How to Grow the European Mountain Ash

European mountain ash tree branch with pinnate leaves and red-orange pome fruits hanging in front

The Spruce / K. Dave

If you'd like to add color to your winter landscape, plant a European Mountain Ash. This tree produces a plethora of red fruits in the summer that will remain on the tree even after the leaves drop in autumn and persist through winter.

This species is not a true ash tree like the European Ash. European Mountain Ash trees have ash-like leaves, but they are members of the rose family; true ash trees (Fraxinus spp.), are members of the olive family.

The European Mountain Ash is native to Western Asia and Europe.

Botanical Name

The botanical name for this member of the Rosaceae family is Sorbus aucuparia. Other well-known members of this family include roses, strawberries, the Prunus genus (which contains apricots, almonds, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums, among others), Cotoneaster spp., raspberries, and blackberries.

Common Names

Common names that might be applied to this tree include European rowan, mountain ash, rowan, and European mountain ash.

Preferred USDA Cold Hardiness Zones

USDA Cold Hardiness Zones 3 through 6 are the recommended zones for this tree. It will not grow well south of USDA Zone 6.

Size and Shape

This tree reaches a height of 20 to 40 feet with an 8 to 20 foot spread as it forms into an narrow, upright specimen with an oval or round crown.

Light

This tree requires full sun at least six to eight hours per day.

Foliage, Flowers, and Fruit

The pinnately compound leaves are arranged alternately on the stem, each one featuring 9 to 15 leaflets. White flowers are produced in May and are borne in cymes (clusters). After the flower show, the tree is covered with clusters of red-orange pome fruits.

Design Tips

Invite birds into your landscape by planting one of these trees; their fruit is a favorite treat and the red berries add much-needed color to a winter garden.

Growing Tips

Perform a soil test to ensure the soil is acidic, in the range of 4.5 to 6.0, which this tree prefers. You can add amendments to acidify the soil if the soil pH is too high. This tree does best in moist, well-drained soils. As the common name suggests, this tree prefers cool mountain climates and dislikes hot and humid summers,

European mountain ash tree red-orange pome fruits on branch closeup

The Spruce / K. Dave

European mountain ash tree in middle of field with red pome fruits in branches against blue sky

The Spruce / K. Dave

European mountain ash tree branch with pinnate leaves and white flower clusters

The Spruce / K. Dave

Maintenance and Pruning

Fire blight can be spread by pruning if the conditions are right (very warm). Prune this tree at winter's end during the tree's dormant period.

Pests and Diseases

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Apple fruit moth (Argyresthia conjugella)
  • Blister mites
  • Borers
  • Deer
  • Mountain-ash sawfly larvae (Pristiphora geniculata)
  • Scales such as the oystershell scale (Lepidosaphes ulmi)

Diseases

  • Apple scab (Venturia inaequalis)
  • Botryosphaeria dieback and canker (Botryosphaeria dothidea)
  • Cedar-quince rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes)
  • Cytospora canker (Cytospora spp.)
  • Bacterial fire blight (caused by Erwinia amylovora)
  • Powdery mildew