Please Recommend a Drought-Tolerant Tree for Small Yard

wobsieMarch 4, 2009

Please recommend a tree for our small frontyard in suburban San Diego. The yard is about 50'x25', south-facing, and currently empty. We're looking for something that is drought-tolerant, and relatively small, since our house is just 1-story. I'd like something deciduous so that we have shade in the summer and sun in the winter. My spouse thinks that won't make much difference.

So far our first choice is Japanese Maple based on appearance and size. We're also thinking of Crape Myrtle, which was recommended as a good shade tree by Center for Sustainable Energy. We looked at some plum trees at a nursery today, which looked good.

I'd like to hear other recommendations. Thanks.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Flowering members of Prunus are probably fine, but fruiting plums are messy and not that drought tolerant. Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) is nice IMO.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 7:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

None of your three choices -- Japanese Maple, Crape Myrtle, plums -- are anything close to drought-tolerant. I am thinking that the Center for Sustainable Energy is not a California organization and is only looking at the fact that the crape myrtle is deciduous (summer cool, winter warmth).

Here's a better start:

Acacia baileyana Bailey Acacia

Aesculus californica California Buckeye

Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree

Celtis australis Southern Hackberry

Cercocarpus ledifolius Curl-leaf Mahogany

Cotinus coggygria Smoke Tree

Eriobotrya deflexa Bronze Loquat

Feijoa sellowiana Pineapple Guava

Geijera parviflora Australian Willow

Koelreuteria paniculata Goldenrain Tree

Parkinsonia aculeata Jerusalem Thorn

Pistacia atlantica Mount Atlas Pistache

Pistacia chinensis Chinese Pistache

Prunus lyonii Catalina Cherry

Zizphus jujuba Chinese Jujube

And it might help to know what you consider small. A "small tree" is 20-30 feet. Is that "small" enough? Could be you want a large shrub, pruned up as a single-trunked "tree" or limbed up as a multiple-trunked "tree" (some of the above).


    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 10:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Besides being deciduous and drought tolerant, think about how you will use the area under the tree. How tolerant are you for the droppings from the tree? Will you want to grow any plants under the tree? So often it takes several years to recognize our choice of a shade tree was a mistake. Al

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 8:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Japanese Maples do better with morning sun/afternoon shade and most certainly are not drought-tolerant. In nature they are an understory tree (a small tree that grows in the shade of larger trees). The foliage gets toasted in full sun unless you are right along the ocean. They are nice in large (watered) pots on a covered patio where they get a little morning sun but shade in the hottest part of the day.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 11:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

Cercidium, Palo Verde.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 1:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You can go with a Loquat they get to about 10ft tall on average.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 5:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
shadowsmom(Sunset z24)

I planted a Sambucus Mexicana (Mexican/Blue Elderberry) in my front yard in coastal South Orange County and am very happy with the result. Once established, it is drought tolerant, with white flowers in spring and small blue berries throughout the summer. Birds eat most of the berries before they hit the ground. It is deciduous and tops out at about 20 feet in height. Look for it at native plant nurseries.

One note: It must be trained as a tree, as its natural shape is more like a shrub, so it is best to start with a small (1-gallon size) plant. Given plenty of water, mine shot up ten feet the first year I planted it, so it was easy to shape into a tree.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 7:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks to everyone for their responses. I guess we have to rule out Japanese Maple since our front yard is south-facing and gets full sun.

We were visualizing a tree with foliage that is full and rounded, and about 5-6 feet off the ground. We don't want anything shrub-like mainly for aesthetic reasons. We'd like the tree to shade the house in the summer and allow the sun to come through in the winter.

Below the tree, we'll have succulents and drought-tolerant plants, with much of the ground cover being pea gravel.

I'm still looking up all the various suggested trees on the web to see what they look like... but please keep your suggestions coming! Also, if you can recommend a good nursery in the San Diego area, I'd appreciate those as well!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 3:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd recommend Chitalpa. It's a drought tolerant hybrid of Chilopsis, mentioned earlier, and Catalpa. Has the best of both. Long flowering season in the warm months, deciduous in the winter. Well behaved front yard tree. Crape Myrtles are fine....get a mildew resistant variety! Also, there's another, darn, can't recall atm. it's well behaved, drought tolerant, and a distant citrus relative. Used quite a bit in landscapes now. narrow, willowy'll come to me

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 11:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Tree of Life nursery off the 74 is one of my favorite nurseries for drought tolerant plants, 33201 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 3:56PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Growing canker on plum and nectarine trunks
I have a small back yard orchard, most of which was...
Aaron Davidsson
Western Sword Fern (Polysticum munitum) very brown
My Western Sword Ferns are looking very brown. I really...
Is there an "easy" red Kangaroo paw???
I planted 2 "Big Red" KP about a month ago....
Sabine Halfhill
Mother Nature Fooled the beans, Now Hurry Hummingbird it's up to you
Well the beans have come out of their husky winter...
Wild Haired Mavens
Echium wildpretii. "Tower of jewels"
Anyone have experience with these? I planted seeds....
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™