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All About Arizona Ash Trees

by Keith Brown
December 4, 2009

Arizona ash is referred to as “Arizona trash” by many people. Personally, I don’t really agree with this attitude. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t perfect trees, but ash can grow into large trees quickly and provide significant shade from the hot summer sun that is much needed in Texas.


Their bad name comes from a short life span. The typical life expectancy of an Arizona ash is about 20-30 years if left up to mother nature. It is important to know that how long they live is more related to structural integrity than health or vigor. Without proper pruning from a good arborist, this tree will start to experience limb failure sometime around year 15-20. Once the first limb breaks out it is a domino effect. That wound begins to decay which makes the rest of the tree weaker. Before you know it there isn’t enough canopy left to consider it a functioning tree. Arizona ashes need trimming about every three years to help avoid this problem. And, defective joints should be cabled or braced. If you do keep up with maintenance, these trees are capable of living 50 years.

Aside from pruning needs, Arizona ash trees don’t need much else most of the time. The only two common ailments I run into with Arizona ash are borers and anthracnose. Borers are beetle larvae that feed on the vascular system of the tree. Anthracnose is a foliar disease that usually rears its head in the early spring. Borers can be very problematic, however there isn’t much you should do to prevent them. Anthracnose is comparable to the flu. It’s not good and really drags down the tree, but it’s not the end of days when the tree gets it. The best things to do to avoid insect and disease problems is to maintain good irrigation and fertilize appropriately.

There are a few “inconvenience” issues sometimes related to Arizona ash. They produce surface roots which can be unsightly and produce a tripping hazard. And, too near your house these surface roots can become more than a mere inconvenience causing foundation problems. Arizona ash also will produce a robust amount of seeds when they are stressed which can make them messy (but, in fairness, all trees are messy).

All things considered, an Arizona ash can make for a nice shade tree in your yard. Just don’t forget to keep up with the maintenance; they aren’t forgiving. Ashes are one of the few trees that will consistently produce vibrant yellow foliage in the fall. They are beautiful trees and their broad canopy will cast much needed shade. So before you start calling them “trash trees” give them a chance.


Update – April 28, 2010

The Austin area experienced two cold snaps late winter / early spring this year. Since Arizona ashes are some of the firstfrost-damage_leaf.jpg trees to start leafing out for the year, their newly emerging foliage were exposed these late freezes. As a result the trees’ leaves have many dead spots that resemble anthracnose symptoms. And, some trees were heavily defoliated. The best treatment for trees stressed by the late freeze is to engage in proper fertilization regimen and watch them closely. Many insects are opportunistic for stressed trees.

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  • Jasmine says:

    Is the same true of all sh species? Last year, I planted a hazel tree in a nature reserve. The ethos is to let nature do as it will undisturbed. This year, I was considering planting an Ash. I like the eco system that grows on, around and is sustained by Ash. Maybe I should choose a different tree?

    • Keith says:

      In Austin, all Ash have similar growth characteristics. Depending on where you live, this may be different. If you aren’t from Austin, I can’t really give you quality feedback because regional difference are significant.

  • rory roemisch says:

    I’ve got a mature arizona ash about 12 feet from my foundation. That part of the foundation sank 3.5″ during the drought in Austin Texas last year. My insurance company says it’s the tree’s fault, by sucking the water from under my foundation. But I just had an arborist come by and say it’s root ball isn’t big enough to have affected the slab.

    My question is “How big is the root system of a mature arizona ash, and how close is too close to the house?”

    Thank you!

    • Keith says:

      My rule of thumb is to try to keep trees at least 15′ from the house. Ash trees have extensive root systems that are very close to the surface. Often their roots protrude from the ground. Normally, when I see a tree’s roots damage a foundation, it is lifting the foundation, not causing it to sink. Blaming the tree for a sinking foundation seems suspicious to me. You should definitely check with a foundation expert. Feel free to send me a picture if you want some more specific feedback.

  • rory roemisch says:

    One more thing…although it’s a mature tree(~20 years old), it’s been hacked up pretty good. It’s got three main limbs about 15 feet high, but were cut improperly a long time ago and are rotting…so it’s only about 20 feet high total including all the little scrubby limbs. Also, it’s encased in a 1 foot retaining wall, so I think the root ball is actually above ground.

  • Shirley says:

    Our Arizona Ash is 25 years old, we have it pruned regularly and fertilize it and it is in good health. We are in Arlington and have gotten many comments on how nice a tree it is. We do have the large roots coming up. However, this year especially, it is dropping messy gooey seeds or something all over the driveway, cars, roof, etc. I cannot get it cleaned off the driveway with a hose although it partly comes off the cars with a hose. Can you advise me on how to clean up after this tree and what is going on? Thanks.

    • Keith says:

      It could be sharp shooters or leaf hoppers, but I have to see it to be sure. If you are in Arlington you might call Arborilogical or Preservation Tree Care.

    • David says:

      Shirley,

      This sounds like the same problem I had with our trees in my front yard and the problem we had was Aphids. If you look on the bottom of the leaves there will be like small yellow eggs and a white sticky substance. The sticky substance is what is falling on your driveway and vehicles. We had to have an exterminator come out and spray our trees to get rid of the Aphids. Since it is the first of spring I use the Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub around my trees instead of having an exterminator which has controled the problem for me for the last three years.

  • Lisa says:

    In Manor I have a 12 year Arizona Ash. This year when it started leafing we noticed the rolled up leaves and discovered white flies. After a couple of treatments the white flies seem to be gone, but most of the new leaves continue to roll up instead of leafing out. Do you have and idea what’s causing this? Thanks

    • Keith says:

      It is possible that the spray you used earlier in the spring has worn off and white flies are moving in again. You’d have to look at the residual effects on the label of the product you used. Could also be heat stress related; it has been getting hot lately. I might be able to give you some useful feedback if you can send me a digital photo to keith at AustinTreeExperts dot com.

  • Broc says:

    We have two beautiful Arizona Ash trees in a desert section of our back yard, both more than 20′ from the house. However. two years ago they sent out roots into the grass portion of our yard. I chopped them off and dug the largest sections from the yard. Now I’m getting smally leaf shoots coming up throughout the grassy portion of the yard. I there a weed & feed product that will kill the ash shoots? If not, what would you suggest I use to discourage those shoots? (I am deep watering the trees at their base once a month presently.)

    • Keith says:

      Weed n Feed is likely to kill the tree; especially if you just stressed the tree with root pruning. The sprout generation is a natural response. The only thing that is going to slow it down is the healing of the root wounds and improvement in the trees’ healths. Make sure there is proper irrigation and look at the do-it-yourself tree fertilizer post. It will take several years of TLC to get the trees’ healths back to good; if it is possible at all.

  • Steve says:

    I live in San Antonio.I have an ash tree.I’m not sure if it’s an Arizona or not.It’s 15′ from the house and we’ve had foundation issues. We’ve also had several large limbs fall over the past 4-5 yrs. and the roots are sticking up out of the ground.The tree has been “trimmed” but not by a “good” arborist.The tree is probably 25-30 yrs. old.Pruning it only seems to promote sucker growth on the tree and at the base of the tree.I’ve had several people tell me it’s reached it’s maturity and should be cut down.What do you think ?

    • Keith says:

      Sounds like a bad situation. If its been poorly pruning, located near the house and 30 years old, then, yes, it is probably time for the tree to come down. Can you upload some pictures for me to look at?

  • Jesse says:

    I have 2-3 large roots running through my yard. I plan on resodding my yard with grass, would cutting these roots kill the tree? Also my house is 28 years old and these two trees in the back are 10′ above the peak of my roof, are they “done” living?

    • Keith says:

      If they are alive, they are not done living! It is possible to prune roots without killing the tree. Fall is the best root pruning season. Can you send some pictures that show the roots. If they are really big roots and you cut them too close to the trunk you can get into real trouble.

  • Jose G Cano says:

    Hola toda la gente que tienen estos maravillosos arboles.. yo vivo en san antonio tx y aqui se ve mucho tipo de problemas con los arizona ash, pero el punto es que la gente no les da el cuidado que requieren y de ellopues derivan todos esos problemas.. he visto algunos que tienen mas de 40 anos y estan en excelentes condiciones, claro. la gente los cuida como debe.. otras personas los tienen abandonados, sin regar, podar o fertilizar.. asi cualquier arbol esta en condiciones deplorables..

    • Keith says:

      Convengo. Esto puede ser un árbol muy bueno si usted poda y fertiliza correctamente. Es muy importante tomar el cuidado apropiado de los árboles de ceniza de Arizona.

  • frank says:

    hello,ihave a couple of arizona ash in my back yard possibly 12 to 14 years old and i noticed the leaves started to fall off early september now theres only a few green spots left .do you know a good arborist who can help save my trees i live in kyle tx, i think they’re dying and i dont want to loose them.

  • Nick says:

    Hi, I have an Arizona ash that is 43 years old here in Austin and is a beautiful tree. Unfortunately enough, it was planted along with the house construction in 1968. The tree was planted too close to the house and has split the foundation with it’s roots. I just bought this house and am learning the chain of cause and effect from this problem. There has been carpenter ants, termites, and borers destroy a nice sized portion of the main trunk. Three of the arteries are compromized and I am fearful each time the wind blows that this will be the big one that puts a hole thru the tongue and groove long leaf pine decking from the era in the roof. I have excavated all the dead wood from the cavity on the trunk and had the most compromised limb cut back and cabled. The cavity was left to breath and then filled with expandable foam and wood frame boards. I plan to seal the hole and waterproof it. Any recomendation? Prunning tar around the foam-wood seam, some form of wax, synthetic product? Or some constructive feedback or criticism for the approach rendered. I was told that I would be lucky to have 5-10 years before it must be taken down. It is about at least 75 feet high and offers shade to the entire house. It is quite a beautiful tree in my eye and I’d like to do anything possible to help it through it’s geriatric years. Thankyou for your time and expertise, Nick

  • Teresa says:

    Hi I live in southern Arizona. We bought this house newly built 28 years ago and our az. ash tree came with the landscaping. We love it for its shade for our dogs and house. Unfortunately we had a very severe freeze in Feb and we think it damaged a good portion of the outer limbs of our Ash. We want to prune back any dead branches but are not sure how severe we can go and not damage it any further. It has put out buds out early in past years and survived late freezes by dropping the buds and producing new ones. It has not done any budding at all this year and we fear we may have lost it all together! Any advise? We are dearly hoping to hang on to it!

  • Lisa says:

    Hi, I live in the Fort Worth area. My house was built in 1978. I assume my Ash tree is about the same age. I’ve had to have it pruned every other year since I bought the house in 2005. This was due to power lines. It’s budding very slow this year, other than the sucker limbs. My neighbor down the street has one that’s already full of foliage and beautiful. Any suggestions? I can send you a picture.

  • Colleen says:

    I bought a house last year with a mature Arizona ash. Its leaves came out only partially and everyone told me to water. After months of watering, it looks better this spring. But I’d say about one-third of the branches never leafed out. Is this the beginning of the end for the tree. Should I prune dramatically to get rid of the branches. Are they dead? Could they come back next year with more watering?

  • KAY says:

    i have a arizona ash tree its about 10 to 15 yrs old it always bloom so good year after year i notice this time when the leaves started to come on the tree one side budded but the leaves are only on the tip of some branches so part the tree is fully with leaves and one part is not i dont see any bugs are any thing on it and the tree was pruned two years ago this is the first time this has happened is it dying or can it be saved i dont want to lose my tree i have been watering it on a regular basis and somone told me to use the jobes tree spikes please help thanks

    • Keith says:

      It’s hard to say exactly what might be causing the tree to thin on one side without looking at it. My top two guesses would be that it may have some girdling roots around the base of the trunk, so you may excavate dirt out from around the base of the tree about 4-6″ to see if you can find any roots wrapping around the trunk. It may have also been the cold winter killing off some of the buds. Fertilizing the tree is definitely a good thing to do. Check out this article for some good tips: http://www.austintreeexperts.com/blog/tree-fertilizer-products-for-the-do-it-yourselfer/

  • Karen says:

    I have a tree that sprouts all over the place in mass quantities. I have been fighting these sprouts for years. They are fast growers and some of them have gotten to big and turned into full grown trees. I really don’t want these tree sprouts all over. I don’t know the name of the tree. Is there a systemic or something? How do I kill it?

    • Keith says:

      You can’t “kill” them. Unfortunately, these sprouts are connected to the parent tree, so if you kill them, you’ll probably kill the parent tree, too. There might be too much soil around the base of the trunk. Make sure the root flares are exposed properly. You can also try digging down and pruning out any roots that are producing the sprouts. It’s a lot of work, but the only way to slow down the sprout growth without killing the tree.

  • Cristina says:

    I have an Arizona Ash that I bought 2 years ago. Last season it was beautiful. This season there are just dead branches and has not sprouted new foliage. But it does have life, as there are these little green grass like sprouts all over it. I thought this was new growth but it’s not getting any bigger?

  • Judy says:

    I live near Las Vegas Nevada and have 5 ash trees we planted 14 years ago. They were all supposed to be fan-tex ash. One tree turned out to be a different ash tree–and I love this tree. It has the same leaves as fan-tex only darker green, leaves come out later in spring than the fan-tex, same fall color, has complete dense shade, and a clean rounded canopy. Never had problems with pests, only root sprouts at the base of tree which are easily cut off every spring. The other 4 fan-tex ashes have always had problems with aphids or white flies and now the past 2 years they got sooty cancer disease. All the neighbor trees are fan-tex and have the same disease. I’ve had to cut out some large dead branches and the leaves still show they are sick. I want to replace the 4 fan-tex ash trees with the one I love in my back yard. I can’t find out if it is an Arizona ash or Modesto ash as every website combine the varieties of ash trees as all the same ash tree. If you have knowledge of ash trees please let me know. thanks

  • Connie Gordon says:

    I have several Arizona Ash trees, one of the trees has always had clumps of seeds during the summer. This year half of the tree is dieing but the other half is green and growing. Alot of green sprigs are coming out on the trunk of the tree (I keep these cut back). What could be wrong with the tree and should I cut all the big dead limbs off? I live in central Texas. These trees are about eight years old, I trim back the low limbs every year but other than that I’ve never done any major trimming. Please help me.

  • Barb Wilkins says:

    Help! I got a brand new AZ Ash tree. The nursery person dug a very deep hole, fertilized and watered the tree and told me to water it for 20-30 minutes a day. I have been doing this faithfully. I live in AZ and it has been 100+ degrees every day since the tree was planted 1 and 1/2 weeks ago. The tree is loosing almost all of its leaves. What am I doing wrong….what should I do?
    Barb

  • Hillarie Miller says:

    I transplanted an AZ Ash about 6 months ago (rescued it). It is 12′ tall with a trunk of about 3″. Until last month it was doing fine, regular water schedule etc. Now, all the leaves are brown and dried up. The larger limbs are not brittle but the small ones are. Have I lost the tree? Hoping not! Thanks for any insight and suggestions!

  • Martha Samario says:

    My husband and I just bought an arizona ash tree today, I was wondering is this is a good time to plant it?

  • Hollis Page says:

    I have 7 mature AZ ash trees that for the most part timely trimming and water goes a long way.I seen how easy it is to kill one if you over prune one.The former owner heavily trimmed that died with two years,my neightbor almost lost a 20 year old tree the same way .Over all my trees are beautiful and give a nice shade with disfuse light that does not kill my St.Augustine grass.

  • Katie L'Ecluse says:

    I have two Arizona Ash Trees in my front yard, which were planted Spring 2003. I live in SE Arizona at about 4200 ft. elevation. As you stated they have grown fast. I have not regreted planting them they are beautiful trees and have given me no problems thus far. I do not consider them a trash tree. All trees have their positive and negative sides. They have become a haven for the birds that visit my yard, and I welcome the shade that they produce. So far I have not had a probem with limbs and such. Thanks for your comments and suggestions on care.

  • stephen says:

    I have a Arizona Ash in my backyard and it has been a real good tree.
    This spring when the new leafs came out, I notice that most of them are being eaten by some thing. Any suggestions?

    • Brandon says:

      stephen, what does the damage look like? Sometimes leafcutter bees cut circular holes out of the leaves for their nests.

  • Daniel says:

    My AZ ash is only 3 yrs old and this year it has some kind of disease that curls the leaves and forms a sticky white powder. I don’t know how to treat it. Not sure if its a bug or fungus all the leaves are becoming sticky. Appreciate any advice you can give me. I live in texas near the coast.

  • Tim Keating says:

    They are considered trash because they do not create shade like an oak or even a juniper. Their root system is almost impossible to dig up or kill. Everytime it freezes they have cracks which lead to limb loss and less shade.. Their were no such trees in Texas any where until builders brought them in because they were cheap

  • David says:

    Keith, what’s wrong? I live in Phoenix Arizona and have an Arizona Ash about 15′ tall. It has been doing fine for years until this year. I noticed it wasn’t blooming this spring and had little like spiders on it. I sprayed it and they all died but when it started to bloom the leaves were small and in clusters, like balls of cotton. My tree looks like a “French Poodle.” I do have a drip system which goes on every 7 days for 1 hour with 4 drip heads @ 2 gallons and hour. Other than the poodle issue the tree seems to be fine. What’s wrong???

  • James Orts says:

    My AZ ash tree is about 25 years old. Shades most of my yard. This year it is doing nothing but droping seeds. These little things stick like needels. We had seeds before but not like this year. What is the solution to this problem?? Would heat to cut it down and lose my shade.

  • brent curry says:

    My AZ ash is loosing leave tree is on the main arm of the tree. I have not been watering much. The tree is 23, I have been prooing. Left town this summer and was not watered well—–cut it down or can it be saved?

  • Richard says:

    We had a killer frost year ago. Trees just are not coming up and show bad growth. Our soil is desert R8B do I need to add more acidic such as coffe grounds, nitrogen? They look like DOG!

  • Linda Rusche says:

    My Arizona Ash is budding out alot, but my husband has cut it all the way back. Will this tree branch out and get buds again or did he kill it?

  • Leonard Edwards says:

    My Arizona Ash is over 30 years old. I have never lost a major limb out of it but it does have a lot of dead smaller limbs in it. I do have some surface roots. I planted one in my parents yard when I was in high school. It is probably over 40 years old.

  • Sam Selby says:

    I have three AZ ash trees. On one tree after dropping all its leaves and before new leaves appear, there are some droppings of what looks like buds of flowers with very tiny leaves that quickly turn brown. Are these seeds? If not seeds, since the leaves are so small, do you think these make a good mulch for my vegetable garden?

  • Rita says:

    We live in El Paso Tx and have an Az ash tree that is about 12 yrs old. Two years ago, we noticed that its roots is destroying our pipes and also ruining our grass. We have broken some of the huge roots. We then thought our only choice is to destroy the tree. However,we do not have the heart to do it. Its a beautiful tree. In total, we have 4 az ash trees. I am wanting to donate them to someone who has enough land that the roots will not be damaging their pipes or land. Thank you.

  • Linda Jenkins says:

    Question about AZ Ash. We planted 3 trees from trees in our yard. They were growing like crazy, looking healthy and in within a weeks time the smallest of the trees is almost completely dead and the larger ones have underdeveloped leaves with curly edges. Is that the “flu” you were speaking of or is this something else. I’m so sad and want to make them better. Thank you

  • Debbie says:

    My Arizona Ash trees are 35 years old and each year more and more brances are dying. Is there anything I can do to help them?