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.