Sorbus- Mountain Ash, Rowan

Deciduous trees or shrubs, chiefly grown for their attractive berries and their decorative foliage.


Most species grow rather too large for small gardens. Provide a sunny and airy position.


Not very fussy as regards soil, as proved by the fact that they frequently take root on old walls and even on tower pinnacles. However, they will eventually die in a dry situation, and it is therefore advisable to plant them in adequately damp soil.

Propagation From seed, which has to be kept in damp sand for a year before it will germinate.

Sorbus americana, mountain ash: Tree to 8 m tall; large clusters of grey-white flowers in early summer. Magnificent red berries, fairly small. The composite foliage turns a beautiful colour in autumn.

Sorbus aria, whitebeam: Height to 10 m; white or pale-red flowers in late spring. The scarlet berries turn brown at a later stage and are spherical in shape. The leaves are oval, double-serrate, and a magnificent silver colour when they first appear. This phenomenon is even more striking in ‘Lutescens’, an erect-growing tree.

Sorbus aucuparia, native mountain ash: Height to 10 m, grey-white flowers in late spring. The red berries are spherical in shape; composite foliage. Tastigiata’ is a columnar strain which takes up little space. Sorbus decora; Height to 10 m, shrub or tree, very striking; large scarlet berries; dark-green feathery foliage. Sorbus hupehensis: Height to 10 m; a tree with feathery grey-green foliage and yellowish white flowers. ‘November Pink’ is a particularly fine cultivar; it has rose-red berries which are retained until late autumn. Sorbus X thuringiaca: Height to 3 m; a tree with horizontally spreading branches and oval leaves with two bracts at the base; numerous dark-red berries. The finest cultivar is called Tastigiata’ – a tree with a narrow, cone-shaped crown.

Sorbus vilmorinii: Height 3-6 m; often grafted on tall stock, otherwise bushy. Feathery foliage, flowering season early summer. The berries are initially red, later fading to rose red. Very suitable where there is limited space.

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