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The Best Trees for California Yards: Top 10 Water-Wise Trees

Published: 26 April 2022

In California, planting low water-use trees in your yard can be one of the most effective ways to help make your neighborhood beautiful and healthy, and even keep your house cooler in the summer. The best time to plant a tree is right now! Here is a list of drought-tolerant trees that will be happy in your yard without guzzling too much water.

Western Redbud (Cercis Occidentalis)

Western Redbud Tree

The first water-wise tree on our list is the Western Redbud. This small tree is best known for its striking pink and magenta flowers, which bloom in the spring season. Western Redbud trees are easy to grow, adapted for different soil types, and are drought tolerant. Once roots are established, this tree only requires water once a week at the most.

Acacia Aneura

Acacia Aneura Tree

The Acacia Aneura plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree that produces golden yellow flowers in the summertime. Native to Australia, this tree is commonly referred to as Mulga and is well adapted to extreme heat and drought conditions. It can grow up to 20 feet tall by 15 feet wide and is considered low maintenance, requiring minimal irrigation in the summer.

Coast Live Oak (Quercus Agrifolia)

Coast Live Oak Tree

The Coast Live Oak is an evergreen oak tree native to California, also known as the California Live Oak. It is a medium-sized tree typically found on well-drained soils of coastal hills and plains but can also thrive in both northern and southern mixed evergreen forests. The Coast Live Oak is a hardy addition to any water-wise landscape.

Interior Live Oak (Quercus Wislizeni)

Interior Live Oak Tree

If you’re looking for a drought-tolerant tree of a larger variety, then look no further than the Interior Live Oak. This is a tall, broad evergreen tree that can grow up to 72 feet tall. It is extremely easy to care for and although it requires more space to grow, it does not require more water. Once roots are established, deep watering is recommended only once a month.

Desert Willow (Chilopsis-linearis)

Desert Willow

The Desert Willow is a small tree native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. In addition to being drought tolerant and easy to care for, the Desert Willow tree produces fragrant pink flowers in the spring and summer seasons that are a favorite of hummingbirds and bees alike. On average, the Desert Willow requires watering just three times a month once roots are established.

Olea Europaea (Fruitless)

Olea Europaea Tree

Olea europaea is a fast-growing, fruitless olive tree variety. This tree is ideal for those that love the look of an olive tree but don’t want to deal with the messy fruit it would produce. Native to Mediterranean regions, this tree requires minimal watering and maintenance.

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Hybrids)

Crape Myrtle Tree

Lagerstroemia, also known as Crape Myrtle, is a species of evergreen trees and shrubs that are cultivated in warmer climates around the world. They produce flowers in various red and purple hues and are easy to care for, preferring full sun and minimal watering.

Western Sycamore (Platanus Racemose)

Western Sycamore Tree

The Western Sycamore is a large drought-tolerant tree native to California that can grow up to 80 feet tall. It is popular for its ample shade during the summer and is an excellent choice for water-wise landscaping in public spaces and private gardens alike.

Valley Oak (Quercus Lobata)

Valley Oak Tree

Valley Oak trees are the largest of the North American Oak trees, and the largest water-wise tree on this list, by far. Native to California, Valley Oaks can grow up to 100 feet tall with a trunk diameter of up to 10 feet! They prefer full sun and are easy to care for trees, requiring water only twice a month. 

Atlas Cedar (Cedrus Atlantica)

Atlas Cedar Tree

Cedrus Atlantica, also known as an Atlas Cedar, is a beautiful and distinct evergreen tree that can grow to a height of 60 feet tall with a canopy spread of up to 40 feet wide. Although this tree is slow-growing and requires lots of space, it is hardy, drought-tolerant, and produces an aromatic oil that naturally deters insects.

Whether you choose to plant a small fruitless olive tree or a large Valley Oak, planting water-wise trees and practicing proper irrigation is an excellent way to help save water and preserve our vital tree canopy!