Sorbus aria | Also known as: Chess Apple | Rating: 1 votes | Print / Pdf

Named for its white leaves rather than planks of wood

A medium-sized deciduous tree, Sorbus aria is ideal as a central feature in most home gardens. It grows into a slender lance shape, and with its dark green, large oval foliage, has an impressive presence. Its leaves have tiny white hairs on their undersides, creating a felt cover that provides just a hint of silvery-grey that highlights its creamy-white blossoms when flowering. Known as the Whitebeam, it sports clusters of deep red berries against the yellowing foliage in autumn. It thrives in humus-rich soil that is well-drained, and loves plenty of sun. Low maintenance, it can be left to its own devices.

Rate it:
Known dangers?
  • yes
Dangers: comments
  • Avoid uncooked berries of this plant, or you may have mild stomach upset.
Height [m]
  • 15
Spread [m]
  • 8
Dominant flower colour
  • White
Flower Fragrance
  • No, neutral please
Flowering seasons
  • Late spring
Foliage in spring
  • Green
Foliage in summer
  • Green
Foliage in Autumn
  • Green
Propagation methods
  • Greenwood cuttings
  • grafting
  • seed
  • budding
Growth habit
  • Compact
  • Domed
  • Acidic
  • Neutral
  • Alkaline
Hardiness zone
  • Z4-5
Heat zone
  • H8-6
Winter temperatures [°C]
  • -34 - -23
Heat days
  • 45 - 120
  • well-drained
Soil type
  • sandy
  • Clay
  • chalky
  • loams
Sun requirements
  • Full sun
  • Partial shade
  • Full shade
  • Exposed
  • Sheltered
Standard category
  • Trees & shrubs
  • Trees
Grown for
  • Attractive flowers, foliage and ornamental berries
Creative category
  • For Beginners
  • We love the dark
  • Show-offs
  • Bonsai
Garden type
  • Woodland
  • Park
  • Cottage garden
  • Coastal
  • City
Garden spaces
  • Shade
  • Specimen
Gardening expertise
  • beginner
Time to reach full size
  • 30 years or longer
18 Related plants

Mountain Ash


A genus with more than 100 species of shrubs and trees, Sorbus is known by a number of common names. The main ones are Mountain Ash, Rowan and Whitebeam, often interchanged by horticulturalists. But, regardless of the name, Sorbus species bring an admirable splash of colour from spring through to autumn. Its dark green foliage changes to dramatic shades of red, gold, copper, and brown in autumn. In summer, its thick clusters of white berries stand out against the lush foliage, turning to deep red or pink in autumn to complement the seasonal shades. Low maintenance, this genus loves well-drained, slightly acidic soil, with some shade from strong sun.

Whitebeam 'Lutescens'

PLANTS Sorbus aria 'Lutescens' | -34°C - -23°C beginner Full sun, Full shade, Partial shade

Whitebeam 'Majestica'

PLANTS Sorbus aria 'Majestica' | -34°C - -23°C beginner Full sun, Partial shade

Sorbus aucuparia


PLANTS Sorbus aucuparia | -34°C - -12°C beginner Full sun, Partial shade

The robustness of Sorbus aucuparia is just one reason for its popularity. Another is its reputation as a lucky tree, with homeowners once planting it specifically to protect residents from misfortune. Commonly known as the Rowan tree, Sorbus aucuparia has glossy, dark green foliage that turns a warm golden yellow in autumn, while its thick clusters of small creamy-white blossoms provides a striking confirmation that spring has arrived. The Rowan produces orangey-red berries in autumn. Popular in urban gardens, its dense foliage makes it an effective screen against outside distractions. Low maintenance, it loves modestly fertile soils and is happiest in full sun. Pruning is not generally required early on.

Rowan 'Aspleniifolia'

PLANTS Sorbus aucuparia 'Aspleniifolia' | -34°C - -12°C beginner Full sun, Partial shade

Rowan 'Chinese Lace'

PLANTS Sorbus aucuparia 'Chinese Lace' | -34°C - -12°C beginner Full sun, Partial shade

Kashmir Rowan

PLANTS Sorbus cashmiriana | -29°C - -12°C beginner Partial shade, Full sun

Perhaps one of the most attractive of the Sorbus genus, Sorbus cashmiriana boasts an elegance that few other trees of its size can. Known as the Kashmir Rowan, it produces soft pink, five-petalled blossoms, and when these have departed, they are replaced by clusters of white berries drooping from the end of each branch. Marry those factors with the fact its compound, serrated dark green leaves turn a striking shade of golden red in autumn, and it is not hard to understand why it quickly becomes a prized feature in any garden. It thrives in humus-rich soil with access to plenty of sunshine, and requires very little attention.

Bright White serie: Sorbus commixta

Japanese rowan

PLANTS Sorbus commixta | -23°C - -7°C beginner Full sun, Partial shade

A curious name for a distinctive tree, Sorbus commixta literally translates to mingled together. Perhaps it gets its name from its mangle of dark branches or from how its vivid leaves criss-cross each other. Whatever the specific reason, the Japanese Rowan is a stunningly attractive feature. Small in size, its pinnate leaves with lance-shaped leaflets are dark green from spring, but turn a fiery red and gold mixture in autumn. Clusters of white blossoms appear in spring, which give way to small, round orangey-red berries in autumn. The Japanese Rowan thrives in humus-rich, slightly acidic soil in full sun. Low maintenance, only some light pruning is needed.


PLANTS Sorbus forrestii | -18°C - -1°C beginner Full sun, Partial shade

Designing a garden may seem like a tall order but with sorbus forrestii or mountain ash the task becomes significantly less daunting. This small tree is easy to grow and offers excellent visual appeal, with bluish-green pinnate leaves featuring oval-shaped leaflets, which turn yellow or red during autumn. White flowers bloom in spring and summer and these are followed by eye-catching white berries that have pinkish tips. Mountain ash will grow in sunny spots as well as partially shaded areas and likes loamy to sandy soil that is enriched with humus and is well-drained. Mountain ash is a lovely means of introducing changing colour into a wildlife or cottage garden and its appealing appearance enables it to effortlessly serve as a standalone feature in an open space.

Hubei Rowan

PLANTS Sorbus hupehensis | -40°C - -7°C beginner Full sun, Partial shade

A small deciduous tree, Sorbus hupehensis boasts many of the attributes that others of its genus do, but with strategic pruning its size can be kept down, making it a viable option for small gardens. Its common name is Hubei Rowan, its foliage is an interesting blue-green shade, and in spring, when its milk-white blossoms emerge, it seems to offer a last glimpse of winter. In autumn, the Hubei Rowan transforms to a fiery red colour, which complements its clusters of pale green berries that turn to white and then pink. It loves well-drained slightly acidic soil, and thrives in full sun.