5 Reasons Why Ash Trees Make Wonderful Shade Trees

Fraxinus ornus samaras (ash tree)

While it’s nice to soak up the sun on a warm summer day, we can probably all agree that it’s a wonderful feeling to sit underneath a tree and soak in that shade. We all know of the popular trees like oak and maple, but did you know that other trees like ash trees are good shade trees?

Ash trees are ideal shade trees! They are large, fast-growing trees that provide lots of shade. Ash trees are also low-maintenance trees that have huge canopies, making them perfect for your backyard or along streets. Ash trees do attract emerald ash borers pests in certain states.

If you’re debating on what tree to plant in your sunny backyard, look no further, we’ve got that covered. Read on to learn why ash trees make wonderful shade trees.

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Are Ash Trees Good Shade Trees?

Let’s talk about shade trees. 

Shade trees are usually large trees with large, sprawling canopies that provide shade to their environment.

Ash trees adapt to just about all soil types and are even drought tolerant. They also grow anywhere from 30-120 feet tall and have a canopy that reaches 40-50 feet! Talk about a huge tree! Additionally, ash trees grow at a medium to fast rate, with 12-24 inches of growth each year.

As we mentioned, ash trees adapt to and grow in all soil types, so if your soil is acidic, alkaline, sandy, moist, well-draining, clayey, or wet, you can bet an ash tree can grow there. 

Ash trees do well in Zones 2-9, which are almost all USDA Hardiness Zones. 

So, back to the question at hand, are ash trees good shade trees?

Absolutely! Because of their wide, sprawling canopy that reaches anywhere between 40-50 feet, you can bet they’ll provide you with lots of shade on a hot summer day. 

You can learn more about ash trees in our article about ash tree daily water requirements.

In addition to this, you can also learn a plethora about what makes a good shade tree from a book such as The Sibley Guide To Trees.

1. Ash Trees Have A Huge Canopy That Provides Shade

Fraxinus tree solhouette (ash)

According to Vanderbilt University, among ash trees, there are three of the most common ashes that you’ll see. This includes the white ash, Fraxinus Americana, and the green ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica. 

White Ash 

The white ash, Fraxinus Americana, is found throughout northeastern and central North America, except for the southern coast of the United States. White ashes get their name from the pale grey undersides of their leaves. 

The white ash tree reaches anywhere between 60-90 feet tall and can even reach up to 120 feet tall in certain cases. It has a moderately dense, pyramidal crown that reaches 40-50 feet, which creates sizable shaded areas. 

It is classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN Red List measures the status of biological diversity and evaluates how close species are to extinction.

However, the white ash is susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases. The main pest that affects the white ash is the lilac borer, but this is not limited to the banded and emerald ash borers, leaf spot, and canker diseases.

The white ash grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9 and grows well in almost all soils. Additionally, it grows at a medium rate with a growth rate of 13-24” every year!

Green Ash 

Fraxinus pennsylvanica yellow foliage (ash)

The green ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, is an extremely adaptable tree. It is native to Iowa but is found throughout the United States. It is generally found near wetland areas but is also found in many other habitats.

It has a pyramidal crown shape that is slightly rounded. Like other ash trees, the green ash will grow best in full sun and well-draining soils, but will grow in just about every soil it’s put in! The green ash grows best in almost all zones, but more specifically, USDA Hardiness Zones 2-9.

According to Iowa State University, green ash is the fastest-growing ash tree, growing more than 2 feet per year! It also reaches a height of anywhere between 50-80 feet tall and wide! Because of its fast growth rate and large size, it is widely used as a shade tree! 

To start your own green ash tree, get off on the right food with these Green Ash Seeds!

Unfortunately, like all ash trees, green ash is susceptible to lots of pests and diseases. It is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Some of the most notable pests are the emerald ash borer, and the lilac borer. It is also susceptible to diseases like ash rust, ash dieback, anthracnose, and verticillium wilt. 

2. Ash Trees Can Grow Across Most Of The United States

Ash trees grow well in USDA Hardiness Zones 2-9, which is just about every zone. But, just like most plants, which zone they will grow in will depend on the variety.

We mentioned green ash trees and white ash trees, let’s recap what zones those do well in.;

  • The green ash tree grows best in Hardiness Zones 3-9. 
  • The white ash tree grows best in Hardiness Zones 4-9. 

If you live in Zones 4-9 you can bet these will take well to your climate. 

3. Ash Trees Do Well In All Soil Types

Fraxinus excelsior branch close up (ash)

As we mentioned, ash trees grow in just about all soil types, but let’s get into that a little bit more. 

The green ash tree adapts well to all different soil types. It does best in wet soils, but can also grow in moist, and well-draining soils, and is slightly drought tolerant. Additionally, it does well in acidic and alkaline soils, loamy, sandy, and clayey soils!

The green ash tree also tolerates soil compaction, which is when the compression of soil creates a reduction in space between the soil pores. This can be a result of a lack of water within the soil, making the soil more compact, denser, and harder for roots to penetrate. 

The white ash tree grows best in moist, and well-draining soils. But it can grow in acidic and alkaline soils, as well as loamy, sandy, moist, well-draining, and even wet soils. 

To keep your ash trees looking happy and healthy, try out a fertilizer such as Humboldts Secret Base A & B Bundle.

White ash trees are fairly shock-tolerant and have a good soil salt tolerance, which is why they can handle a variety of soils. 

4. Ash Trees Are Drought Tolerant Shade Trees

We mentioned the green ash tree being slightly drought tolerant. On the other hand, the white ash tree is moderately drought tolerant. 

Now, if you live in the desert, we’re not saying this is necessarily a good tree choice. All we’re saying is that because ash trees are fairly tolerant of most conditions if you live in an area that gets a somewhat low to a fair amount of precipitation. This would be a good choice for a shade tree!

The green ash tree can tolerate being planted on highways, in urban areas with pollution, in reclamation areas, and even around parking lots.

Fertilizer can be a great addition to the care of your trees. Fertilizer not only strengthens the tree but can also strengthen the tree’s immune system. If you already have one, a 10-10-10 fertilizer is perfect for your ash tree. 

A 10-10-10 fertilizer has an equal ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The GreenView 2129872 Multi-Purpose Fertilizer is a 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer, which is ideal for your ash tree. As with all chemical applications, before you apply it make sure to read the label for directions!

5. Ash Trees Are Extremely Fast Growing

Ash trees are mostly moderate to fast-growing trees, which makes this a great choice as a shade tree. 

The green ash tree has a fast growth rate, growing more than two feet every year. 

The white ash tree has a medium to the fast growth rate of 1 to 2 feet every year, meaning in just 10 years they can reach 12 to 24 feet tall!

We recommend checking in your area to see if ash trees are recommended for planting. Currently, because of the emerald ash borer, planting ash trees is not recommended in some places. 

Ash trees are kind of the powerhouse of shade-providing trees, aside from their susceptibility to pests and diseases. 

Should I Plant An Ash Tree?

Fraxinus ornus bud (ash)

Alright time for the bad news, while ash trees make great shade trees, tolerate almost everything, and are fast-growing, they are not recommended to plant in certain areas due to the emerald ash borer. 

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service lists the states where the emerald ash borer is found, which include:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

The good news is that research done by scientists suggests that green ash trees that survived, and were considered lingering from emerald ash borer infestations, were less preferred by the emerald ash borers, resulting in a higher tolerance or resistance to them. 

Research also suggests that the emerald ash borer preferred blue and black ash trees. Conservation efforts are currently focused on long-term control of the infestation, and will likely result in selective breeding in ash trees for emerald ash borer resistance.

What’s Good About Ash Trees?

Fraxinus ornus tree in bloom (ash)

Ash trees are part of the flowering plant genus called Fraxinus. Included in this genus are also lilac trees and olive trees. The ash tree name goes back to the Latin and Indo-European language to mean spear because ash tree wood was good for spear shafts. 

One amazing thing about ash trees is that they are a vital food source for frogs in North America. As their leaves fall into ponds and other water bodies, they provide a food source for tadpoles. Additionally, ash trees provide food and shelter for insects, birds, and mammals.

Ash trees are known for their hard, dense, elastic-like wood and are used for things like bows, and baseball bats. Additionally, ashes are used for electric and acoustic guitar bodies. And these are only a few of the many uses of ash wood. Ash trees even make outstanding firewood!

If you want to plant an ash tree of your very own, despite the emerald ash borer, consider starting off with something like these American White Ash Seeds, or these European Ash Seeds!

Ash trees have a few key features, including opposite leaves, which only a few trees have, and their well-known seed pods! Can you guess what those are? They are helicopter seeds! You know those cool-looking things you throw up in the air and they come twirling down? Yep, those are ash tree seeds!

Unfortunately, ash trees have been declining at a steady and incredibly fast rate due to the emerald ash borer, a wood-boring beetle. The emerald ash borer larvae feed on the vascular system of the tree, which is responsible for nutrient and water flow. Feeding on the vascular system prevents all nutrients and water from flowing to the rest of the tree. 

That’s A Wrap!

That’s all we’ve got today! So the answer to the question: are ash trees good shade trees? Yes! Ash trees are great shade trees. But let’s recap everything we covered!

Ash trees are ideal shade trees! They are large, fast-growing trees that have huge, sprawling, dense canopies. Ash trees are also low-maintenance trees that tolerate a variety of soil and weather conditions, making them perfect for your yard. 

Because they provide so much shade they are commonly planted in parks, along parking lots, on residential streets, and even along highways. 

Ash trees have a medium to fast growth rate, growing anywhere between 1-2 feet per year! Additionally, they do well in Zones 2-9. 

Unfortunately, ash trees are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases that have caused the ash tree population to decline rapidly. Conservation efforts are being taken to combat the spread of pests and disease, but currently, the USDA says the best way to combat the spread is to not move firewood. 

Although planting ash trees is not recommended in some areas, it’s best to check with your local and state government to see if there are any regulations and if it is recommended to plant ash trees in your region.

References

Duan, Jian J., Leah S. Bauer, Roy G. Van Driesche, and Juli R. Gould. “Progress and challenges of protecting North American ash trees from the emerald ash borer using biological control.” Forests 9, no. 3 (2018): 142.

Knight, Kathleen S., John P. Brown, and Robert P. Long. “Factors affecting the survival of ash (Fraxinus spp.) trees infested by emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis).” Biological Invasions 15, no. 2 (2013): 371-383.

McCullough, Deborah G., Therese M. Poland, and David Cappaert. “Attraction of the emerald ash borer to ash trees stressed by girdling, herbicide treatment, or wounding.” Canadian Journal of Forest Research 39, no. 7 (2009): 1331-1345.

Mota-Sanchez, David, Bert M. Cregg, Deborah G. McCullough, Therese M. Poland, and Robert M. Hollingworth. “Distribution of trunk-injected 14C-imidacloprid in ash trees and effects on emerald ash borer (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) adults.” Crop Protection 28, no. 8 (2009): 655-661.

Smitley, D. R., Doccola, J. J., & Cox, D. L. (2010). Multiple-year protection of ash trees from emerald ash borer with a single trunk injection of emamectin benzoate, and single-year protection with an imidacloprid basal drench. Journal of Arboriculture, 36(5), 206.

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