Finding the Right Ash Tree Replacement in Minnesota

Many people across Minnesota are losing their ash trees because of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive species of beetle from Asia. EAB larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, which disrupts the tree‘s ability to transport water and nutrients, causing the tree to die. Losing a shade tree, such as an ash, can make a significant impact on your landscape. There are no magic shortcuts to shorten the time it takes for a new tree to reach maturity. However, making an informed decision about what to plant as an ash tree replacement will give you the best chance at a fresh start with a tree that will thrive into the future.

tree planting

How to choose the best replacement if you have to remove your ash tree

A tree is a major investment. We recommend consulting with a certified arborist and/or visiting a reputable tree nursery to ensure the ash tree replacement you choose is the best one for your property. Experts also suggest researching species that are thriving in warmer growing zones, so your new tree is well-suited for our local changing climate conditions.

What type of tree should I plant as an ash tree replacement in Minnesota?

That depends! Many factors go into matching a tree type to its location, and it is impossible to get the best advice from a simple list. certified arborist can evaluate your yard, along with the surrounding area, to make recommendations based on your goals and the unique conditions of your property. In the meantime, our experts have assembled this advice to help you get started.

General advice to consider when selecting an ash tree replacement

  • Variety is key–avoid planting a tree species that you can see in your neighbors’ yards. If you like a tree a neighbor has—enjoy theirs and pick something different. Pests and diseases love to have all of their favorite targets conveniently located in one spot so they can spread from host to host, sowing destruction as they go. Don’t make it easy for them by repeating the mistakes of the past when many communities planted the same species.
  • Plant a tree type that is well-adapted to climate change. Experts expect Minnesota’s weather to get warmer and for extreme rainfall events to increase, so plan ahead for zone hardiness. 
  • Purchase your ash tree replacement from a reputable source. Many cities offer tree sales in the spring, offering deep discounts and species chosen to promote species diversity. Local garden centers are also a great source and may offer a guarantee.

It is best to plan for a tree that will thrive in conditions found one or two USDA hardiness zones warmer than we are now. When we think of trees and climate, we tend to picture change happening over long periods of time. However, as rock climbers say, “Geological time includes now,” meaning rock structures may stand for thousands of years, but that doesn’t mean one won’t topple the day you happen to be there. This animated map from the Arbor Day Foundation shows how USDA Hardiness Zones have changed from 1990 to 2015.

How do I choose the best replacement tree to plant in my yard?

There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, and homeowners should avoid relying solely on lists of recommendations. Below is a simple list of questions around tree planting basics that can ensure you are prepared to make the best choice! 
  • Where will the tree be located?
  • Will it be planted in a very sunny or shady area?
  • Is the spot particularly wet, dry, or close to the road where it might be exposed to salt?
  • Are there power lines or other overhead considerations that influence mature size?
  • Is it in a spot where fruit or berries falling would be bothersome?
  • Is having flowers or fall colors important to me?
  • What types of trees are already common in my yard and on my block?
  • What is the mature canopy size, and will this tree have enough room to grow?

What are some Minnesota tree species that are similar to ash?

This table summarizes the pros and cons of common shade trees. Within each type of tree described, there are many varieties. Any tree can be a poor match for your site, especially if there are already many of them in your neighborhood.

  • Beautiful and hearty
  • Long-living (can live from 200 to 1,000 years!)
  • Provide fall color
  • Oak wilt, a deadly disease
  • Over planted in some areas
  • Homeowners may not like acorns
  • Can outgrow their site
  • Dramatic fall color
  • Fast-growing
  • Prone to root problems (such a girdling roots)
  • Over planted in many areas
  • Fast growing
  • Unique attractive bark
  • Dramatic fall color
  • Prone to poor structure, such as having multiple stems
  • Lower resilience to drought and heat
  • Short life span
  • Tall height shades homes well
  • Litter from large lime-like nuts
  • Produce a chemical that is toxic to many other plants
  • Quaking leaves
  • “Mountain” like aesthetic
  • Dramatic fall color
  • Short lived
  • Dramatic fall color
  • Messy fruit

Additional frequently asked questions about replacement trees

In addition to avoiding trees that are already common in your neighborhood, consider current known pests and diseases. An arborist may be able to recommend a disease-resistant version of a tree type, such as a hybrid Asian elm that resists Dutch elm disease. According to the Minnesota DNR, these are some of the trees that are least well-suited for Minnesota’s changing weather conditions: aspen, paper birch, tamarack, and black spruce.

While trees such as aspen, river birch, and red maple are very fast-growing, rapid growth is associated with serious concerns such as:

  • Weak wood that will always be prone to breakage
  • Less resilient to stress such as drought or heat
  • Roots may grow quickly and interfere with retaining walls or sewer lines
  • Shorter life span
  • Often produce numerous seeds that litter yards and sprout in lawns and gardens

Our experts recommend weighing the pros and cons of a fast-growing tree when choosing an ash replacement. 

As a rule, spring and fall are the best times of year to plant new trees. Avoid common pitfalls such as planting the tree too deep or watering it improperly. To learn more, see our advice on Tree Planting Basics!

Green Trees

The experts at Rainbow Treecare can help you select the best replacement tree for your yard. Contact us to schedule a no-cost consultation!

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