We have officially reached the end of a long, hot summer. If you’re like us, you probably can’t wait for that familiar Pacific Northwest rain to come back, but before it’s time to pull your favorite sweater out of the closet and put on your rain boots, you should put some thought into what you’re going to do when summer rolls around again next year!
If this past summer was any indicator, we can expect another scorcher. Having a tree that can take the heat can provide a much-needed spot of shade in your yard. In anticipation of another dry, dry summer, here are some of our favorite drought tolerant trees to plant in your front yard!
One popular option is the classic Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum). Known for its huge leaves and bright green color, it is a staple of the region. Since Bigleaf maple is native to the region, it is not terribly hard to grow and care for. While it is able to handle drought or poor soil conditions, its growth will be severely limited under such harsh conditions. Still, the shade coverage it provides is a valuable asset in the summer months.
Careful planning when planting a Bigleaf maple can ensure maximum growth before the summer, allowing the tree to flourish before the land becomes too dry. It may not be the best choice for homeowners with smaller yards, however, as it can grow to be between 50 and 100 feet tall.
Another maple that can handle dry weather is the Vine Maple (Acer circinatum). Like the Bigleaf maple, it is a Northwest native and well adapted to the region. Vine maple may prove to be a better option for homeowners with smaller front yards, as it only grows to be between 16 to 26 feet tall. It is moderately drought tolerant while in the shade, but it can really suffer if in direct sun. If you are considering planting one in your front yard, be sure to take sun exposure into consideration.
Stepping away from maples, another great drought tolerant tree to plant is the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menzeisii). The dark green leaves and peeling bark are quickly recognizable, and the tree is closely associated with the region.
It is one of the most drought tolerant trees native to the Pacific Northwest with its root network reaching deep underground and its superior ability to extract water from the soil, allowing it to withstand harsh periods of drought. That being said, it is also infamously difficult to transport from place to place and the constantly peeling bark might raise the hackles of the meticulously neat gardener.
If you’re looking for a tree with a different kind of appearance, you might want to try the Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana), also known as the Garry oak. It is well adapted to the region, as well as occasional hot and dry conditions. Often you will find Oregon white oak and Pacific Madrone growing together in areas much too dry for other trees to take root in. It is a slow growing tree with dark green foliage, often collecting moss and lichen on its meandering limbs.
You don’t just have to rely on native trees when trying to make your front yard more drought tolerant, though. There are plenty of non-native trees that thrive under dry conditions as well! One of the most popular drought-tolerant trees is the Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin). A sun-loving, fast-growing shade tree, the Mimosa is valued for its incredible adaptability. It grows faster than pretty much any other shade tree, usually between 30 and 40 feet tall, and has a canopy that is usually as broad as it is tall. Its ability to grow quickly can sometimes get out of control, however, and homeowners should be mindful that it does invade other tree’s spaces. With proper upkeep, the Mimosa can be a wonderful summer staple in your front yard, providing ample shade and beautiful fragrant flowers.
You might also want to consider the Ornamental, or Flowering Pear (Pyrus calleryana). This is another quick growing, non-native tree that is highly drought tolerant. In addition, it withstands air pollution and the fire blight disease that threatens other pear trees. It produces no actual edible fruit, but the fragrant blossoms in the spring and the lovely fall colors make it popular with gardeners. The Ornamental pear grows in a teardrop shape that, while attractive, does not provide as much shade coverage as other options. Its heartiness and aesthetic appeal nevertheless make it a popular choice for planting in front yards.
Finally, you should look at human history! The ancient, drought tolerant tree Ginkgo Biloba might be just the tree for your front yard. Also known as the Maidenhair tree, it is cultivated all over the world. Having been introduced to human history early on, gardeners have worked with ginkgo for thousands of years. Native to China, it was valued as a food source as well as for its medicinal properties. To this day, people eat ginkgo and take medicines derived from it. Like the Ornamental pear, ginkgo trees are pollution resistant. It should be noted that the female trees drop messy fruit, adding to the necessary upkeep of the yard. Male trees do not have this problem, however, and so the situation is easily avoided. The elegant fan-shaped leaves and dramatic coloring in the fall, along with the tree’s hardiness, make it another great option for drought-resistant trees to plant in your front yard!
Thinking about the water usage in your lawn is a good way to be a mindful homeowner. You shouldn’t just plant whatever you feel like on a whim, without any forethought. Your yard is a delicate ecosystem, and it is your job to maintain that. When deciding what trees to plant, understand the kind of soil and site you’re working with. Plant other drought-tolerant plants near the trees, not ones that need frequent watering like shrubs or perennials. If you are ever unsure of what you’re doing, don’t hesitate to contact a local tree service. Once you have achieved harmony with your gardening, you can go into the fall knowing you’re already prepared for next summer!