Shade Tree - Knowledgebase Question

Name: Christy Estrada
Casa Grande, Ar
Question by cecasagrande
September 24, 2010
I am in need of a small tree to plant in my front yard to shade the living room window. I have been doing research on the internet, but have found vastly different descriptions of tree sizes, depending on the source. My top picks are evergreen elm, chitalpa, texas ebony and cascalote. I need shade, but obviously do not want an 80ft tree. I am open to suggestions, and need real information.


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Answer from NGA
September 24, 2010

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I know how challenging it can be to find just the right tree for your landscape, especially when what you read differs so greatly from source to source. The general rule of thumb is that the mature heights and widths that are listed are the average sizes at 10 years. This means that trees can exceed these sizes in 15-20 years. Of course growing conditions can influence the actual size of a tree in any given landscape. With this in mind, I think you've narrowed your list down to a few good candidates. Evergreen Elm can be kept small with annual pruning. It's one of my favorites because I like the small leaves and clean look of a well pruned tree. However, if you do not prune them the branches can become long and lanky and are prone to breakage in our monsoon winds.

The Chitalpa is a cross between Catalpa bignonioides and Chilopsis linearis. The Chilopsis is a desert tree, sometimes called a Desert Willow. From the Chilopsis, the Chitalpa inherits long 3 to 5 inch dark green leaves and the ability to withstand some dry heat. However, unlike its desert parent, the Chitalpa can withstand low temperatures of around minus 15 degrees. These are very fast growing trees, reaching a height and width of 25-30 feet in our growing region.

Texas Ebony is a slow growing evergreen tree, reaching 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It's well adapted to our region and doesn't require a lot of pruning or other care.

The Cascalote tree produces large spikes of light yellow flowers in the winter and attractive copper-colored seed pods. It is native to Mexico and does very well in the Arizona desert. Cascalote is slow growing, reaching about 20' at maturity. It can be pruned to shape but doesn not require pruning. Looks very much like an overgrown Mexican Bird of Paradise.

Two trees you didn't mention but are worth consideration include Texas Mountain Laurel(Sophora secundiflora) which is actually a large shrub but is often pruned into a tree shape. It has glossy green leaves and purple flowers that smell like grape Kool-Aid. It grows about 8' tall and 6' wide and has a nice neat appearance. The second is Texas Olive (Cordia boissieri). This attractive tree has large evergreen leaves and long-blooming white flowers. It tends to stay under 15 feet in height. Neither of these suggestions has any bad habits and both adapt well to our soils and natural rainfall.

Hope this information helps you make the best choice for your landscape!

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