Top 10 Drought Tolerant Trees for California Homeowners

These days summers are getting warmer and warmer, and it’s important to plant special drought tolerant trees for California that won’t only provide shade but will also be able to deal with the difficult drought that goes on during the summer season. In California, Cooling shades of big trees are great for relaxing times, playdates, or picnics. But the yards are prone to droughts in this region, so it’s important that you plant trees that have deep roots, as well as the capability to stand up against dry weather. 

It takes several years for drought-tolerant trees to fully grow, depending on the species and size, but they need very little supplemental water once their root system gets matured enough, except the times of severe drought. Therefore, you’ll be able to relax in this shade without caring about watering the plants on a regular basis, as the tree above the head and your roots beneath will definitely stand robust through the entire summer season. 

That’s why it’s a must that you go for properly drought-tolerant trees. In this article, we will talk about the best drought-tolerant tree you can use while planting in your yard in California. 

Top 10 Drought Tolerant Trees for California

Let’s have a look at the 10 best drought-tolerant trees for California homeowners.

1. Golden Rain Tree

The Golden Rain Tree is a summer-blooming and stunning tree with its yellow star-shaped flowers. They resemble a golden and heavenly shower of flowers when the flowers keep dropping on the ground during the warm season. These trees also attract bees and beautiful butterflies. The Golden Rain Tree is perfect for tough open terrain and urban spaces, as they are durable and grow rapidly. It stands up against drought and can resist pests, deer, heat, diseases, heavy wind, and pollution.

You can plant a golden rain tree in sunny areas around your yard so that you can have shade, and you can also plant them near the street to work as buffers for traffic noise. You can also try collecting their beautiful flowers for decoration or other stuff. 

Golden Rain Tree

Image: Golden Rain Tree

  • Soil needs: Sandy, clay, loamy rocky; well-draining; neutral to slightly alkaline
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade, full sun
  • Mature size: 30-40 feet tall, 15-35 feet wide
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: 5-9

2. Common Hackberry

If you love squirrels and different birds, such as cardinals, robins, cedar waxwings, etc., and want them to keep coming into your yard or property during winter, then you can go for the Common Hackberry trees. They work as a treasure trove regarding biodiversity. These trees are large and fast-growing drought-tolerant trees in California, and come with a beautiful rounded top and vase-like shape, making them a popular choice for boulevards and city backyards.

Common Hackberry trees also feature a slender trunk and silver-gray bark that’s smooth and develops ridges while growing. Their wood is highly damage-resistant, so they have a high tolerance for wind, heat, ice, salt spray, etc. These trees can even thrive in places where other trees fail to. 

Common Hackberry Tree

Image: Common Hackberry Tree

  • Soil needs: Loamy, sandy, clay; neutral to alkaline soils
  • Sun exposure: partial shade, full sun
  • Mature size: 50-70 feet tall, 30-50 feet wide
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: 3-9 

3. Northern Catalpa

You can try protecting pollinators by planting the Northern Catalpa trees on your lawn. These trees make beautiful white trumpet-shaped flowers bloom, which makes them feed native insects. Bees and hummingbirds follow purple and yellow nectar guides to the flowers and pollinate during the daytime. On the other hand, moths get attracted by the nectar and fragrance of the flowers to pollinate at night. 

Northern Catalpa trees also come with highly aesthetic looks with their huge heart-shaped leaves, long and dangling seedpods, twisting branches and trunks, and beautiful fragrant flowers. They grow fast, bloom during May-June, shed seed pods during spring, and lose leaves during fall. You have to clean up the shed leaves, seed pods, and flowers so that you can keep your lawn clean and safe from lawn diseases. It will also keep the passers-by safe from slipping. 

Northern Catalpa Tree

Image: Northern Catalpa Tree

  • Soil needs: Prefers well-draining and rich loam, but has tolerance for different types of soils
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade, full sun
  • Mature size: 40-70 feet tall, 40-50 feet wide
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: 4-8

4. Bur Oak

Bur Oak has a high tolerance for drought with its deep roots, a shed-protective and dense canopy, and strong branches. This tree originated from the Great Lakes region. It features deer and insect resistance, as well as winter hardiness. It has the capability of thriving in poor soil conditions. These trees can live around 200-300 years after they are fully grown.

These trees are also very eco-friendly, as they provide a home for moths, butterflies, and nesting birds. Bees feast on the pollen of this tree. They bloom in spring and produce chestnut-like mossy acorns, an important food source for rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. 

Bur Oak Tree

Image: Bur Oak Tree

  • Soil needs: Sandy, clay, loamy, and well-draining
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade, full sun
  • Mature size: 70-80 feet tall; 70-80 feet wide
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: 3-8

5. Kentucky Coffee Tree

Kentucky Coffee Trees are highly tolerant of road salt, smog, and car exhaust. These trees can withstand pollution and, at the same time, look striking with large seed pods that look like coffee beans and clusters of fragrant white flowers that bloom during spring. Even though this tree grows slowly, it develops a broad and distinctive canopy that provides enough shade. It can resist pests and disease and provides a stunning show during fall when its leaves turn gold and yellow.

Kentucky Coffee Tree

Image: Kentucky Coffee Tree

  • Soil needs: Well-draining; has tolerance for alkaline soil
  • Sun exposure: Full sun
  • Mature size: 60-75 feet high, 40-50 feet wide
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: 3-8

6. Maidenhair Tree

Maidenhair trees are the oldest surviving species on the earth, which implies that they can adapt to the environment so perfectly that they survived prehistoric times and made it to the present time. It has graceful fan-shaped leaves, which turn golden during fall. It makes them a gorgeous addition of wide walkways, large backyards, and children’s gardens. 

The Maidenhair Tree can work excellently as a city tree, as they have tolerance for smog, road salt, and car exhaust. Just like the eastern red cedar, these trees are dioecious too. But it’s better to plant the male trees only, as the females produce fruits with an unpleasant smell. 

Maidenhair Tree

Image: Maidenhair Tree

  • Soil needs: Sandy, clay, loamy; well-draining
  • Sun exposure: Entirely full sun
  • Matured size: 40-80 feet tall; 30-40 feet wide
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: 3-9

7. Mulga Tree

This tree is naturally suitable for dry and hot climates. The Mulga is an evergreen and slow-growing tree, which has beautiful silvery needles and it makes bright-yellow flowers during spring. You can plant this tree in the front yard for beautification purposes, near the pool or patio, or plant several of them to have an elegant scene in your backyard. 

Moreover, Mulga trees don’t only have tolerance for poor soil; it also enriches the soil with their roots so that other plants can grow properly around them. It happens as they are a nitrogen-fixing legume. However, they can’t survive everywhere, as they can’t tolerate temperatures that are below 20͐ degrees of Fahrenheit. 

Mulga Tree

Image: Mulga Tree

  • Soil needs: Sandy to loamy; well-draining
  • Sun exposure: Suits full sun more, but can also take in partial shade
  • Mature size: 16-20 feet wide and 15-20 feet high
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Hardiness zones: 8-11

8. Eastern Red Cedar

Eastern Red Cedar is a highly suitable choice for the dry areas along the East Coast. Among all the trees that originated from the Eastern U.S., this evergreen and dense tree can deal with drought the best. Drought-tolerant evergreen trees are trees that can withstand long periods of drought and still remain green. These trees have such a beautiful appearance with their pyramidal structure and blue and dark green needles, so you can plant them for the decoration and beautification of your front yard. You can also plant them as privacy screens and windbreaks.

These trees have tolerance for nutrient-poor and salty soil and can deter deer, as they are exceptionally robust. They also attract beautiful songbirds, native butterflies, and bees. To ensure the pollination of these trees, you will have to plant male and female trees together, as this species is dioecious, which means they have separate male and female trees. Female trees produce pretty seed cones that look like frosty blueberries, and the male ones produce yellow pollen cones. 

Eastern Red Cedar Tree

Image: Eastern Red Cedar Tree

  • Soil needs: Clay, loamy, sandy, rocky; well-draining
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade, full sun
  • Mature size: 30-40 feet tall, 10-20 feet wide
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Hardiness zones: 2-9

9. Ponderosa Pine

Ponderosa Pines have a high tolerance for droughts, as they have roots that spread laterally and taproots that grow highly vigorously. All these make them almost indestructible during drought. No matter what they get exposed to, such as snow, wind, or scorching sun, they manage to grow tall and even live an exceptionally long life, which can even exceed 700 years. They can adapt perfectly to long dry periods, as they have water-storing needles, small branches, and tall trunks. They produce significant pine cones on a cycle of two years. During the spring of the first year, they produce reddish-purple and small cones, which mature during the fall of the next year, and shed the seeds. It provides food for squirrels and chipmunks. 

Ponderosa Pine Tree

Image: Ponderosa Pine Tree

  • Soil needs: Has adapting capability to different soil types
  • Sun exposure: Full sun
  • Mature size: 25-30 feet wide, 60-100 feet tall 
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Hardiness zones: 3-7

10. Eastern Redbud

You can go for the Eastern Redbud if you want a burst of pink and lavender during early spring. This tree grows rapidly, and it has beautiful early spring blooms. In fall, golden-yellow foliage comes out. Eastern redbud originated in North America, so it is suitable for a wide range of climates and soil types. It is shade tolerant and will provide you with summer shade if you plant one near your patio or deck. This tree can also fill your yard, borders, and pathways with a pop of color. It also attracts native wildlife, such as honey bees, hummingbirds, songbirds, etc.

Eastern Redbud Tree

Image: Eastern Redbud Tree

  • Soil needs: Prefers rich, light, moist soil, can tolerate sand and clay; well-draining
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade in the southern U.S., full sun in the northern U.S., 
  • Mature size: 20-30 feet tall, 15-25 feet wide
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: 4-9

Taking Care of Drought-Tolerant Trees

If you live in an arid or semi-arid climate, you know how important it is to choose drought-tolerant trees for your landscape. Here are some tips that will help you take care of drought-tolerant trees –

  • Water the tree at least once any day for 1-2 weeks after planting it. Then do it once every 2 to 3 days during weeks 3 to 12. And depending on the species, water the tree once each week during the 13th week till it’s 2-3 years old. After the first two weeks, make sure to let your soil dry out first before you water the tree in order to help it grow deep roots. 
  • New trees usually require 10 to around 20 gallons of fresh water each week. 
  • It’s better if you plant your shrubs and trees around your lawn or property in complementary groups, so they will work like anchor points for hardscape features, pathways, and smaller plants. You can also complement the trees with perennials or shrubs that are drought-tolerant. 
  • Make sure to increase the watering area while the tree grows, as the roots of the tree expand outward during the growth.
  • You can try preserving the soil’s moisture and providing proper nutrients for the roots by spreading wood layer mulch of 2-3 inches in a ring around the tree’s base. To prevent internal rot, try keeping the mulch 3-6 inches away.
  • It’s better to use soaker hoses instead of a sprinkler while watering the new trees, as the hoses are pretty much efficient.

Get a Customized Landscaping Plan From Atlas Tree!

We hope our selection of drought-tolerant evergreen trees will help you! Need help with a drought-tolerant evergreen tree to add to your landscape? Consult with our professional certified tree arborist. Our experts in tree care and management can provide you with a customized landscape plan you need to keep your trees healthy and looking their best. 

Contact Atlas Tree today or call at (800) 478-7966 to learn more about our services and how we can help you to maintain your home or business landscape’s healthcare, arrival, and safety.

Final Words

When you are living in California and want to decorate your lawn, yard, or walkway with beautiful and aesthetically pleasing trees, it’s important that you go for trees that are also drought-tolerant. Make sure that the trees you are planting can thrive with very little water supply and can withstand problems like pollution, rough soil type, diseases, wind, heat, etc. You can easily choose from this list, as these trees are among the best drought-tolerant trees you can plant on your lawn or yard in California.