Prolonged droughts are commonplace in Southern California, so it is important to select trees that can survive with relatively little water for your next tree installation project. Fortunately for residents of the sunniest part of the Sunshine State, there are a number of native and exotic selections that fit this bill.
The next time you are planning to add new trees to your property, start by considering the following six species:
- Zone 9 Drought Tolerant Trees: Selecting Dry Soil Trees For Zone 9
- Growing Zone 9 Drought Tolerant Trees
- Drought Tolerant Tree List – Great Trees for a Dry California Landscape
- Trees are undergoing stress in California’s drought; water with care
- The five best drought-tolerant trees to plant on the Central Coast | San Luis Obispo Tribune
- Heavenly Greens Blog
- Climate Ready Trees Southern California Coast Project Handout
- Mulga (Acacia aneura)
- Mulga is native to arid Western Australia and tolerates hot and dry condition. It can grow in sandy, loam, or clay soil types. This versatile and hardy tree produces ascending thornless branches and grows 15 to 20 feet in height. The leaves are evergreen and the tree has yellow, showy flowers in the spring.
- Brazilian Cedarwood (Cedrela fissilis)
- Brazilian cedarwood is a long lived, moderately growing deciduous tree that can reach a height of 40 to 50 in Southern California. This tree tolerates most soil types that drain well, and is considered drought tolerant. Brazilian cedarwoods produce a pale yellow tubular flower and the fruit is a woody capsule that splits lengthwise to form a five-lobed star.
- Netleaf Hackberry (Celtis reticulata)
- The Netleaf Hackberry is native to riparian areas in the Southwest. A deciduous tree, it reaches heights of 25 to 35 feet with spreading or weeping canopy. The ovate leaves are medium green and turn yellow in the fall. The flowers mature into red drupes that attract birds. The Netleaf Hackberry is drought tolerant and able to thrive in variety of soil types. First photo credit: Benny J. Simpson and Texas A&M AgriLife Research.
- Ghost Gum (Corymbia papuana)
- The Ghost Gum is native to Australia and is a smaller eucalyptus, reaching 66 feet. The trunk is smooth and snow white. It has gray green evergreen leaves that are tinged purple by frost. White flowers bloom in the summer. It tolerates drought but can be used in well-irrigated landscapes. First two photo credit: Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.
- Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo)
- The Rosewood is native to Northern India and its evergreen foliage can be damaged by frost. The tree recovers quickly in the spring. It reaches a height of 30 to 50 feet with a 40 foot canopy spread. Rosewood tolerates periods of drought and can grow in sandy, clay and loam soil types. Its roots host nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The flowers are inconspicuous.
- Tecate Cypress (Hesperocyparis forbesii)
- Palo Blanco (Mariosousa willardiana)
- Native to Sonora Mexico, Palo Blanco thrives in full sun and tolerates great heat. It prefers good drainage and can tolerate thin rocky soil. This tree has a weeping branching habit and grows 10 to 20 feet high, spreading 5 to 10 feet. Palo Blanco is a moderate grower that has thornless branches, peeling silvery white bark, and creamy white flower catkins that are present in spring.
- Red Push Pistache (Pistacia ‘Red Push’)
- The ‘Red Push’ is a hybrid between (P. atlantica) and (P. integerrima). This long-lived deciduous tree has a moderate growth rate, and will reach 25 to 40 feet tall and develop a broad spreading form, 20 to 40 feed wide. The pinnately compound leaves first emerge with a red tint, mature to a medium green color, and then provide another color display in the fall. ‘Red Push’ is cold and drought tolerant, requires full sun, and can adapt to a variety of soils. First photo credit: Mountain State Whole Sale Nursery.
- Maverick Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa ‘Maverick’)
- Maverick is an upright-growing, thornless cultivar of the honey mesquite tree, which is native to the sourthwestern United States. This deciduous tree can quickly reach a height of 30 feet tall and 30 to 35 feet wide. The tree is cold hardy, drought tolerant, and adaptable to a range of soil types. The smooth gray bark provides contrast to the bright green foliage. Third photo credit: Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.
- Catalina Cherry (Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii)
- The Catalina Cherry is native to California’s Channel Islands. In urban areas they grow 15 to 20 feet in height and width. White flower clusters, racemes up to 5 inches long, appear in late spring. Black fruits attract birds; avoid planing near paved surfaces or parking areas as fallen fruit causes stains. Plantingt in full or part sun and in well-drained soil. This tree is drought tolerant but looks best with occasional deep soaking.
- Escarpment Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis)
- The escarpment live oak is native to west Texas, is cold hardy, drought tolerant, and requires full sun. Typically evergreen, it can be deciduous in colder climates. This live oak is a slow grower that can reach 50 feet in height and width. The escarpment live oak can tolerate a wide range of soils but prefers good drainage.
- Island Oak (Quercus tomentella)
- The island oak is native to five of the California Channel Islands and Guadalupe Island off Baja California. It is evergreen and fast growing to a height of 20 to 50 feet and width of 25 to 40 feet, growth rate can be up to 24 inches per season. This oak prefers deep, moist soils but can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions and soil types including clay, loam, and sand. This tree is considered drought tolerant and cold hardy.
- Southern California Drought tolerant trees for your green landscaping
- What are the best drought-tolerant or drought-resistant trees for my zone?
- Related posts:
1. California Sycamore
Big and beautiful natives of the state, California sycamores (Platanus racemosa) are surprisingly drought tolerant, given their preference for growing in riparian areas. Reaching up to 100 feet in height, California sycamores – like most of their relatives – possess very attractive, splotchy bark that includes white, grey and brown tones. Although these trees are deciduous and shed their leaves each fall, they make excellent shade trees during the spring and summer.
2. Purple-Leaf Acacia
The purple-leaf acacia (Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’) is an attractive tree with smooth bark and green to purple evergreen foliage. Although fast-growing, purple-leaf acacias have relatively weak wood, so it is best planted away from homes and areas of high foot traffic. A 20- to 30-foot-tall tree, the purple-leaf acacia is relatively short-lived, and rarely reaches 50 years of age.
3. California Buckeye
A California native, the buckeye (Aesculus californica) is a drought-tolerant species, but without supplemental irrigation, it will usually shed its leaves in the late summer. Rarely exceeding 25 feet in height, the California buckeye is typically used as an accent tree, but it provides great shade while in leaf and can be used to keep air conditioning units cooler (which will help reduce your home-cooling costs) in the summer.
4. Flame Tree
The flame tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) is named for its gorgeous orange or red flowers, which grace the tree in the late spring or summer. Reaching about 60 feet in height, these trees are not suitable for use under utility lines, but their modest spread – generally less than 35 feet – makes it a great choice for narrow planting locations. The flame tree is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and sun exposure levels, making it an acceptable choice for most properties.
5. Western Redbud
The western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) is a small species that bears pretty purple flowers in the early spring. Because of their small size (few specimens exceed 20 feet in height), they don’t work well as shade trees, but they are an excellent accent or ornamental trees that also provide significant wildlife value. They can also work well for screening projects in some cases.
If you need help selecting the best drought-tolerant trees for your property, give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. Not only will one of our experienced arborists help you determine the perfect trees for your space, he or she will provide you with tips for helping to prepare your tree for the inevitable droughts that will occur over the next several decades.
Zone 9 Drought Tolerant Trees: Selecting Dry Soil Trees For Zone 9
Who doesn’t want trees in their yard? As long as you have the space, trees are a wonderful addition to the garden or landscape. There is such a range of trees, however, that it can be a little overwhelming trying to pick the right species for your situation. If your climate has particularly hot and dry summers, a lot of possible trees are pretty much out. That doesn’t mean you have no options, though. Keep reading to learn more about growing and choosing zone 9 trees with low water needs.
Growing Zone 9 Drought Tolerant Trees
Here are a few good drought tolerant trees for zone 9 gardens and landscapes:
Sycamore – Both California and Western sycamores are hardy in zones 7 through 10. They are fast growing and branch out nicely, making them good drought tolerant shade trees.
Cypress – Leyland, Italian, and Murray cypress trees all perform well in zone 9. While each variety has its own characteristics, as a rule these trees are tall and narrow and make very good privacy screens when planted in a row.
Ginkgo – A tree with interestingly shaped leaves that turn brilliant gold in the autumn, gingko trees can tolerate climates as warm as zone 9 and require very little maintenance.
Crape Myrtle – Crape myrtles are very popular hot weather ornamental trees. They will produce brilliantly colored flowers all through the summer. Some popular varieties that thrive in zone 9 are Muskogee, Sioux, Pink Velour, and Enduring Summer.
Windmill Palm – An easy to grow, low maintenance palm tree that will tolerate temperatures that dip below freezing, it will reach 20 to 30 feet in height when mature (6-9 m.).
Holly – Holly is a very popular tree that is usually evergreen and often produces berries for added winter interest. Some varieties that do especially well in zone 9 include American and Nelly Stevens.
Ponytail Palm – Hardy in zones 9 through 11, this very low maintenance plant has a thick trunk and attractive, thin fronds.
Drought Tolerant Tree List – Great Trees for a Dry California Landscape
Drought tolerant trees are among some of the most beautiful trees. Just because a tree is drought tolerant doesn’t mean that it is full of thorns, though it can be of that is what you are looking for. There are plenty of trees with spectacular flowers that will get by with almost no assistance after getting them established for coastal or inland valley gardens. The following list of drought tolerant trees should provide plenty of options to create a dry California landscape that not only doesn’t cost a fortune to irrigate but is beautiful on every level. No need to compromise.
Most trees grow quickly in their youth and slow as they mature. Faster growing trees are usually short term answers in the garden. There are fast growing trees that are quite drought tolerant. I prefer to start with a smaller tree. Usually they are much easier to establish in a dry garden. They don’t require irrigation for as long. I plan to irrigate a tree through its first hot season. This is particularly important if you plant a larger specimen. For a drought tolerant tree to survive in a dry garden the tree has to have spread its roots well beyond the container. It is an issue of how much soil can the tree draw from for its water. When setting up irrigation it is important to encourage the tree to spread out its roots. A basin around the base of the new tree is often the kiss of death. Drought tolerant trees are often not at all tolerant of sitting in a puddle while the water soaks in. This doesn’t encourage the roots to reach out either. I use a drip system with the drip emmitters over the native soil near the tree one on each side of the new tree. I dig the hole no deeper than the rootball. The top of the rootball should be slightly above the surrounding grade. I use mulch but keep the mulch back from the base of the tree. All of that rotting action can spread to the trunk if it is buried in mulch. In order to keep trees looking fresh during the summer I deep water during a cool spell about once a month. Even if the tree is drought tolerant you probably don’t want your garden full of dormant trees hunkered down waiting for a better season.
There are a variety of California Native Trees that perform well in a residential landscape. Many of these trees are well adapted to a dry hot summer. Often these drought tolerant trees come from parts of the state that are hotter and drier than most of us live. There are a number of desert adapted trees in the list including Occotillo, Desert Willow, Chitalpa Pink Dawn, Joshua Tree, and the Palo Verde Desert Museum, But this list is targeted to gardens from coastal communites and inland valleys to the central valley.
A great test for me in generating this list is visiting gardens that have not been tended for awhile to see what is still alive. Trees in parkways that don’t get irrigation, planters that haven’t been watered for years. Those are the trees that made the grade for this list for our dry California landscape.
So enjoy our Drought Tolerant Tree List and plant a few of these beauties in your dry California Landscape. Your water bill will be much more gentle on your wallet.
Common Names ——–Plants by their Latin Names
Plants organized by their Latin Names
After Dark Peppermint Tree * Agonis flexuosa After Dark
Angels Trumpet Tree * Brugmansia Charles Grimaldi
Apricot Trumpet Tree * Tabebuia Apricot
Australian Frangipani * Hymenosporum flavum
Australian Willow * Geijera parviflora
Big Cone Pine * Pinus coulteri
Big Poly Emu Bush * Eremophila bignoniiflora x polyclada
Bird of Paradise Tree * Caesalpina gilliesii
Black Locust Purple Robe * Robinia pseudoacacia Purple Robe
Blue Bush Acacia * Acacia covenyi
Blue Oak * Quercus douglassii
Brazilian Coral Tree * Erythrina falcata
Brazilian Rosewood * Jacaranda mimosifolia
Brisbane Box * Lophostemon confertus variegata
Buddhist Orchid Tree * Bauhinia variegata candida
California Ash * Fraxinus dipetala
California Black Oak * Quercus kelloggii
California Box Elder * Acer negundo californicum
California Hopseed * Ptelea crenulata
California Walnut * Juglans californica
Caribbean Copper Plant * Euphorbia cotinifolia
Belah * Casuarina cristata
Carrotwood Tree * Cupaniopsis anacardioides
Catalina Cherry * Prunus ilicifolia lyonii
Catalina Ironwood * Lyonothamnus floribudus
Chaste Tree * Vitex agnus castus
Chinese Date * Ziziphus jujuba
Chinese Wingnut * Pterocarya stenoptera
Chinkapin Oak * Quercus muehlenbergii
Chitalpa Pink Dawn
Coast Live Oak * Quercus agrifolia
Cockspur Coral * Erythrina crista-galli
Cook Tree * Cascabela thevetia
Coral Bean Tree * Erythrina bidwillii
Coral Gum * Eucalyptus torquata
Coulter Pine * Pinus coulteri
Crimson Red Crape Myrtle * Lagerstroemia Crimson Red
Desert Bird of Paradise * Caesalpina gilliesii
Desert Willow * Chilopsis linearis
Dogtooth Wattle * Acacia cultriformis
Firewheel Tree * Stenocarpus sinuatus
Floss Silk Tree * Chorisia speciosa
Garry Oak * Quercus garryana
Gentian Plume California Lilac * Ceanothus Gentian Plume
Giant Bird of Paradise * Strelitzia nicolai
Gold Angels Trumpet Tree * Brugmansia Charles Grimaldi
Gold Medallion Tree * Cassia leptophylla
Golden Rain Tree * Koelreuteria paniculata
Golden Trumpet Tree * Tabebuia chrysotricha
Granite Honey Myrtle * Melaleuca elliptica
Holly Leaf Cherry * Prunus ilicifolia
Jacaranda * Jacaranda mimosifolia
Jujube * Ziziphus jujuba
Kaffir Coral Tree * Erythrina caffra
Knifeleaf Wattle * Acacia cultriformis
Lilly Pilly * Acmena smithii
Lolly Bush * Clerodendrum floribundum
Maidenhair Tree * Ginkgo biloba
Mexican Elderberry * Sambucus mexicana
Mimosa Tree * Albizia julibrissin
Mountain Ebony * Bauhinia variegata
Mudgee Wattle * Acacia spectabilis
Mugga * Eucalyptus sideroxylon
Naked Coral Tree * Erythrina coralloides
Native Frangipani * Hymenosporum flavum
Orange Bells * Tecoma X smithii
Oregon Oak * Quercus garryana
Ovens Wattle * Acacia pravissima
Palo Verde * Parkinsonia Desert Museum
Paperbark Tree * Melaleuca quinquenervia
Pearl Acacia * Acacia podalariifolia
Peppermint Tree * Agonis flexuosa
Pineapple guava * Feijoa sellowiana, Acca sellowiana
Pinyon Pine * Pinus monophylla
Poinciana * Caesalpina pulcherrima
Pomegranate Wonderful * Punica granatum
Punk Tree * Melaleuca quinquenervia
Purple Fernleaf Acacia * Acacia baileyana purpurea
Purple Peppermint Tree * Agonis flexuosa After Dark
Purple Robe Black Locust * Robinia pseudoacacia Purple Robe
Purple Trumpet Tree * Tabebuia impetiginosa
Queensland Frangipani * Hymenosporum flavum
Red Bird of Paradise * Caesalpina pulcherrima
Red Flowering Gum * Corymbia ficifolia, Eucalyptus ficifolia
Red Ironbark * Eucalyptus sideroxylon
Red Pencil Tree * Euphorbia tirucalli Sticks on Fire
River Bankisa * Banksia seminuda
River Wattle * Acacia cognata
Scrub Oak * Quercus berberidifolia
Silk Tree * Albizia julibrissin
Silky Oak * Grevillea robusta
Silver Dollar Gum * Eucalyptus polyanthemos
Shoestring Acacia * Acacia stenophylla
Silver Wattle * Acacia dealbata
Single Leaf Pinyon Pine * Pinus monophylla
Smoke Tree * Cotinus coggyria
Snowy River Wattle * Acacia boormanii
Strawberry Tree * Arbutus unedo
Summer Chocolate Mimosa * Albizia Summer Chocolate
Sweet Shade * Hymenosporum flavum
Sycamore * Platanus racemosa
Taiwan Flowering Cherry * Prunus campanulata
Tambookie Thorn * Erythrina acanthocarpa
Thornless Palo Verde * Parkinsonia Desert Museum
Toyon * Heteromeles arbutifolia
Tree Dahlia * Dahlia imperials
Tree Mallow * Lavatera assurgentiflora
Trident Maple * Acer buergerianum
Tropical Hydrangea * Dombeya wallichii
Trumpet Tree * Brugmansia candida
Tucker’s Oak * Quercus john-tuckeri
Valley Oak * Quercus lobata
Variegated Brisbane Box * Lophostemon confertus variegata, Tristania conferta variegatus
Variegated Brush Box * Lophostemon confertus variegata, Tristania conferta variegatus
Water Gum * Tristaniopsis laurina
Western Redbud * Cercis occidentalis
White Floss Silk Tree * Chorisia insignis, Ceiba insignis
White Orchid Tree * Bauhinia variegata candida
White Trumpet Tree * Brugmansia Betty Marshall
Yellow Elder * Tecoma stans
Yellow Oleander * Cascabela thevetia
Acacia baileyana purpurea * Purple Fernleaf Acacia
Acacia boormanii * Snowy River Wattle
Acacia covenyi * Blue Bush Acacia
Acacia cultriformis * Knifeleaf Wattle, Knife Wattle, Dogtooth Wattle
Acacia dealbata * Silver Wattle
Acacia podalariifolia * Pearl Acacia
Acacia pravissima * Ovens Wattle
Acacia spectabilis * Mudgee Wattle
Acacia stenophylla * Shoestring Acacia
Acca sellowiana * Pineapple Guava
Acer buergerianum * Trident Maple
Acer negundo californicum * California Box Elder, Boxelder
Acmena smithii * Lilly Pilly
Agonis flexuosa * Peppermint Tree
Agonis flexuosa After Dark * Purple Peppermint Tree, After Dark Peppermint Tree
Albizia julibrissin * Mimosa Tree, Silk Tree
Albizia Summer Chocolate * Summer Chocolate Mimosa, Summer Chocolate Silk Tree
Arbutus unedo * Strawberry Tree
Banksia seminuda * River Banksia
Bauhinia variegata * Mountain Ebony
Bauhinia variegata candida * Buddhist Orchid Tree
Brugmansia Betty Marshall * White Trumpet Tree
Brugmansia x candida * Datura or Trumpet Tree
Brugmansia Charles Grimaldi * Gold Angel’s Trumpet Tree
Caesalpinia gilliesii * Desert Bird of Paradise
Caesalpinia pulcherrima * Red Bird of Paradise, Poinciana
Callistemon Cane’s Hybrid * Cane’s Bottlebrush
Callistemon viminalis * Weeping Bottlebrush
Cascabela thevetia * Yellow Oleander, Cook Tree
Cassia leptophylla * Gold Medallion Tree
Casuarina cristata * Belah
Ceanothus Gentian Plume * Gentian Plume California Lilac
Ceiba insignis * White Floss Silk Tree
Ceiba speciosa * Floss Silk Tree
Cercis occidentalis * Western Redbud
Chilopsis linearis * Desert Willow
Chilopsis linearis Purple Splendor * Purple Splendor Desert Willow
Chitalpa ‘Pink Dawn’
Chorisia insignis * White Floss Silk Tree
Chorisia speciosa * Floss Silk Tree
Clerodendrum floribundum * Lolly Bush
Corymbia ficifolia * Red Flowering Gum
Cotinus coggygria * Smoke Tree
Cupaniopsis anacardioides * Carrotwood Tree
Dombeya wallichii * Tropical Hydrangea
Eremophila bignoniiflora polyclada * Big Poly Emu Bush
Erythrina acanthocarpa * Tambookie Thorn
Erythrina bidwillii * Coral Bean Tree
Erythrina caffra * Kaffir Coral
Erythrina coralloides * Naked Coral Tree
Erythrina crista-galli * Cockspur Coral
Erythrina falcata * Brazilian Coral Tree
Erythrina humeana raja * Dwarf Natal Coral Tree
Eucalyptus ficifolia * Red Flowering Gum
Eucalyptus polyanthemos * Silver Dollar Gum
Eucalyptus sideroxylon * Red Ironbark
Eucalyptus torquata * Coral Gum
Euphorbia cotinifolia * Caribbean Copper Plant
Euphorbia tirucalli Sticks on Fire * Red Pencil Tree
Fiejoa seloiana * Pineapple Guava
Fraxinus dipetala * California Ash
Fouquieria splendens * Occotillo
Geijera parviflora * Australian willow
Gingko biloba * Maidenhair Tree
Grevillia robusta * Silky Oak
Heteromeles arbutifolia * Toyon
Hymenosporum flavum * Sweet Shade, Queensland Frangipani
Jacaranda mimosifolia * Jacaranda, Brazilian Rosewood
Juglans californica * California Walnut
Koelreuteria paniculata * Golden Rain Tree
Lagerstroemia Crimson Red * Crimson Red Crape Myrtle
Lavatera assurgentiflora * Island Tree Mallow
Lavatera purisima * Purisima Tree Mallow
Lophostemon confertus variegata * Variegated Brisbane Box, Variegated Brush Box
Lyonothamnus floribundus * Catalina Ironwood
Melaleuca elliptica * Granite Honey Myrtle
Melaleuca quinquenervia * Paperbark Tree, Punk Tree
Melea azedarach * Chinaberry Tree, Bead Tree, Cape Lilac, Persian Lilac
Parkinsonia aculeata Desert Museum * Thornless Palo Verde
Pinus coulteri * Coulter Pine, Big Cone Pine
Pinus monophylla * Single Leaf Pinyon Pine
Pistacia chinensis * Chinese Pistache
Platanus racemosa * Sycamore
Prunus campanulata * Taiwan Flowering Cherry
Prunus ilicifolia * Holly Leafed Cherry
Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii * Catalina Cherry
Ptelea crenulata * California Hopseed
Punica granatum * Pomegranate Wonderful
Quercus agrifolia * Coast Live Oak
Quercus berberidifolia * Scrub Oak
Quercus douglasii * Blue Oak
Quercus dumosa * Scrub Oak
Quercus garryana * Oregon Oak
Quercus john-tuckeri * Tucker’s Oak
Quercus kelloggii * California Black Oak
Quercus lobata * Valley Oak
Quercus muehlenbergii * Chinkapin Oak Robinia pseudoacacia Purple Robe * Purple Robe Black Locust
Sambucus mexicana * Mexican Elderberry
Stenocarpus sinuatus * Firewheel Tree
Strelitzia nicolai * Giant Bird of Paradise
Tabebuia Apricot * Apricot Trumpet Tree
Tabebuia chrysotricha * Golden Trumpet Tree
Tabebuia impetiginosa * Purple Trumpet Tree
Tecoma X Smithii * Orange Bells
Tecoma stans * Yellow Elder
Tristania conferta variegatus * Variegated Brisbane Box, Variegated Brush Box
Tristaniopsis laurina * Water Gum
Vitex agnus castus * Chaste Tree
Yucca brevifolia * Joshua Tree
Ziziphus jujuba * Chinese Jujube, Chinese Date
Trees are undergoing stress in California’s drought; water with care
While dutiful homeowners have been severely limiting — or ceasing — the watering of their lawns and gardens to comply with drought restrictions, one potential fallout is sometimes overlooked: the health of the residential tree canopy.
In July, Mayor Judy Nelson of Glendora, a city that prizes its 18,000 trees, was one of the first public officials to raise this issue. Criticized for the city’s threat to fine a couple who let their lawn go brown (they said they were responding to Gov. Jerry Brown’s call to conserve water), Nelson explained, “We are very concerned that we’re going to be losing trees because people are not watering.”
FOR THE RECORD:
Low-water landscaping: In the Sept. 13 Saturday section, an article about drought-tolerant plantings identified manzanitas and ceonothuses as trees; they are shrubs. Also, the article suggested that sycamores are not native to Southern California, but the Western sycamore is native to the region. —
In fact, the region’s trees are increasingly stressed from lack of deep watering. Warning signs include premature yellowing or browning, early dropping of leaves and lack of vigorous growth. And then there is what might be called the “fading of the green”: A lack of water limits production of green chlorophyll that gives leaves their vibrancy.
Linda Eremita, forestry education manager and senior arborist for TreePeople, says, “I’ve seen trees declining where people have stopped watering lawns” in her Torrance neighborhood. “But it really does vary,” she continues, depending on the type of tree, the soil and area.
The key is to understand a bit of tree physiology and the best method of giving trees what they need.
The starting point is the root system. “The majority of roots are in the top 18 inches of soil,” Eremita says, “but the majority of roots taking in water, nutrients and oxygen are in the top 6 to 8 inches.” Long, slow watering with soaker hoses or in-line emitter drip systems buried under 3 to 4 inches of wood-chip mulch will do the job in summer-like weather, once or twice weekly for younger trees, biweekly for mature trees — not more. Too much water, and the roots cannot take up oxygen, suffocating the tree.
Lawns compete for water, so, in a perfect world, they should be removed to 2 feet beyond the outermost reach of the branches, known as the “drip line.” Irrigation lines should spiral outward, starting at 9 inches from the trunk to 2 feet beyond the drip line.
Unlike sprinklers, which currently are limited on time and date (for example the DWP allows eight minutes three days a week) and can damage a tree’s health if water hits the trunk, there are no general-use limitations on inexpensive soaker hoses. The only limitation on pricier but more effective in-line emitter drip systems is that they cannot exceed a 4-gallon-per-hour outflow.
Also critical, Eremita says, is planting the right kind of tree. Natives such as oaks, manzanitas and redbuds tolerate drought much better than thirstier non-natives such as the evergreen magnolias, jacarandas and sycamores that pepper the city — some even supplied to residents for free by the city through the public-private Million Trees LA initiative, which is now City Plants. TreePeople is working with City Plants to pull certain trees off its list that are not drought tolerant.
Plant drought-tolerant trees suited to Southern California’s dryness
Some of the best drought-tolerant native trees for Southern California:
- Native oaks, such as Valley oak, coastal live oak, Engelmann oak, scrub oak
- California or Western redbud
- Native lilac
Sources for trees and information: Theodore Payne Foundation Nursery www.theodorepayne.org; Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Grow Native Nursery www.rsabg.org/grow-native-nursery, Veterans’ Garden, West Los Angeles
The five best drought-tolerant trees to plant on the Central Coast | San Luis Obispo Tribune
Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) Courtesy photo
▪ Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis). A favorite in California landscapes with a dense, rounded crown and beautiful orange and red fall foliage. Deciduous. Grows 30-50 feet.
▪ Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia). Revered and iconic California native. Evergreen. Grows 40-70 feet in urban areas.
▪ Gold Medallion Tree (Cassia leptophylla). Fast-growing, with long-lasting fragrant, yellow flowers produced intermittently throughout the year. Evergreen. Grows 20-30 feet.
▪ Red Flowering Gum (Corymbia ficifolia). Produces impressive summer display of crimson, vermilion, pink or orange flowers. Evergreen. Grows 20-40 feet.
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▪ Valley Oak (Quercus lobata). One of California’s largest native oaks, with broad, rounded canopies of craggy branches and deeply lobed leaves. Deciduous. Grows 80+ feet.
“A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us”
Heavenly Greens Blog
Whether you bring them in big or start them off small, trees add a finishing touch to your landscape as they grow and mature. They can frame your property and add a sense of dimension. Their leafy canopies of deciduous trees provide shade when it’s hot and allow the sun to shine through in winter. And, in many cases, trees offer us colorful, fragrant collections of flowers, too.
Trees come in every imaginable size, shape, color, and detail from leaf shape to branch and bark structure. Happily, many varieties are drought-resistant – good news for water-parched northern California landscapes! Once they are established, drought-tolerant trees can fend for themselves under almost any conditions, adding beauty to your yard and vital habitat for birds and other wild critters.
Here are 10 of our favorite trees for South Bay Area landscapes:
- Desert willow
A small tree, the desert willow prefers neutral to alkaline soil. Desert willow has a long bloom season, starting in and continuing into the fall. Blooms are approximately 3-inches and range in color from white to burgundy.
- Chaste tree
This deciduous tree reaches approximately 20 feet in height and produces spikes of white, purple, or pink. It is naturally a shrub, but you can prune the lower branches to encourage a tree-like shape instead. Removing old blossoms will extend the bloom season.
- Bur oak
Bur oak trees grow both high and wide, up to 80 feet tall and 50 feet (or more) wide, so they aren’t for every yard. The limbs are strong and sturdy. The acorns produced by the tree can reach 2 inches in size.
- Mexican plum
Mexican plum trees can range in height from 15 to 35 feet, depending on the condition of the soil and the nutrients available. Older trees have a bluish-gray hue to the bark. Blooms are originally white, fading to pink or purple, and the plums are small.
- Loblolly pine
Loblolly pines are conifers that grow to at least 80 feet in height. The tree prefers direct sun and slightly sandy, acidic soil. The tree is fast growing and provides excellent shade for camellias, azaleas and other flowering plants that do not thrive in direct sun.
- Texas redbud
This pretty smaller tree has glossy, round foliage. It prefers direct sun but will also do well in light shade. In the spring, it produces an abundance of tiny reddish buds (therefore its name) which open into pink or rose-colored blossoms.
- Montezuma cypress
The Montezuma cypress can grow to at least 80 feet. Its long needles give it a feathery appearance. As the seasons change, the needles turn to a rust color and eventually drop off, with new needles appearing in the spring.
- Green ash
This fast-growing tree can reach upwards of 80 feet. It is beloved for its foliage that turns bright yellow as summer turns to fall. It is a good choice for areas where erosion is a problem.
- Chinese pistache
This smaller tree usually tops out at about 40 feet. It is resistant to pests and produces a variety of leafy colors in the fall.
- Cedar elm
Cedar elms are well-proportioned, eventually growing to 80 feet in height and about 40 feet in width. Cedar elm prefers direct sun and has provides valuable visual interest in winter, when it’s easy to see the roughly-textured bark and slightly drooping branch structure.
By planting trees that flourish with little moisture, you can beautify your surroundings, increase the livability of your yard, support the natural environment, and conserve precious water resources.
Mulga (Acacia aneura)
Brazilian Cedarwood (Cedrela fissilis)
Netleaf Hackberry (Celtis reticulata)
Ghost Gum (Corymbia papuana)
Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo)
Tecate Cypress (Hesperocyparis forbesii)
Native to the coastal mountains of Southern California the tecate cypress is a fast growing, low branching evergreen tree that grows 10 to 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Growth rate slows after it reaches 15 feet. The bark of this tree is cherry red when young and dark brown when older.
Palo Blanco (Mariosousa willardiana)
Arid Zone Trees
Red Push Pistache (Pistacia ‘Red Push’)
Maverick Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa ‘Maverick’)
Mountain States Wholesale Nursery
Catalina Cherry (Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii)
Escarpment Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis)
Island Oak (Quercus tomentella)
Southern California Drought tolerant trees for your green landscaping
What are the best drought-tolerant or drought-resistant trees for my zone?
Set yourself up for success by picking trees in your planting zone that will also tolerate drought.
Note: Trees with an asterisk are drought-tolerant only when established.
Drought Tolerant Trees: Zone 9 and Zone 10 (California and Las Vegas, Nevada)
Drought Tolerant Trees:
Zone 7 and Zone 8 (Georgia, North California and Southern Nevada)
Kentucky coffee tree (zone 3-8): Drought-resistant shade tree
White oak (zone 3-9): Large shade tree that can tolerate moderate drought
Northern red oak (zone 3-8): Fast-growing tree with fall color and some drought tolerance
Eastern red cedar (zone 2-9): Heat-tolerant evergreen with good drought tolerance
Thorn-less honey locust (zone 3-9): Fast-growing shade tree with moderate drought tolerance
Drought Tolerant Trees: Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 and Zone 6 (New York, North Nevada and Massachusetts)
Sugar maple (zone 3-8): Shade tree with fall color and moderate drought tolerance
Silver maple (zone 3-9): Large, fast-growing tree with moderate drought tolerance
Colorado blue spruce (zone 2-7): Evergreen with moderate drought tolerance
Bur oak (zone 3-8): Large shade tree with some drought tolerance
Paper birch (zone 2-7): Fast-growing tree with fall color and some drought tolerance