If you have found yourself wishing for a tree that will grow fairly quickly, provide nice shade, and also produce some beautiful foliage in the spring and fall, you might find that the ash tree is the right fit for you! Ash trees can grow from seedling to mature tree quickly in the right conditions, and they can flourish for decades and decades with the right environment and care.
The time for an ash tree to grow to maturity can vary wildly, but in general, expect it to take about 3 to 15 years. Once the tree has grown fully, it can be 120 feet tall and live for up to 200-300 years depending on the species and growing conditions.
Read on for all the info you need to plant your ash tree, help it grow, keep it healthy, and protect it from destructive pests!
How Long Does It Take To Grow An Ash Tree?
Ash trees grow fairly quickly, but how fast they grow depends on a few factors.
First, young ash trees grow faster when exposed to a lot of sunlight. If you want to accelerate the growth of your ash tree, keep this in mind when choosing a planting location.
Another factor in tree growth is the soil around the roots. Your ash tree will grow bigger and faster with rich, healthy soil. You can enhance the soil of your ash tree by using fertilizer, like Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed, which is made specifically for flowering trees.
Typically however like we stated above, expect your ash tree to reach maturity at around 15 years (this will vary widely based on the species.) During their peak growth, ash trees can grow around 1-2ft per year until they reach their full height!
Planting Your Ash Tree For Faster Growth
Ash trees can be found around the world and prominently in North America. Billions of them grow in the United States. They are flowering trees that have a few different species.
According to the USDA, the most popular of which is likely the white ash tree, which is also sometimes called the Biltmore ash. In the United States, ash trees grow mainly in the east, but it is possible to grow them in other parts of the country, too, as long as you can take care of them with good soil and watering.
In general, the best time to plant ash trees outdoors in your yard is the spring. This will give the tree the most time possible in warm weather, allowing its roots to strengthen and its branches to grow before the cold temperatures of fall and winter arrive. This start will allow your ash tree to get the best possible head start on fast growth.
If you plant your tree in the summer, you will see its leaves change with its first fall season, no matter how few leaves there are. For ash trees, this means yellow leaves that might darken to red or even purple, then turn brown and fall off for the winter.
Trees also do well when they are planted in the fall. With this timing, according to the Conservation Seedling Program, the tree’s roots can establish themselves over the winter while the tree’s growth is dormant.
Then, in the spring, the young ash tree will grow new, green leaves. Ash trees will then soon produce white flowers that linger through most of the summer before the new fall season changes the leaves yellow once again.
If you are concerned about the health of your young ash tree over the winter for any reason, you can protect a young tree from the cold elements by wrapping it in burlap or covering it with a tree protector, like these Alpurple Plant Protection Covers.
Whether you choose to plant in the spring or the fall, ash trees are likely to do well with either planting season as long as you plant them properly and set them up for a healthy first year with plenty of sunlight, water, and protection from pests (more on that later).
To learn more about when it is the best time to plant your ash, check out our article on the best time to plant ash trees!
Where Should You Plant An Ash Tree For Fastest Growth?
Ash trees can be planted under shade, but they do better with at least a little sunlight. If you want your ash tree to grow as fast as possible, plant it in full sun (unless you live in a harsh sunny climate, like the southwest United States; then the sun might be too much for your new ash tree). The sun will help your ash tree grow tall faster than shade.
But if you do not have a spot without shade, don’t sweat it. Your ash tree will still grow; it will probably just be slower to get tall than an ash tree that gets lots of sunlight.
Make sure to plant them at least 10 feet apart if you are planting more than one ash tree.
You can plant your tree in a garden area or a grassy area. Most ash trees do well even in wild areas that are not regularly weeded, especially after the first few years. Once your tree is well established, the only regular care it will need is pest control and the occasional pruning.
Just remember – ash trees loveeeee sun!
One reason why you may want to plant an ash tree is because it can cool down your yard. Read more in our article on the 5 reasons why ash trees make great shade trees!
How Do You Plant An Ash Tree In Your Yard?
Once you have determined the optimal spot for your new ash tree, there are a few things to keep in mind during planting to set your tree up for success. If you are not able to plant your tree right away, make sure to keep the soil around the tree moist until you can plant it.
Here are some steps to help you plant your ash tree outdoors:
- Dig a hole that is larger than the root ball of your ash tree. It is good to err on the side of the hole being too big, as it is easy to fill the hole with loose dirt if you need to make it smaller. Ideally, the hole should be at least twice as big as the root ball.
- Remove any plastic, burlap, or paper from the root ball of your tree. Check to see if any tags or ties have been left behind. If you purchased your tree from a store, it may have a tag on its branches to identify it. You can leave this on if you like. Just make sure to remove anything that will end up buried underground.
- Loosen the soil around the edges of the hole you have dug. This will make it easier to completely cover the root ball with soil.
- Put the root ball in the hole you have dug and see how close the tree’s trunk flare, which is where the tree’s trunk emerges from the roots, is to the ground surface. The trunk flare should be even with the ground. Fill in the bottom of the hole, under the root ball, as needed until the base of the tree trunk sits level with the ground.
- As you fill in the hole, water the soil. According to New York State Conservation, this will help eliminate air bubbles and make the tree more secure in the hole.
- Fill in the hole with the dirt you dug, or supplement with growing soil.
- Once you have planted your tree, use a garden hose to thoroughly water it, giving it a good start.
- Check on your tree over the next few days to see if the trunk is planted securely, the tree seems to be getting enough water, and nothing unexpected has entered the tree’s environment.
- Enjoy your new ash tree!
What Can You Do If You Don’t Have A Good Spot To Plant Your Ash Tree?
Did you know that you can start some trees in containers? While some trees can live their entire lives in containers, that is not the case for the ash tree, which will eventually be too big. But if you have a reason that you cannot plant it in the ground right away, a large container might be the solution to your problem.
Maybe you want to give your ash tree a head start with plenty of sunlight, then move it to a shadier area. Maybe you are planning to move in the next couple of years and want to take your ash tree with you. Or perhaps you want to plant your ash tree in the fall or winter when outdoor conditions would possibly be too cold for a young ash tree seedling.
For any of these reasons, you might look into planting your young ash tree or seedling in a container, which is usually just a very large pot.
Here are some steps to getting started with your container ash tree:
- Buy a very large pot or container. It should be significantly bigger than the root ball of your ash tree seedling.
- Choose a spot for your container. If this is indoors, make sure you can put the container in a spot that gets enough sunlight. A window with southern light exposure is best, if possible. If your container will be outdoors, watch the spot you have chosen for a day or two to see how the sunlight changes throughout the day. In general, unless it can be sunny most of the day, choose morning light over afternoon light.
- Put a layer of rocks, pebbles, or even tree bark at the bottom of your container. This will help the water drain away from the roots of your ash tree and prevent them from rotting.
- Plant your ash tree in a container with potting soil, like Miracle-Gro Potting Mix, which can help your tree grow faster and healthier.
- On top of the soil, put a layer of peat moss, like Miracle-Gro Sphagnum Peat Moss. This will help keep the soil moist and prevent your tree from going without water for too long.
- Once your container is planted, make sure to water it regularly or place it in a location where it can receive natural rainfall.
- When the tree has grown too big for the container, move your ash tree to a spot in your yard where it can reach its full size and live the rest of its years.
What Are Some Problems To Look Out For When Growing An Ash Tree?
Ash trees are fairly hearty trees that can survive both summers and cold winters, so once your tree has established itself in the soil, it is unlikely that you need to take steps to protect it from the weather. There is, however, a major threat to ash trees that you should be prepared for from the very first day you plant your tree.
Ash trees are often plagued by the emerald ash borer, an Asian beetle that was first found near Detroit, Michigan in 2002. These destructive beetles can cause the demise of an ash tree in anywhere from one to four years, depending on the age and size of the tree.
Three major species of ash tree–including the white ash tree–are listed in the northeast United States as critically endangered because of emerald ash borer infestation.
Emerald ash borers are incredibly invasive, and they are devastating to ash tree populations. In the national parks of the National Capital Area (in the eastern United States), for example, there used to be 300,000 ash trees. In only a few years, the National Parks Service states, emerald ash borers eliminated all but less than 80,000 of them.
In states bordering the Great Lakes, the number of ash trees had been increasing in the 1980s and 1990s, but after the emerald ash borer arrived around 2004, the number of trees was drastically reduced.
In addition, you may have problem with how much water or sun you are giving to your tree. Read more about how much water ash trees actually need!
How Do You Protect An Ash Tree From Emerald Ash Borers?
While this information might seem scary, it doesn’t have to stop you from planting an ash tree, nor does it have to stop your ash tree from living a long lifespan. With the proper attention and treatment, particularly insecticides specific to emerald ash borers, your ash tree can thrive.
You should take steps early to prevent emerald ash borers from infesting your ash tree. Don’t wait until it is too late.
According to the City of Burnsville, these beetles are so prevalent now that if you have an ash tree in your yard, you should plant another species of tree in your yard, as well, so that you will not lose all of your shade if you have to remove the ash tree.
One of the easiest ways to protect your ash tree is to treat the soil around it with a fertilizer that also includes a pesticide to help keep it safe from emerald ash borers.
These beetles can eliminate your tree very quickly, so it’s best to start with this protective measure. Use something specific to emerald ash borers, like BioAdvanced Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed.
How Do You Know If Your Ash Tree Has Been Infested?
Because emerald ash borers live under the ash tree bark, you may not know they are there until it is too late–unless you know how to look for the signs of infestation.
Here are the main signs of emerald ash borer infestation, according to the State of Maryland:
- There are lots of woodpeckers on your ash tree. They are there to eat the emerald ash borers, so if you see a lot of woodpeckers, that might be a sign that the beetles are under the bark of your ash tree.
- Your ash tree starts to lose leaves at the top of its canopy.
- There are holes in the bark of your ash tree in the shape of the letter “D.”
- The bark of your tree is splitting.
If you treat your ash tree preventively to keep emerald ash borers from infesting it in the first place, and you are vigilant to make sure there aren’t telltale signs of emerald ash borers in your ash tree, your tree can grow healthy and strong and stay that way for many years.
Make Sure To Prune Your Ash Tree
Ash trees grow wonderfully in wild forests, so they can survive and thrive without pruning. If you are growing an ash tree in your yard, however, you might want to take some steps to prune it to remove dead branches.
This will make it less likely to fall under the weight of heavy snow, and it will just make the tree look better. Pruning also helps with the control of pest infestation, but hopefully, you are already using an insecticide to prevent that, as well.
Lower ash tree branches die frequently, which is normal and not a cause for alarm. The best time to remove them, according to officials in Minnesota, is during the fall or winter.
This is because, during the colder seasons, the emerald ash borers are dormant and less likely to be spread to other ash trees that may not have been treated for them like yours has.
What Colors You Can Expect Your Ash Tree’s Leaves To Be Once Grown!
In the fall, you can expect the trees on your ash tree to change from green to yellow for most of the season, though some ash trees will also darken to a red that even looks purple as the fall comes to an end.
To make sure your ash tree’s leaves experience the full potential of their autumn foliage, be sure your tree gets plenty of water throughout the year.
If you live in a very dry climate or your area experiences periods of drought in any given year, you should water your tree. This will ensure those bright autumn colors.
In the late spring through the summer, ash trees usually produce white flowers (white ash!)
So, Why Should You Plant An Ash Tree?
Ash trees are critically endangered due to the widespread infestation of emerald ash borers, so every new ash tree that is planted helps keep these trees part of nature.
Ash trees are important in the myths and rituals of some native people across Europe and Asia. Ash tree wood is also the most popular wood used in making baseball bats.
Ash trees are home to many wildlife species, such as squirrels, bats, and even porcupines. That is not to say that a porcupine is going to take up residence in your yard!
But the more ash trees there are, the more their seeds can spread and grow in the hope that their populations will soon return to the huge numbers that used to exist in the United States!
That’s A Wrap!
Now you are ready to plant your ash tree and watch it grow. Just keep an eye out for emerald ash borers and all should be well. Enjoy your new shady addition to your yard!
If you’d like to learn more, take a look at our guide on the plants NOT to plant under your ash tree if you’re thinking about growing one!
I wish you the best of luck on your ash Tree Journey!
Dumont, Darl. J. (1992). “The Ash Tree in Indo-European Culture.” Mankind Quarterly, 32.4, 323.
Pugh, Scott A., Andrew M. Liebhold, and Randall S. Morin (2011). “Changes in ash tree demography associated with emerald ash borer invasion, indicated by regional forest inventory data from the Great Lakes States.” Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 2 November 2011.
MacFarlane, D. W., & Meyer, S. P. (2005). Characteristics and distribution of potential ash tree hosts for emerald ash borer. Forest Ecology and Management, 213(1-3), 15-24.
Sheeren, D., Fauvel, M., Ladet, S., Jacquin, A., Bertoni, G., & Gibon, A. (2011, July). Mapping ash tree colonization in an agricultural mountain landscape: Investigating the potential of hyperspectral imagery. In 2011 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (pp. 3672-3675). IEEE.