Choose the Right Tree
Answering these key questions can help you choose the right tree for your yard:
1. Evergreen or deciduous?
Evergreen trees keep leaves all year. They are good trees for privacy, wind breaks and hot areas. Plant them on the north side of your home.
Deciduous trees lose their leaves in fall or winter. They are good trees to plant on the south, east and west sides of your home to provide shade in the summer and warmth in the winter when the sun can shine through.
2. What size tree?
Different types of trees vary in their height and width. Based on the measurements in the areas where you would like trees, consider the following:
Short and wide trees: Grow up to 25 feet tall and 40 feet wide. They can grow above the roof of a single-story house. They can be planted under overhead utility lines, and as a street tree if the branches won’t interfere with traffic. They need lots of room.
Short and skinny trees: Grow up to 25 feet tall and about 20 feet wide. They are great for small areas or under overhead utility wires.
Medium and wide trees: Grow 25 to 45 feet tall and 40 feet wide. They provide shade for the entire roof area of a single-story house and walls and windows of a two-story home. They need lots of room.
Medium and skinny trees: Grow 25 to 45 feet tall and about 20 feet wide. They are great for areas near fences and smaller places.
Tall and wide trees: Grow higher than 45 feet tall and 40 feet wide. They provide the most shade for homes, driveways and other large, hot areas.
Tall and skinny trees: Grow higher than 45 feet tall and about 20 feet wide. They provide shade in areas that do not have a lot of room.
4. What else should you consider?
Trees can add more to your home than shade or a wind block. Consider trees for their:
Flowers: Flowers add color to the landscape and attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife.
Fall color: Red, orange, yellow and purple are all colors that add beauty in the fall.
Shape: Trees can be oval, pyramidal, round, spreading, vase-shaped or narrow; all add interest to your landscape.
Fruit: Many varieties of fruits can be grown in Southern California, providing food from the garden.
Drought tolerance: Native trees of Southern California and other low-water use trees, once established, need little or no extra water.
4. Putting it all together
Decide whether you have enough room to plant in the areas you have selected. Note that you must stay at least 10 to 15 feet away from the house foundation and at least 5 feet away from fences, patios and other surface structures.
Based on the location of the trees, look at the SelecTree website to find trees that are evergreen and deciduous and are the right height and width for your area. Remember, only short trees that reach a maximum of 25 feet tall can be planted under overhead utility lines.
Purchase the trees. 5-gallon, 15-gallon or 24-inch box trees are appropriate sizes to purchase and plant. Street trees must be at least 15-gallon size.
To purchase climate appropriate and low-water-use plants in California, you might start by consulting these sources:
- The California Native Plant Society
- El Nativo Growers
- The Theodore Payne Foundation
- Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
- Las Pilitas Nursery
- Tree of Life Nursery
- Matilija Nursery
- Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- Native Sons
- The Metropolitan Water District
- The Council for Watershed Health’s Plant Profiler
- The California Urban Watershed Conservation Council’s garden guide