| A Master Gardener's guide to
gardening in a hot dry climate
The Best Fast Growing
for Hot, Dry Climates
Trees can easily reduce the temperature in your xeriscape
garden and on your home's exterior by up to 10 degrees F. in
the summer when they are planted on the south and west sides
of your home. So here are some of the best fast-growing
trees that do well in a hot, dry climate and will add 2 to 4
feet in height every year. Some are quite drought tolerant,
some need regular watering. All will help you reduce your
air conditioning bill!
(See other leafy trees for hot climates,
Chitalpa tree (Chitalpa x
tashkentensis) will grow 2 feet or more every year
to a mature height of 25 to 30 feet. It has an open
branching structure and casts a dappled shade. This
heat-loving tree blooms with pink, white or lavender
flowers all summer long. Low water usage after it is
established in your xeriscape garden.
Another fast grower is the majestic
(Ulmus parvifolia). It can reach 30 feet tall
within 5 years and ultimately grow to a height of 40 to
60 feet. It has a graceful weeping shape at maturity.
It can be planted in a lawn where it will receive
regular irrigation, but also does well with less, but
Linearis) grows fast and produces pink orchid-like
flowers all summer long. Come autumn, however, messy
seed-pods develop. Its cousin, the Chitalpa tree,
shown above, is a better choice unless you are a native
plant purist. Both trees are drought tolerant and grow
Peppermint tree (Eucalyptus nicholii) also
has a weeping shape. Again, you can count on growth of 2
feet or more per year with this low-water usage Eucalyptus
which grows to 50 feet tall. The flowers are small, the seed
pods small, too. The bark is reddish-brown and the leaves,
when crushed, smell like peppermint! Be sure to add iron
chelate, such as Kerex, to the soil around this tree in
spring and fall. Many other eucalyptus grow rapidly, too.
Ask your nursery for more information or see our
January 2004 newsletter.
||If you want gnarled gray
bark, very bright green, ferny leaves, and
gracefully drooping branches, plant a
California Pepper tree
But be sure to plant it away from paving as its
roots crawl along near the surface. Small white
flowers in summer give way to rosy color berries in
the Fall. Their leaves look bright green and healthy
even under drought conditions, but their branches
may hollow out and when wind comes the branches
may snap off. Moderate water usage is recommended.
Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) grows 3 or
4 feet a year to a mature height of 35 to 75 feet tall. Its
bright green leaves are ferny so it does not cast a lot of
shade allowing a lawn to grow beneath it. The downside for
this drought-tolerant tree is that there are sharp thorns on
the trunk and branches so it should not be planted in an
area where children or animals might bump up against it.
Not only do
(Ficus carica) grow rapidly to 20 to 30 feet, they
have big leaves which cast dark shade. The fig produces
delicious fruit and is not particular about soil quality.
The 'Black Mission' and 'Brown Turkey' are good varieties
for the desert. Most produce two crops of figs per year and
need regular watering, especially when the fruit is growing.
Be sure to ask at your nursery how tall a specific variety
will grow. Some trees are much larger than others. You may
need to control the size by pruning.
Mesquite Tree (Prosopis)
instantly brings up images of cowboys and the Old
West. These trees grow very fast and definitely
prefer little water after they are established. In
fact, if you plant your mesquite in a lawn it will
grow tall and lush with a very shallow root system
-- and may very likely blow over with the first
strong windstorm. Infrequent, deep watering is best
because it encourages the roots to go deep into the
For more leafy trees for hot, dry
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