf colour is spectacular, too.

Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’ – one of the most popular varieties for small gardens, ‘Joseph Rock’ has white flowers and yellow berries, with the added bonus of red and orange autumn leaf colours.

 

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