The Q&A Archives: Tree Recommendations

Question: I am landscaping my back yard. I have a large grass area with an 8' round brick planter. I want to plant a large shade tree there and would like some recommendations as to what type of trees would work well. We have telephone lines across the back portion of the backyard, so the tree should not grow too tall, and width should be probably around 35-40'. I would like a fast growing deciduous tree, non-invasive roots, to plant under (as it will be in the middle of a grassy area, and would love for it to also be pest and disease resistant, if possible. Can you recommend a tree or some trees to choose from that fit this description (in Capistrano Beach, California). I believe we are Zone 10.

Answer: There are only a handful of trees that will fit your purposes. You want something that is as litter-free as possible, with well-behaved root systems. Tree ferns (Dicksonia and Cyathea), Acacia stenophylla, Ficus auriculata, Palms, or Chinese Parasol Tree (Firmiana simplex). Not all of these are evergreen, but they're all well-behaved. You might want to consider some of the tall-growing hedges instead of trees. Glossy Abelia, Boxwood, Calistemon (Bottlebrush), or Escallonia would serve the purpose and give some seasonal color as well. Fast-growing trees can have weak limb and branch structure, and can have invasive root systems, too, so are not always a good choice, even for young landscape situations. When purchasing plants, choose the largest size you can afford. Plants in one-gallon pots are the least expensive, but take the longest time to mature. Plants in five-gallon containers are generally 3-4 years old (depending upon rate of growth), and are more expensive. For an instant, finished-looking landscape, purchase trees in 15-20 gallon containers, or those dug and moved with heavy equipment.

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