Desert Tree suggestions for Arizona gardeners

birdlady_in_mesa(z9 AZ)January 1, 2013

Compiled from suggestions by various members of our forum.

Mesquites are wonderful trees that provide lots of precious shade in our landscapes. They typically grow very large - to 30 x 30 feet so make sure you have enough room. There are also many other great desert-adapted tree choices, if you don't have your heart set on a mesquite. You might consider: One of the thornless Palo Verde hybirds (Sonoran Emerald or Desert Museum) Cascalote - fabulous fall color from spikes of yellow flowers that hummingbirds adore (yes some rose-like thorns) Sissoo - bright green leaves, upright growth habit Fruitless olive - low litter, no thorns Chinese Pistache - dark green leaves, red fall leaf color Evergreen Elm - dark green leaves, attractive bark That was going to be my recommendation. The Arizona Desert Museum a hybrid Palo Verde. Wonderful tree. Low litter. Very beautiful spring bloom, looks wonderful and compliments it's bright gree, "thornless" trunk. Very nice tree, and probably my favorite Desert tree.

For trees that would blend in well with the natural desert up in that are you can't beat palo verdes and mesquites for shade. Palo Verdes (Blue palo verde, Foothills, Palo Brea or Sonoran palo verde and the thornless hybrids) - Most grow fast to about 30 x 30 except Foothills which is smaller (20 x 20) - Produce light or filtered shade - Gorgeous spring color with golden flowers Mesquites (Velvet, Honey & Chilean hybirds) - Most are large trees 30 x 30, and fast growers - Heavier shade - Produce edible bean pods that can be ground and used in baking, etc. - Some folks are sensitive to the pollen Ironwoods are great trees but grow at a slower rate. They are beginning to bloom now and have tiny pink to lavender colored flowers. Excellent wildlife tree The evergreen elm is very hardy, has a beautiful weeping form, with no thorns, grows fast and has a really pretty trunk. They are best grown with one trunk trimmed up high to account for the weeping form. The colder it is the more leafs they will drop-this winter most trees dropped all leafs, but they leaf out quickly in March.
Chinese Pistache work very well in the valley-there are hundreds of very old, very large one's around. It's just about the only tree around here that give us the spectacular fall color we remember from back east-intense dark orange, red color usually right around Thanksgiving. They leaf back out in early April. I wouldn't call them fast growing, more like medium growing but they are very strong trees and are a great investment to your property.
You should go walk around ASU. They have an example of almost every tree you can grow here at various growing stages. Two trees that I like, but require some H20 are the Southern Live Oak and Carob Tree. Dark barked big trees with large round canopies. The area around the Nobel Library reminds me of the East. There are large Oaks, Elms, and Honey Locs.
Have you considered a Sissoo tree? They have a nice leafy look and though they can use lots of water for fast growth, they can also subsist on less. The color is fresh green but doesn't look out of place in the desert. Once they're well established they seem to be more cold-hardy, too. Mine only had a few browned leaves this winter and it was fairly cold.

Leather-leaf acacia (Acacia craspedocarpa) - grows to about 10 feet tall with rounded gray-green leaves. Yellow puff-ball flowers in spring. Low litter.

Hop Bush (Dodonea viscosa) - grows about 10 feet tall with bright green leaves. Has very tiny flowers. Low litter.

Sugar Bush (Rhus ovata) - will reach 10 feet and has dark green leaves. Small cream colored flowers. Low litter.

Arizona Rosewood (Vauquelinia californica) - reaches 10 feet or more wiht narrow dark green leaves. Clusters of white flowers in early summer. Can be mistaken for oleander at a distance.

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