The Insider's Guide to Low Water Trees
As if you haven't heard, we are experiencing a pretty severe drought here in California. Many of us are doing everything we can to help alleviate water demands, from removing lawns and repairing pools all the way to complete landscape renovations with total low water needs. And this is great that so many are willing to go that distance. But, I hear some friends and clients worrying about losing tree coverage. Not to fear! While some trees are definitely water hogs, there are options for low water trees (and some that even prefer drought conditions!) here in Northern California.
Beautiful Desert Willows - these are a small to medium sized tree, so they won't take over your yard if it is on the smaller side. Plus, they have seriously beautiful pink and violet trumpet shaped blossoms. And while it is not truly a "willow" tree, it gets its name from the long, slender green leaves.
The Desert Willow is best planted in an area that drains well and has full sun exposure. This is one of those trees that prefers dry weather, so it does not need constant watering - instead, it is best if the soil can dry out well between waterings.
Crape Myrtle is one of those eye catching trees because of the color and number of blooms. It really is stunning! (Make sure it’s in full sun if you want lots of flowers.) It has the added benefit of a many height varieties, ranging from the diminutive 3 foot dwarf to a 30 foot giant! Such a large variety virtually guarantees that there is a variety that will fit well on your property.
While the Crape Myrtle does need decent watering while it establishes, it is fairly drought resistant after - though too dry of conditions and it can experience drought stress, and will cease growth and flowering. A deep soaking every few weeks or an underground bubbler (Which we would highly suggest. You can read more about that here) should be enough to keep a mature Crape Myrtle in good health.
Italian Cypress (or Mediterranean Cypress)
If you are looking for something tall and stately, Italian Cypress is a great low water tree. Planted in a row (which is fairly common), they look like evergreen columns, and they fit best in formal garden designs. And since we are in Northern California, a Mediterranean look to a home is certainly not unusual!
The Italian Cypress is another drought tolerant tree that needs regular watering while it establishes, but only needs soaking twice a month after - or of course, the underground bubbler that we mentioned early. (Those systems are especially great because it is automated - no work for you except scheduling an irrigation check up once a year. We offer those for free if you are interested!)
On top of being one of the easiest fruit trees to grow, pomegranates thrive in arid climates and are quite drought tolerant. Plus they have gorgeous blooms to enjoy before the delicious fruit! Planted in well drained soil (soggy conditions can lead to root rot) and direct sun, the pomegranate tree would be a great addition to many landscapes - and it is a fairly fast growing tree as well!
Once established, pomegranate trees need watering every 2-3 weeks during dry seasons (unless you opt for a drip system). In fact, over-watering can result in the tree not dropping fruit!
Ooh, the Magnolia, a queen among trees. There are several varieties, and all of them produce incredibly fragrant flowers in pink, yellow, cream, white, and blended colors as well. A mature Magnolia is bound to cause envy of your landscape! They are also fairly easy to grow, and the shade canopy they provide is year-round, and love dry, Summer weather.
When properly established, the Magnolia has a deep root system, making to particularly suited to drought conditions. To help it achieve that end, deep soakings are necessary while it first grows - light watering will encourage shallow roots, which is bad for the tree.
There are of course other water-wise trees out there, such as the majority of Palms, but this list should get you on the right track. If you have something else in mind, or would like some assistance picking the right tree for your landscape, leave a comment and we’ll help you out as much as we can.
Happy tree hunting!