Because we live in an area with modest rainfall and periodic droughts, it makes good sense to plant drought tolerant trees. The following is a partial list of dependable, drought tolerant trees for most locations in the Central Valley, Foothills and non-coastal areas in the San Francisco Bay area (in no particular order).  Evergreen trees have an (e) next to their name.

Common name Scientific Name Max. Size (ft.)
Aleppo pine (e) Pinus halepensis 60X40
Atlas cedar (e) Cedrus atlantica 60X30
Australian beefwood (e) Casuarina 70X30
California buckeye Aesculus californica 20X30
California incense cedar (e) Calocedrus decurrens 75X15
Canary Island Pine (e) Pinus canariensis 80X35
Carolina cherry laurel (e) Prunus caroliniana 30X25
Chaste tree Vitex agnus-castus 15X20
Chesnut leaf oak Quercus castaneifolia 80X65
Chinaberry Melia azedarach 50X50
Chinese flame tree Koelreuteria bipinnata 45X35
Chinese pistache Pistacia chinensis 50X50
Coast live oak (e) Quercus agrifolia 70X70
Cork oak (e) Quercus suber 60X60
Crepe myrtle Lagerstroemia indica to 25X15
Deodar cedar (e) Cedrus deodara 80X40
Desert willow Chilopsis linearis 30X20
Fig Ficus carica 30X30
Goldenrain tree Koelreuteria paniculata 40X40
Holly oak (e) Quercus ilex 60X60
Italian cypress (e) Cupressus sempervirens 60X10
Italian stone pine (e) Pinus pinea 80X60
Loquat (e) Eriobotrya japonica 30X30
Olive (e) Olea europea 30X30
Pineapple guava (e) Feijoa sellowiana 20X20
Pomegranate Punica granatum 20X20
Sawleaf zelkova Zelkova serrata 60X70
Shiny xylosma (e) Xylosma congestum 30X25
Strawberry tree (e) Arbutus ‘Marina’ 30X30
Sweet bay (e) Laurus nobilis 40X40
Valley oak Quercus lobata 75X90


You can find more information about these trees on the following websites: SelecTree, Sacramento Tree Foundation Shade Tree List, University of Florida Tree Fact Sheets or Trees for Central Valley Landscapes .

In addition to understanding the attributes of the trees, selecting the right species requires understanding the above and below ground environment you are planting into, tree maintenance needs and capabilities, the desired function of the tree and the current and future use of the site. A detailed article on tree selection can be found here.

Once you have chosen a tree variety, it is critical to select a high quality tree at the nursery (for more information, click here). I would recommend planting bare root trees if possible (see my previous article on the subject here).

If you need assistance choosing the right type of tree and learning how to plant and maintain it to maximize its benefits, please give me a call (530-231-5586).

Chinese pistache tree
Chinese pistache, Davis, CA.  A fall standout.

coast live oak tree 
Coast live oak, Armstrong Redwoods, Guerneville.

valley oak tree 
Valley oak, Roseville, California.

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