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5 More Drought-Tolerant Trees for Your Yard

Summer may seem like it’s far off, but the rain must stop sometime, and the sun will come back to us eventually. Summers have been trending longer and warmer here in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re planning to plant a new tree in your yard this year, a drought-tolerant tree means less hassle for you since you won’t have to baby it through the hottest months of the year. We’ve mentioned our favorite drought-tolerant trees before, and here are five more options for you to consider.

1. Ponderosa Pine

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Ponderosa Pine

You can find this evergreen all over the United States. Its range is from southern Canada all the way down to Mexico, and from the plains in Oklahoma and Nebraska all the way to the Pacific coast. It’s an extremely adaptable tree that can survive all kinds of conditions—snow and cold to hot and dry. It’s easy to distinguish from other varieties of pine because it’s wonderfully fragrant—its scaly bark smells either like vanilla or butterscotch, depending on who you ask. It stands tall and straight and is the main source of lumber in the Southwest. They can live up to 500 years or more, so you’ll have a good return on your investment for planting one.

Ponderosa will be good for your yard, not only providing shade in the hot months but also bringing more wildlife into your yard. The seeds attract birds and squirrels, so you can enjoy some bird-watching under your new tree. While these trees can adapt to almost any soil or growing conditions, make sure that they will get full sun as much as possible. They require plenty of sunshine and are intolerant of shade. Once they’re established, though, they are great drought-tolerant trees to add to your landscaping.

2. Oregon Ash

This is the only ash tree native to the Pacific Northwest, though there are 16 species of ash in the US altogether. Unlike the ponderosa, the root system of the Oregon ash is shallow, which means it doesn’t take a lot of water to satisfy it. Typically, it will grow best in areas that are wetter, along the bottom of valleys or along streams, but they are tolerant to areas that are hotter in July and August.

It can grow in dense shade as a seedling and may grow as tall as 60 to 80 feet tall when it’s fully mature. When you first plant an Oregon ash, be sure that it has a lot of space to grow because once it grows to its full height, it will continue to grow in diameter.

The Oregon ash is a member of the olive family. When it’s fully mature, around 30 years old, it will begin producing seeds. Male and female flowers grow on the same tree, and the fruits will ripen in August or September.

3. California Hazelnut

This is a gorgeous woodland shrub (or small tree) that turns vibrant yellow or gold in the autumn. You’ll also get a little perk of spring in January when they flower briefly. These flowers aren’t showy, but they’ll be a little welcome burst of color in the middle of the Oregonian winters. The most important thing when planning to plant a California hazelnut is the quality of the soil. These trees do well in sun or shade, but you’ll want to make sure the soil is well-drained. This species is tolerant of clay soils and often prefers a good amount of organic matter, so remember to fertilize.

If you’re looking for a tree that will provide erosion control, this is your best bet. After it has established itself, it will start to form a thicket as well, helping with that erosion control even more. This environment will be beneficial and will attract more species of birds, as they enjoy the extra cover. The nuts will also bring in chipmunks and squirrels.

One of these shrubs can grow to be 10 or 20 feet tall. Once it starts to get some height, you can remove some of the smaller branches, unless you want to keep the undergrowth for your bird and squirrel friends.

4. Douglas Maple

Also known as Rocky Mountain maple, this would be a beautiful addition to your yard. Like the California hazelnut, the Douglas maple can be either a shrub or a tree and prefers well-drained soil. It enjoys full sun to partial shade and flowers in the spring with greenish-yellow blossoms. A Douglas maple can be extremely short (only 3 feet tall) or grow up to 30 feet tall. Some maples are known for being finicky, but this maple can adapt to many different conditions, including areas that are more arid. It can be found from southeastern Alaska to California and as far east as western Nebraska, covering a multitude of environments.

Like most maples, its leaves turn a variety of colors in the autumn, from yellow and orange to crimson. They adapt to drier and more open sites than other maples and can withstand colder temperatures, which we’ve also seen in the past few winters here in Oregon.

5. Indian Plum

Also called osoberry for the berries it produces, this is a shrub native to the Pacific coast from Canada to California. The berries are edible (though some consider them to taste bitter) and look like small plums that are dark blue. If your plant gets more sun, you may tend to get more fruit, and they may tend to be sweeter.

The shortest of the tall shrubs on this list, the Indian plum will grow to be 15 to 20 feet tall. The spring will be refreshing with this plant in your yard because the foliage smells like cucumber and will be one of the first plants to leaf out. While this shrub can grow tall, it will also grow outward. Downward-drooping limbs can sometimes root where they meet the ground so that an Indian plum tree will often grow outward as much as upward.

If you’re looking for advice on which drought-tolerant trees to plant in your yard, contact Mr. Tree to chat with one of our certified arborists on the right tree for you.