Black ash trees are known for their dark gray, scaly bark, which leaves a soot-like residue on your hands. They are smaller than the more popular white ash tree, reaching heights of between 30 and 60 feet when mature. The black ash tree's narrow frame and straight trunk make it an attractive addition to your landscape, but growing black ash trees is not always easy. They can be pretty finicky, and often die within the first few seasons if not cared for precisely.
If you love the look of black ash trees, you should not let their pickiness discourage you from having them on your property. Follow these three tips, and your trees will have a much greater chance of survival.
Tip #1: Plant your trees in a sunny, yet moist area.
One reason why black ash trees are so tough to grow is that they require both full sunlight and moist soil. These two qualities do not always go hand in hand. If you have a sunny spot in your backyard, but it's not particularly moist, you can make it better suited to ash trees by excavating some dirt from the spot to encourage water to drain into it. You don't have to create a swamp, but you do want to create an area where water can pool so the tree's roots stay moist, especially when it's young and developing. Don't even think of planting back ash in a shaded or partially shaded area. They're incredibly shade-intolerant.
Tip #2: Always start with 3–4 foot tall trees from a local nursery.
Planting black ash from seed is very challenging, since deer and other wildlife love to feed on the young shoots and sprouts, and will quickly overwhelm a new seedling. For best results, start with a tree from a local nursery that is 2 or 3 years old and at least 3 feet tall. At this point, the tree will be better able to withstand mild trauma. Make sure you still protect it from wildlife with a deer fence and by wrapping its trunk with rabbit-proof landscaping mesh or tape.
Tip #3: Have your trees pruned by a professional.
Pruning can ensure that your black ash trees grow straight and tall. However, if you over-prune or cut the wrong branches, you may cause damage that saps the tree's energy and causes it to die. Have your black ash trees pruned by a professional like Advanced Arbor Care, and only have them pruned once a year in the early spring to avoid removing too much vital material.
Black ash trees are native to the Great Lakes region of North America, but they can be grown as far south as Virginia. If you're willing to put in the time when your black ash trees are young, you'll have tall, majestic trees in your yard for a century or more.