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Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana)

Today’s post is written by guest blogger, Emily, who writes about sustainable gardening.

Getting to landscape your own yard is exciting, and it can prove to be really fun! You can decorate your yard with the plants you love in whatever way you want them to look. There’s no end to all the ways that plants can bring life and beauty to your backyard, but what types of plants you have to choose from can be narrowed down because of where you live.

Even beginner gardeners know that plants are affected by the amount of sunlight and kinds of temperatures they deal with on a regular basis. Some plants do better in warmer climates than others. If you live in the southwest, you know that hot, dry weather is something your plants are going to have to be prepared for. Check out some of the best trees you can pick from for your yard that will thrive in the rising temperatures of the southwest.

Your Best Options

This tree list is for those who want to look through a list of potential trees without having to do a bunch of research and get disappointed when they find out that the tree they like won’t work in their yard. Extreme heat doesn’t mean that you’re limited to only a few kinds of trees. You can have large, beautiful trees that have thick foliage and provide lots of shade. You can also have fruit trees if you’re interested in growing your own food. Read on to see which trees might fit with what you’re looking for.

Stately pine trees along a historic Phoenix street

  • Aleppo Pine – Choosing to grow the Aleppo pine might be right for you if you’re looking for an ornamental tree. It has a distinct trunk and can grow up to 80 feet tall. This tree is a great addition to a yard that looks like it’s missing some character.

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)

Willow Acacia (Acacia salicina)

  • Acacia Tree – If you’re looking for a tree that’ll grow quickly, the Acacia might be for you. These trees are bright with green, yellow or white colors and live for around 20-30 years. They’re also known for stabilizing soil with their roots, which is perfect for erosion-prone areas.

Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora)

  • Texas Mountain Laurel: A shrub that disguises itself as a tree, the Texas Mountain Laurel is a beautiful plant that provides lots of shade. It can grow to 15 feet high and when in bloom, it’s covered in massive purple flowers. Take note that the seeds it produces are poisonous if ingested, so those with outdoor pets or small children should watch this tree carefully.

‘Santa Rosa’ Plum Tree

  • Santa Rosa Plum – Fruit lovers, rejoice! You can still plant a variety of fruit trees in desert climates. The Santa Rosa Plum tree does particularly well in full sun as long as it’s watered regularly. Expect delicious summer fruit after an average full growth cycle of four years.

Grapefruit Tree

  • Citrus Trees – Many homeowners choose to grow a variety of citrus trees in the southwest because they do so well. Lemons, oranges, grapefruit and lime trees are especially common in yards since they naturally take to the weather.

Give It Time

Whatever tree you choose will need time to grow to its full maturity. This will be a different length of time depending on what kind of tree you decide to go with. Always talk with local gardeners to make sure you know what you’re getting into. On the other hand, you should also be prepared to make some mistakes! You’ll learn how best to care for your tree with time, so don’t feel like you have to know everything about your type of tree before you plant.

Jump Right Into It

The more you research, the more you may feel overwhelmed. This is normal for beginner gardeners, but learning how to grow your own tree really isn’t that difficult. It’s just a new way of gardening! And don’t think you’re alone. Ask around in your community to see if there are any gardening groups you can join, and if not, you can look online too. There are people ready to help guide you with your gardening passions so you can grow the trees of your dreams, no matter which kind you settle on.

Bio:

Emily is an avid gardener. She writes in the sustainability field and loves getting to try new composting methods to grow food with less waste. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.

**For more tree profiles that will add beauty to your desert garden, click here for earlier posts where I share some of my favorites.

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Okay, you may be thinking, what am I talking about?  Well long ago, on a spring morning, I noticed an intoxicating fragrance in the air that reminded me of grape bubblegum.  Well, there were no candy stores nearby, but I did notice a small tree with beautiful purple blossoms.  It turns out, that the fragrance was coming from the flowers.

The flowers hung down like grape clusters and I later found out that this tree was called Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora).  

I have wanted to share this tree with you for a long time, but wanted to wait until they were flowering.  Well, yesterday as I was visiting my mother (Pastor Farmer) at Double S Farms, I noticed that their Texas Mountain Laurel were beginning to flower and so hurried home to prepare this post.
There are so many wonderful things that I love about this tree.   Of course, the fragrant, purple flowers are my favorite thing, but I also like that this tree is evergreen, drought-tolerant and easy to maintain.
They are native to Texas, New Mexico and Mexico.  They grow approximately 20 – 25 ft. high and 10 – 15 ft. wide.  They grow naturally as a large shrub, but are often seen trained as small trees. 
This beautiful tree is hardy to approximately 20 degrees F.  So, I highly recommend trying it in your landscape.  

They flower in March and their grape bubblegum fragrance is unmistakable.  Seedpods are formed shortly after flowering stops.  I am not a huge fan of seedpods in general, but I really like the ones from this tree – their creamy color and shapes add interest to the tree.

Inside the seedpods are bright red seeds that are extremely hard and poisonous.  Long ago, Native Americans would use the seeds to create bracelets and necklaces.

*One year, my nephews, (Mr. Green Jeans & Monkey Boy), took the seedpods and painted them yellow and painted little snowman faces on them and gave them as gifts for Christmas.  I still have mine and it decorates my Christmas tree every year.

There is a another variety that has gray leaves, which is also just as beautiful in my opinion.

*Caterpillars can become a problem during warm weather, but you can just ignore them and/or pick them off.  If you see loose webbing on the leaves, that is a sign that it is infected by caterpillars.  The damage caused from the caterpillars does not usually hurt the tree.  It helps if you detect the eggs before they hatch and remove them.  Since caterpillars usually infect the new growth, I just prune off the affected areas.

Texas Mountain Laurel is a slow-growing shrub/tree and so I recommend buying the largest size you can afford if possible.  Like so many flowering plants, there are those who formally prune it and remove all of the beautiful flowers – PLEASE don’t do this.


And so in closing, the next time you detect the fragrance of grape bubblegum in the air, look around you and see if you discover the beautiful Texas Mountain Laurel nearby.