By Kathy Huber
Houston, TX (June 23, 2008)- Houston gardeners plant for deluge and drought. We delegate water-lovers to low spots and less-thirsty types to well-draining areas so each can pull through wet and dry cycles.
June can be a toss-up, stressing the importance of using water-wise plants. The month began on a hot, dusty note, stranding many gardeners at the end of the water hose considering xeriscapes. While there has been some rainfall relief, the need for low-water plants continues. Mid- to late summer is ideal for planning low-water additions to your garden. Fall is ideal for planting.
If you wish to start with trees, here are 10 drought-tolerant species to consider:
This fast-growing, sun-loving conifer tolerates wet and drier sites. Designated EarthKind by Texas A&M for its pest-resistance and tolerant nature, it’s long-lived and can mature to 80 feet or more in height and 40 feet in width. The feathery needles turn russet and drop in late fall, but new foliage comes early in spring. It does not produce knees as the bald cypress (T. distichum) will in poorly draining/wet soil.
A moderately fast-grower with somewhat drooping branches, this native matures to 75-80 feet with a 30- to 40-foot spread. It prefers sun and is tolerant of various soil types, poor drainage and dry spells. The bark and small foliage are rough-textured, and the leaves turn yellow-gold in the fall. It’s EarthKind.
A medium, round tree with compound leaves and fall color, this pistache matures to about 40 feet. It needs good drainage but is long-lived and EarthKind for its drought-tolerance and pest-resistance. Birds love the fruit.
The relatively fast-growing green ash is used to provide shade and prevent erosion. It matures at 60 to 80 feet. It prefers moist, organically enriched soil but adapts to a variety of soils in sun or part sun. The dark green foliage turns bright yellow in the fall. Fruitless male selections are available.
Drought-tolerant, this native sports masses of tiny rose-pink blooms in early spring. The foliage is glossy and rounder than other redbuds’. Give it sun or partial sun and a well-draining, fertile soil.
Cercis canadensis var. texensis
This handsome, drought-tolerant native tolerates the abuses of city life. It’s a big tree, reaching 80 feet in height and spreading heavy limbs to approximately 50 feet. The acorns are 2 inches. Although this EarthKind selection is known to be tolerant of heavy clay, it appreciates a fertile, well-draining soil. Sun is best.
The loblolly is a fast-growing native conifer to 80 or more feet that provides high shade for azaleas and camellias. Plant in a sunny, well-draining area. Sun, and a sandy, acidic soil is ideal.
Vitex or chaste tree
This unbeatable EarthKind small tree matures to about 20 feet and produces purple, pink or white spikes. For repeat blooms spring to fall, remove spent flowers. Deciduous, the vitex does well in varying amounts of sun. Prune in late winter when you prune your crapes. You’ll need to clip sprouts and lower branches to train into a small tree.
This 15- to 35-foot native will give you fragrant early-spring white blooms that fade to pale pink and small purple plums for birds or for jelly. The trunk bark ages to a blue-gray. Give it sun to dappled shade. It’s tough, tolerant of both drought and heavy clay.
Also native, this small tree produces 3-inch white to burgundy blooms spring to fall. It likes alkaline to neutral soil, requires good drainage and has low-water requirements once established.
Houston Chronicle- Top 10 drought-tolerant trees for Houston
Trees for Houston
Greater Houston Partnership