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The 14 Best Trees for Southern California

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If you live in Southern California, you might find it quite challenging to grow plants without good resistance to dry conditions. Considering how periods of drought seem to become more frequent in recent years, it’s important to select the right kind of trees that can flourish in this area. When it comes to growing trees, one essential aspect to keep in mind is protection from the sun. Planting a shade tree is recommended to reduce the impact of the scorching summer sun on your backyard.

Some gardeners might prefer to make some utility compromises and instead opt for more beautiful trees. There’s a good variety of flowering trees that can thrive in Southern California so that’s a good solution as long as you can take proper care of this kind of tree. Another great option is to find a fruiting tree that’s also capable of providing a decent amount of shade. Some species are more adaptable than others can tolerate increasingly arid conditions better. Check out our best picks for trees that are worth growing in Southern California.

1. Magnolia

Thanks to its ability to grow both tall and wide, the magnolia tree is recommended to bring out some welcoming shade to your yard. At the same time, you can take advantage of a beautiful show when the tree blooms. The characteristic pink flowers of magnolia are sure to create a stunning look for any backyard in Southern California. There are different types of magnolia trees to consider but all of them are able to provide a mix of charming beauty and relaxing shade.



2. Crape Myrtle

A classic choice for Southern California landscaping, the crape myrtle tree is appreciated for its abundant flower clusters and striking fall foliage. This is a highly recommended option for a flowering tree that’s relatively easy to grow. Crape myrtles come in multiple sizes depending on the chosen cultivars. Some of them resemble shrubs more closely but others are comparable to regular trees due to reaching heights of up 25 feet tall. The most common color shades of the tree’s flowers include pink, white, purple, and red.



3. Mulberry

If you’re searching for a decent shade tree that also produces delicious fruits, mulberry represents a solid pick. This is a deciduous tree that can grow without problems as long as it receives full sun exposure. Even if you don’t grow it for the fruit, you won’t be disappointed by the mulberry’s ornamental potential. This tree requires minimal care but it comes with the disadvantage of being quite invasive. Pick a wind-resistant cultivar if strong winds are a concern for you.



4. California Fan Palm

When it comes to drought-resistant trees for Southern California, there are some great options out there. A notable example is the California fan palm that’s able to survive in more arid conditions affected by wildfires. The tree is attractive to birds and doesn’t require a lot of space to grow to its full potential. Although it can withstand periods of drought, the California fan palm will grow more vigorously when watered properly. With its fan-like foliage, this type of palm tree can easily bring an exotic vibe to any property.



5. Camphor

Thanks to its ability to reach heights of 50 to 60 feet, the camphor tree is worth considering for adding a healthy dose of shade to your Southern California backyard. This is a robust tree that brings additional benefits such as blooming interest and a characteristic aroma. Camphor trees take quite some time to grow but this hardy evergreen can withstand hot climates pretty well. Another reason why this tree is a good option for your backyard is the way its sturdy branches can be used for treehouses.



6. Evergreen Pear

The evergreen pear is well accustomed to the climate of Southern California. This is a flowering tree that features early white blooms and leathery leaves. The foliage becomes intensely reddish in the fall so this is pretty much an attractive tree year-round. Despite its name, the tree is semi-evergreen because it becomes deciduous for a short period. The white blossoms produce a strong fragrance that will easily draw wildlife such as birds and pollinators. Sandy or clay soils are ideal for the evergreen pear but good drainage and regular watering are essential to help it thrive.



7. California Juniper

Simple to maintain once established, the California juniper is another great pick if you’re primarily worried about drought resistance. It starts developing as a shrub initially but it will eventually become tree-sized. The most important part is for the plant to receive sufficient water in those critical initial stages for proper establishment. While California junipers don’t show particularly remarkable visual characteristics, the trees produce some blue berries that appear inviting for birds. This evergreen tree can add a solid touch of greenery to any Southern California property.



8. Podocarpus

Podocarpus is an interesting tree choice that’s grown with minimal maintenance work. The main highlight of the tree is the dense foliage that creates virtually impenetrable shade. It features thin leaves neatly stacked on branches. Podocarpus is sometimes called the Japanese yew but, technically speaking, it’s not part of the larger family of yew trees. There are some similarities when it comes to appearance. The tree is a native of Asia and boasts great adaptability to more challenging climates. It produces decorative berries that are not edible for humans.



9. Silk Tree

Also called the mimosa tree, this is an elegant flowering tree that’s ideal for Southern California conditions. It brings some notable benefits for gardeners such as dappled shade and attractive flowers with delicate petals in shades of pink and white. Another important point of interest is the silk tree’s foliage that complements the flowers very well during the blooming period. When it comes to growth requirements, mimosas only need enough water to manage through extended periods of drought. It can handle different soil types and flourishes in full sun.



10. Reed Avocado

While it takes a bit more effort to grow than other trees, the reed avocado is suitable for the climate of Southern California. Aside from its dense canopy that provides good shade, the tree also produces some of the tastiest avocado fruits. It’s certainly worth growing just for these solid benefits alone. The reed avocado is an evergreen tree that’s able to remain vibrantly green for the entire duration of the year. The only drawback is the need for consistent irrigation that allows it to thrive in dry conditions.



11. Australian Willow

As its name suggests, this tree is a native of Australia that can be grown easily throughout the entire state of California. The Australian willow is an evergreen tree with the ability to conserve water very efficiently. This enables it to survive drought and adapt to poorer soil conditions. It’s a good low-maintenance tree to consider if you like the look of a true willow tree but without its typical drawbacks. Australian willows are also recommended if you want a neat tree that doesn’t cause a mess considering how it won’t drop any fruits or seeds.



12. Jujube Tree

If you’re searching for a way to add an exotic touch to your garden, the jujube tree represents a great option. This is a fruiting tree whose flowers won’t stand out too much. The most notable aspect is the jujube fruit which has some unique properties. Its taste resembles apples mixed with the sweetness of dates. Considering its native adaptation to dry areas and poor soils, the jujube tree is quite easy to grow in Southern California. Keep it in well-drained soil and full sun to maximize fruit production.



13. Red Maple

While a red maple planted in warmer areas tends to grow shorter, this is still a recommended tree for Southern California. Most landscapers appreciate it for its stunning fall foliage but red maples show year-round interest. This tree performs best in soils featuring adequate levels of moisture. However, it does have some decent drought tolerance after being properly established. Keep in mind that red maple trees aren’t recommended if you’re concerned about lawn maintenance. The strong roots might become exposed to the surface of the soil.



14. Fig Tree

Easy to care for and known for producing abundant crops, fig trees could be worth planting in your Southern California garden. As long as the quality of the soil in your yard isn’t very low, it’s safe to say that you can enjoy a rich fruit production. Fig trees can reach a maximum height of 30 feet, but some small varieties only grow up to 6-7 feet. When it comes to drought resistance, figs are fairly tolerant to dry conditions but benefit from supplemental watering. Fertilization might be required to get a bountiful fruit crop.

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