Here’s The Best Time To Plant Ash Trees (And How To Do It)

Ash tree in field

When planting trees, different species have different requirements. You may expect to plant one tree in April but another, like an ash tree, may do best when planted in the autumn months, before the first frost of the winter. So, when is the best time to plant ash trees?

You should plant your ash tree, starting from the seed, in the early fall. Late August, September or October will be best because your seed will have time to grow before the cold of winter comes along. Your tree will be well established once Spring hits the following year to continue growing.

A properly planted and nurtured ash tree will continue to see success throughout its lifetime, while a tree planted too late in the year may struggle. Read on to learn about ash trees- how and when to plant them, and even maintenance later down the road!

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What Is An Ash Tree?

Ash trees are a genus of flowering plants in the same family as lilacs and… olives? That’s right, you’d be surprised to know how many types of trees are closely related! While you’re learning new things, we should talk about when and how to plant an ash tree for the best success of you and your new tree.

You can use ash trees for a wide range of things, despite any sort of bad rap they may have thanks to their susceptibility to various problems. 

According to the University of Kentucky, if cultivated varieties of ash trees are used, the problems of germinated, weedy seeds and unreliable fall color can be overcome.

So, while there is some susceptibility to hardship or afflictions, as with many other species, the ash tree is quite resilient and can adapt to many environments other species may not thrive in.

Enough of that, though, let’s talk about when you should plant your ash tree to start with as much success as you can!

How To Know When To Plant an Ash Tree

When planting trees, there are many factors to keep in mind. Most people think of the location or planting method but may completely overlook the time of year in which they plant their tree.

This can lead to issues with the tree becoming established, because it may not be getting what it needs at the very beginning stages of its life. 

That being said, let’s talk about planting your ash tree!

Plant Ash Trees During The Fall For Best Results

Ash tree seeds autumn view

The best time of year to plant ash trees is autumn.

This is because the cold of winter and any harsh freezes will slow the growth of the seed, cuttings, or seedling you may be planting. In fact, any extreme dips in temperature might kill your young ash, even when a more mature, stable tree might continue thriving throughout a cold period. 

So, September and October are the best months to plant your ash tree. We’ll dive deeper into how you should plant your tree depending on the stage it begins at, but essentially it’s important to know that early fall is the way to go!

How To Plant Ash Trees

When you look at planting an ash tree, there are more considerations than just the time of year. 

Knowing to plant your ash tree during the fall months is a great starting place, but you’ll also want to be conscious of how you plant your tree, based on your starting point.

You may start from the very beginning and use a seed to grow your very own ash tree. 

That option is not ideal for everyone, which is alright. So, some may opt to propagate, or use cuttings from an established tree to grow a new ash tree.

This is also not for everyone, and if you prefer to grow your tree from a seedling, a tiny little tree that has already begun developing, that is just fine!

Depending on your starting point, you’ll have a few things to keep in mind. So, let’s get to gettin’ on with it!

Planting From A Seed Or Cuttings 

If you start from either a seed or decide to propagate and use cuttings from an already-established ash tree, you can expect some similar aspects of your process.

For these planting methods, you’ll want to start your ash out in a pot for easier maintenance regarding the type of soil, amount of water, and overall monitoring of growth.

The soil around your ash seed or cuttings should be constantly moist, though the amount of water may vary depending on your location, dryness in the air, temperature, and other environmental factors.

You should plan to check your soil about once a day to ensure it remains moist and can continue to be a healthy growing environment for your young ash.

Though the requirements after planting remain quite similar, you should note planting from a seed and propagating requires some different techniques.

While you can plant a seed relatively simply into your pot, propagation requires you to remove an 8-inch area of the green wood that is part of a mature ash tree before removing all the leaves and placing it in a pot with sand.

The portion that had the leaves before removal should be buried underneath your soil about 3 nodes and the rest of the process becomes the same as if you’d planted from seed.

You can mist or traditionally water your soil daily, and you may opt to utilize an option like the T4U Glass Plant Mister because this spray bottle is both decorative and functional, can be used indoors or outdoors, and helps you keep your soil moist!

Planting From A Seedling

If you opt to begin your ash tree from a seedling, you can skip the pot and go straight to the soil, since your tree will already be established. Though it is young, the ash tree can be placed directly in the ground as opposed to a seed or cutting from another tree that will need to grow more before being planted outdoors.

One thing to think about when planting a seedling is that you should try to leave roots straight down while placing the seedling into the soil. This way, you’ll be able to better avoid small roots sticking to the sides of the soil and being separated. 

Any roots that are on their own or do not get ample water may dry out, especially in drier conditions or without proper watering.

On top of how you plant your ash tree, we should touch on where your tree is going to be living and growing.

Where To Plant Ash Trees

Leafage of red ash against blue sky in autumn

A big factor in being successful when planting your ash tree during the fall is making sure that you are planting your tree not only at the right time but in the proper place.

The native range of ash trees spans the Eastern part of the continent, from Canada to Northern Florida.

Ash trees can grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-9 and are one of the most adaptable species of tree native to North America. 

On top of the adaptability, these trees are drought tolerant so they can do well in areas that don’t get as much water as they should, as long as they are in the right growing zones.

Along with the larger scope of geographical location, planting ash trees where you want shade is a fantastic idea!

What Is A Growing Zone, Exactly?

We mentioned that ash trees can grow in hardiness, or growing zones 3-9, but what exactly does this mean?

The United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, has defined different growing zones across the United States to make it easier for plant owners just like you to determine which plants can thrive in certain regions.

These zones can also determine whether someone looking to grow crops or build a nursery should go to a certain part of the country.

Growing zones are based on the annual minimum winter temperature of a reason. To make it easier, we will call this the ‘minimum temperature.’

So, the minimum temperatures of a region are broken up into segments of 10 degrees Fahrenheit by numbers 1-13 to distinguish different temperature groups.

For example, the minimum temperature ash trees can thrive in, based on zone 3, would be a range of -40 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. In zone 9, this range goes from a minimum temperature of 20 degrees Fahrenheit to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

You could expect your ash tree to thrive in minimum temperatures that range from -40 to 30 degrees, based on zones 3-9 being the optimal growing zones for these trees.

Growing zones are not only broken up by 10-degree intervals but there are also subcategories of 5 degrees, marked by ‘a’ or ‘b’. So, 3a would be -40 to -35 degrees Fahrenheit while 3b is -35 to-30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since the growing zone for ash trees is simply 3-9, we know that this means 3a-9b.

If any of this is overwhelming, you can always stop at your local nursery to ask about the growing zone in your area or search ‘plant hardiness zone in __’ on the internet.

Don’t forget about this USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, either!

How Can I Best Maintain My Ash Tree Long-Term?

So, now that you know all about when to plant your ash tree, how to go about planting, and even where you should plant, let’s talk about maintaining your ash tree so that it can live a long and successful life.

There are a few crucial steps when maintaining any tree. Watering, fertilizing, and pruning as needed are the primary considerations you’ll want to take with you on your ash tree journey.

So, keep on reading to learn about caring for your ash tree!

Water, Especially When it’s Hotter

For maintaining and sustaining trees young or old (or anywhere in between), watering for ash trees is a huge factor to be considered.

As you begin maintaining and watering your tree, you’ll want to opt for a product that can help you ensure even irrigation around the base of your ash tree.

A product like this Irrigation/Hydroponics Dripline offers a very simple to use method of creating drip irrigation. This option is not only simple but cost effective.

It’s essentially a dripline you can place in a circular shape around the base of the ash tree to make sure you don’t have to worry constantly about checking the moisture around your soil. 

Even with a product like this, you’ll want to check your soil moisture every once in a while so you have the best idea you can of how the moisture is looking.

Although ash trees are drought-tolerant, you want to do what you can to make sure they don’t have to tolerate a lack of water unless wholly necessary.

Ash trees need to be watered quite frequently, when possible, at the beginning of their life to help them get beyond the initial stage of life.

A young tree that is working to get itself rooted in a location long-term may struggle significantly without the right amount of water. Therefore, we suggest using a mister throughout the day, along with your standard watering to help keep your young ash comfortable. 

During the sapling phase of an ash tree’s life, it needs a little less water than in its early years. This is because the tree is now established in its long-term environment, but does not yet have a root system that is as extensive as it will be later on in the tree’s lifetime. 

As the tree matures further, from its mid-life to maturity (around 60 years after the tree is planted), the tree will need more watering. 

Of course, watering depends on the season, the environmental factors surrounding the tree, and other needs your tree may have.

Make Sure To Fertilize Your Ash Tree

This is true, especially in harsher conditions. Though ash trees are drought-tolerant, if you can provide some water and top it off with fertilizer, your tree is going to thrive more than it would have with just some water.

Similarly, even when the conditions are ideal, your tree will do better with extra nutrients than it will without them.

Ash trees will do best with an all-purpose fertilizer such as a 10-10-10.

What are those 3 numbers, you ask? 

Fertilizers come with an NPK number, standing for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, to indicate the ratio of these commonly used fertilizer components. 

A balanced fertilizer is often recommended unless a tree or plant species particularly needs a certain element, like extra nitrogen, to do well.

Covington Naturals Liquid Fertilizer is a great product that lasts a long time and can help sustain your ash tree throughout its growth.

Don’t Worry, It’s OK To Prune!

Lumberjack cutting branch with a chain saw

You can use hand shears or hand pruners, lopping shears, pole pruners, or a saw to prune your tree, depending on the size of the branch, how high up it is, and how much you intend to prune away.

With an ash tree, and even most trees in North America, the best time to prune is going to be later in the winter because the tree is going into its dormant season. Also, later in the winter, it won’t be subject to damage from heavy freezes, as most will have already passed (if this is even a consideration in your area.)

It’s good to keep in mind pruning is still causing an open wound on your tree, and in late winter, your tree is phasing out of its dormant season. This means it will take the impending growing season to recover from the cuts caused by the pruning, and all will be well!

The Gonicc 8” Professional Sharp Bypass Pruning Shears are quite a popular option for equipment and are a great starting place if you are unsure of where to go next.

You’ll be able to cut tree branches that are just about an inch in diameter, so if you’re looking to trim away some smaller branches around your tree, these might be just what you need.

If you’ve got some larger branches, but not huge, (think about 1-2.5 inches in diameter) invest in some lopping shears to help you get the job done.

Say you’ve got some high-up branches that aren’t huge, but just too tall to reach with some hand pruners. Pole pruners are going to come in handy because they can reach up high and allow you to avoid pulling out the big ladder that you might otherwise have to drag out from your garage or shed.

Finally, if you have larger branches and need to remove them for any reason (this might go beyond your ‘regular’ pruning), use a saw or call a professional to check things out .

You can read more about when to prune large trees here.

That’s It For Now!

Ash trees are a versatile, adaptable genus of trees that truly act as a wonderful outdoor highlight in your space. 

Keep these tips in mind when you are trying to plant, grow, or simply maintain your own ash tree.

For now, friends, that is all we have for you. As always, thank you so much for trusting us to help you along your ash tree journey. I’ve been there, and I’m glad I get to help you, too!

Until next time!

References

Peper, P. J., Alzate, C. P., McNeil, J. W., & Hashemi, J. (2014). Allometric equations for urban ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) in Oakville, Southern Ontario, Canada. Urban forestry & urban greening, 13(1), 175-183.

Pugh, S. A., Liebhold, A. M., & Morin, R. S. (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, 41(11), 2165-2175.

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