Neal Weisenberger

When it is hot, you may be thinking of shade and shade trees.

There is no such thing as the perfect tree. If there were a perfect tree everybody would be planting it. Also, there is no such thing as a good lawn tree or a tree that will not make surface roots in your lawn. Even in nature most trees are shallow rooted, but when you plant them in a lawn it is impossible to prevent surface rooting.

When you are growing a lawn, you water to only six inches deep and you are fertilizing your lawn frequently. Both factors cause the tree roots to grow closer to the surface, as the roots grow larger they pop out of the ground.

Also, when planning tree root spread much farther the top of the tree. Roots can extend three to 10 times the canopy of the tree. So keep in mind, main waterlines, sewer lines, walls and walkways, to mention a few, in determining where to plant your trees.

When choosing a tree, you will have to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages before deciding which tree is best for your situation. There are many other trees that grow in the Antelope Valley; these are just a few. In general, most trees require high amounts of water, mainly due to the size of the tree.

I always say the most drought-tolerant elephant still drinks more water than the thirstiest mouse. Fast growing plants also typically use large amounts of water. The fastest thing to provide shade in your landscape is a patio cover, or umbrella.

In my opinion, the following are good medium to small trees that still produce some shade.

Chinese pistache (Pistachia chinesis) — This medium-to-large shade tree can grow to about 60 feet tall and wide, but reaches about half that size in the high desert. The Chinese pistache is best known for its red fall color. This tree has a good shape and produces good shade. The disadvantages are the blue berries, which stain sidewalks, and the tree is also a very slow grower, which is why I consider it a medium-size tree for the landscape.

Golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) — This small tree can grow to 30 feet tall and 50 feet wide, but in the high desert it grows to about 20 feet tall and wide. The golden rain tree has a golden yellow bloom in late spring, followed by orange ‘Chinese Lantern’ looking seedpods. The golden rain tree is one of my favorite small trees because of the size, flowers, Chinese lanterns, and growth habit. The problems with the tree is it loses its leaves in early fall, the bark is unattractive, and little black and red bugs love the seeds, and multiply in the thousands, becoming a nuisance.

Purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasafera ‘Atropurpurea’) — This small tree grows to about 20 feet tall and wide. Best known for its purple foliage and its pink flowers that are in bloom. This tree is better used as an accent tree, than a shade tree. Disadvantages include the tree does produce fruit that fall and stain the sidewalks. (The fruit is edible.) Another problem is that the purple leaf plum is not tolerant of lawn watering; it causes root rots.

Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’) — This small tree grows to about 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It is a very formal pyramidal tree with shinny green leaves. It is considered too narrow to be a shade tree and is more commonly used as an accent tree. It is one of our first blooming trees covered with white flowers

Silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) — This medium-sized shade tree grows to about 25 feet tall and 30 feet wide. The silk tree is known for its pink bloom in late spring. Another benefit of the silk tree is that it is a drought-tolerant tree. The disadvantages include very brittle wood that can break in high winds or a couple inches of snow. The silk tree is a messy tree after it blooms. This is not one of my favorite trees due to the mess. I know a lot of people love the flowers. My recommendation is not to plant a silk tree and just drive by but look at a neighbor’s tree when it is in bloom.

Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) — This small tree grows to about 20 feet tall and wide. This drought tolerant tree has white to purple flowers depending on the cultivar that bloom all summer. The only disadvantage to this patio tree is that the seedpods hang on the tree all winter and the bark is unattractive, making the tree look shaggy all winter.

Pink dawn chitalpa (x Chitalpa tashkentensis) — This small tree is a cross between the desert willow and the catalpa tree. The tree has become quite popular over the last few years and grows to about 20 feet tall and wide. This drought-tolerant tree has pink flowers with a pale yellow throat.

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