What Are Some of the Best Drought-Tolerant Trees for California?

Prolonged droughts are commonplace in Southern California, so it is important to select trees that can survive with relatively little water for your next tree installation project. Fortunately for residents of the sunniest part of the Sunshine State, there are a number of native and exotic selections that fit this bill.

The next time you are planning to add new trees to your property, start by considering the following six species:

1. California Sycamore

Big and beautiful natives of the state, California sycamores (Platanus racemosa) are surprisingly drought tolerant, given their preference for growing in riparian areas. Reaching up to 100 feet in height, California sycamores – like most of their relatives – possess very attractive, splotchy bark that includes white, grey and brown tones. Although these trees are deciduous and shed their leaves each fall, they make excellent shade trees during the spring and summer.

2. Purple-Leaf Acacia

The purple-leaf acacia (Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’) is an attractive tree with smooth bark and green to purple evergreen foliage. Although fast-growing, purple-leaf acacias have relatively weak wood, so it is best planted away from homes and areas of high foot traffic. A 20- to 30-foot-tall tree, the purple-leaf acacia is relatively short-lived, and rarely reaches 50 years of age.

3. California Buckeye

A California native, the buckeye (Aesculus californica) is a drought-tolerant species, but without supplemental irrigation, it will usually shed its leaves in the late summer. Rarely exceeding 25 feet in height, the California buckeye is typically used as an accent tree, but it provides great shade while in leaf and can be used to keep air conditioning units cooler (which will help reduce your home-cooling costs) in the summer.

4. Flame Tree

The flame tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) is named for its gorgeous orange or red flowers, which grace the tree in the late spring or summer. Reaching about 60 feet in height, these trees are not suitable for use under utility lines, but their modest spread – generally less than 35 feet – makes it a great choice for narrow planting locations. The flame tree is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and sun exposure levels, making it an acceptable choice for most properties.

5. Western Redbud

The western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) is a small species that bears pretty purple flowers in the early spring.  Because of their small size (few specimens exceed 20 feet in height), they don’t work well as shade trees, but they are an excellent accent or ornamental trees that also provide significant wildlife value. They can also work well for screening projects in some cases.


If you need help selecting the best drought-tolerant trees for your property, give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. Not only will one of our experienced arborists help you determine the perfect trees for your space, he or she will provide you with tips for helping to prepare your tree for the inevitable droughts that will occur over the next several decades.

What Are Some Fast-Growing Trees for California Properties?

Humans tend to be an impatient bunch, so it isn’t surprising that many people are interested in selecting fast-growing trees for their next installation project. However, there are also a variety of real-world reasons to seek trees that grow and mature quickly.

For example, trees can help to prevent erosion, provide energy-saving shade and screen properties from noise, wind and prying eyes. In these and other cases, fast-growing trees are significantly more valuable than those that take decades to reach respectable sizes.

Fortunately, there are a number of fast-growing tree species, which can be very useful for homeowners and property managers. And while you must be sure to select those trees appropriate for your area and local conditions, there are plenty of great choices for Southern California properties, including the five listed below:

1. White Mulberry

The white mulberry (Morus alba) is a medium-sized tree that grows quite quickly when provided with fertile soil and plenty of sunshine. The fruits of mulberries are very attractive to birds, who will often visit the trees en masse to fill their bellies. The fruit can stain sidewalks and driveways, so opt for a fruitless cultivar – such as ‘Stribling’ or ‘Kingan’ — when planting mulberries near hardscapes.

2. Australian Willow

Australian willows (Geijera parviflora) are relatively small, evergreen trees that reach heights of about 30 feet (though the occasional specimen may approach 50 feet in height). These attractive trees store water in their leaves, which makes them relatively fire-resistant and well-suited for high-risk locations. Drought-resistant and adaptable to a variety of soil conditions, these trees grow best in full sun, although they will tolerate light shade.

3. Bracelet Honey-Myrtle

Another tree hailing from Australia, the bracelet honey-myrtle (Melaleuca armillaris) is a fast-growing, but small evergreen tree. It produces subtle, yet pretty white flowers in the spring or summer and retains its dark green leaves all year long. Well-suited for screening projects, these trees are tolerant of many different soil types and often tolerate salt spray relatively well.

4. Reed Avocado

Reed avocado trees (Persea americana ‘Reed’) are some of the largest and fastest-growing varieties of avocados, and they make excellent choices for screening projects. Another evergreen species, the Reed avocado bears a very dense canopy, which makes it a great shade tree too. However, the Reed Avocado – like most other avocado trees – requires relatively moist soil to remain healthy, and those who grow these trees will often find supplemental irrigation necessary.

5. Red Maple

A beautiful tree that reaches 60 feet in height, the red maple (Acer rubrum) is native to the eastern portions of North America. Most celebrated for their fall foliage, red maples are actually quite attractive in all seasons. They prefer moist soils, but they are reasonably drought-tolerant once established. Because they have relatively weak wood, they are best planted in the open, away from areas in which people or pets congregate.

Honorable Mention: Cabbage Palms and Queen Palms

While palms aren’t often used for screening projects or to provide shade, residents and property managers looking for a fast-growing palm will find that either the cabbage palm (Cordyline australis) or the queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) will fit the bill. While the former rarely exceeds 35 feet in height, while the latter may reach 50 feet or more in a relatively brief period of time. Both grow best in well-drained soil with full sun exposure.


If you’d like help selecting the best fast-growing trees for your property (or if you’d like help installing them), give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. One of our experienced arborists will visit your property, assess the local soil and climate and recommend the best trees for your space.

Insect and Disease Diagnosis in Southern California

Like humans and other animals, trees are susceptible to a variety of pests and pathogens. Bacteria and fungi will feed on their tissues, while some viruses will take over a tree’s very cells for their own purposes. And while they aren’t bothered by mosquitoes and similar pests, trees are regularly attacked by aphids, caterpillars and other problematic creatures.

The amount of harm inflicted by these pests and pathogens varies based on a number of factors. Some of these organisms may only cause minor stress for trees, while others can quickly overwhelm a tree’s defenses and cause a rapid death.

The health and species of the afflicted tree are also important factors that play a role in the progression of the disease. Robust, established trees can typically muster an adequately robust response to fight off some pathogens, and some tree species (and cultivars of a given species) are simply more resistant to some bugs and germs than others are.

But one thing is true in all cases: Immediate assessment by a qualified and experienced arborist is imperative.

Many tree pathogens and parasites can be alleviated with prompt action. Even if your trees can’t be treated, you’ll want to take immediate steps to prevent the problem from spreading to other trees and have any terminally afflicted trees removed before they represent a safety hazard.

Signs and Symptoms of Insect Infestation and Disease

Trees exhibit a variety of symptoms in response to pests or disease. However, the following are some of the most common:

  • Crown dieback (the progressive death of a tree’s canopy)
  • Stunted or slow growth
  • Premature color change
  • Premature leaf drop
  • Poor crop yield
  • Misshapen or discolored fruit
  • Wilted leaves
  • Discolored leaves
  • Exudates (liquids or jelly-like substances emerging from the bark)

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can also indicate other tree health problems. Crown dieback, for example, can occur in response to pests, pathogens or environmental factors, such as root damage or inadequate water. Only an educated tree-care professional can accurately identify the causal organism, which further demonstrates the importance of soliciting professional help anytime your tree exhibits the signs above.

Assessment and Care Regimens: What to Expect

Upon noticing any of the symptoms or signs listed above (or anything else that looks unusual about your tree), you’ll want to contact a professional arborist.

The arborist will visit your property and inspect the tree in question. Often, he or she will also glance at the other trees in the area too. The arborist will catalog the symptoms present, which will help him or her determine what pest or pathogen is present.

Sometimes, a positive identification can be obtained through nothing more than visual inspection. However, some pests and parasites will require the arborist collect samples, which can then be shipped off to a lab for analysis. This usually only takes a few days, but some diagnostic procedures can cause this part of the process to last for a few weeks.

Once the arborist has determined the root of the tree’s struggles, he or she can recommend an appropriate treatment strategy. This may involve things like the selective removal of branches or the application of antibacterial or antifungal medications. In some cases, simple supportive care will allow the tree to fight off the infection on its own.

Complete removal is sometimes the best course of action, but most arborists will consider this a last resort, which should only be undertaken when the odds of recovery are low and the threat of spread high.

Some of the Most Common Tree Pests and Pathogens in Southern California

Southern California’s warm and sunny climate certainly makes the region popular among humans and it allows residents to plant many trees hailing from tropical regions, but it also presents a perfect home for a wide variety of insects and other threats.

Some of the most noteworthy threats include:

à The Asian citrus psyllid(Diaphorina citri) is an introduced insect hailing from Southeast Asia that feeds on the foliage of citrus trees. However, while the feeding damage caused by this insect is problematic, the greater threat is the disease – Huanglongbing or Asian greening disease – that they can carry and transmit.

àPolyphagous shot hole borers (Euwallaecea spp.) are tiny insects that bore beneath the bark of trees, where they feed and deposit eggs. Like the Asian citrus psyllid and some other insects, the bulk of the harm caused by these bugs relates to the diseases it carries with it – a pathogenic fungus (Fusarium euwallacea), in this case.

à Some tree pathogens are flexible enough to attack many different species. But others, such as Xylella fastidiosa — the bacteria responsible for oleander leaf scorch — tend to attack a single species or group of closely related species. This disease can be spread via the activities of several tree-feeding insects, which makes it difficult to prevent or stop.

àThe gold-spotted oak borer (Agrilus auroguttatus) is a small, invasive insect species that attack the oak trees of our region. However, this insect shows a distinct preference for red and intermediate oaks; white oaks are almost never attacked by the insect. The tunnels created by these insects cause massive physical trauma to the trees they attack.

àPalms also fall victim to pests and pathogens, such as theSouth American palm weevil (Rhynchophorus palmarum). Most of the damage inflicted by these insects occurs during the larval stage, as the insects feed on the palm’s tissues. However, they are also associated with the spread of red ring disease, which also causes trouble for palms.

While the organisms listed above are among the most common and noteworthy found in our region, there are hundreds of other invertebrates, bacteria, viruses and fungi that can attack the trees of Southern California.

The Importance of Immediate Action

If you suspect that one of your trees is suffering at the hands of bacteria, fungi or bugs, give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. One of our experienced arborists will visit your property at your convenience and take the steps necessary to identify the causal organism.

From there, we’ll recommend an appropriate treatment, taking into account the tree’s health, the responsible insect orpathogen and the likelihood that the disease will spread. We’ll also factor in your goals and desires, as well as your budget to determine the best possible outcome.

Just remember: Tree pests and pathogens can cause quick and irreparable harm if ignored, so call (213-293-2444) or email us ([email protected]) today to give your trees the best chance at a recovery.


When Should You Prune Trees?

The best time to prune or trim trees is when they are dormant. This will help prevent the loss of water and also reduce the chances that fungi will colonize the wounds created. Dormancy typically occurs during the winter, but some trees also become dormant during hot, dry periods.

Nevertheless, trees can be pruned at any time of year if necessary. For example, safety concerns may dictate that you prune a tree as soon as possible, regardless of the season. The most important factor involved in pruning is the techniques used and the locations at which the cuts are made.

Pruning Cuts Are Wounds

Every time you trim a tree branch, you wound the tree. These wounds can serve as sites into which fungi or bacteria can enter the branch and colonize the area. However, because trees have robust defense mechanisms, they can usually keep these fungal invaders at bay. However, the nature and location of the wound are important factors that can tilt the advantage in the direction of the tree or the fungus.

Trees Do Not Heal

Unlike animals, trees never truly heal, as they have no capacity to do so. Instead, trees simply seal up wounds through a process called compartmentalization. This prevents the spread of fungi (or other pathogens), but it can lead to weak spots in the wood. This means that tree wounds are, in effect, permanent. This demonstrates the importance of locating cuts correctly and making them in the appropriate manner.

Proper Pruning Cuts

To prune a tree correctly, you need a sharp, size-appropriate tool for the branch in question. Typically, this means shears or loppers for twigs and finger-thick branches, pruning saws for branches that are wrist-thick or smaller and chainsaws for anything larger. The cuts should always be placed about an inch outside the branch collar, rather than at the midpoint of a branch. This will give the tree the best chance of compartmentalizing the wound.

The Three-Cut Method

Anytime you prune large branches, you need to take steps to prevent the limb from stripping away the bark on the trunk as it falls. The three-cut method is the best way to do so:

1) Locate your first cut about 2 to 3 inches away from the branch collar. Starting from the bottom side of the tree, cut about halfway through the branch.

2) Your next cut should be located about 2 to 3 inches further from the trunk than the first cut. However, you’ll want to make this one from the top side of the branch. Cut all the way through the branch, allowing it to fall to the ground. Because the fibers on the underside of the branch have already been cut, the falling branch will not strip bark from the trunk.

3) Make the final cut about 1 inch away from the branch collar to remove the remaining stub.


If you need your trees pruned, reach out to your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants. While homeowners can certainly carry out minor pruning operations, it is not wise for amateurs to trim significant branches or work above ground level. Instead, give us a call and let one of our skilled and experienced professionals prune your trees in a safe and prudent manner.

How Much Water Do Trees Need?

Different trees have different water requirements, but as a general rule, most trees need about 10 gallons of water every week or two, for every inch of tree diameter at breast height (about 4.5 feet above the ground). In other words, a walnut tree with a 6-inch-diameter trunk will require about 60 gallons of water every other week.

Factors Influencing a Tree’s Water Requirements

There are a number of factors that influence a tree’s water needs, including those detailed below. Be sure to consider these factors carefully when deciding upon a supplemental water regimen for your trees.

The Tree Species

Some tree species simply need more water than others do. For example, a black cherry tree usually requires more water than a redbud does. Typically, a tree’s water needs reflect the habitat from which they hailed, although there are a few exceptions.

The Geography and Surrounding Habitat

Trees growing in hot, windy and exposed locations will require more supplemental water than those growing in damp, sheltered locations. Additionally, trees growing lower in a water shed usually require much less water than those growing on hills or high slopes.

The Age of the Tree

Older trees, who have more extensive root systems, generally require less water (relative to their size) than younger trees, as they are able to withdraw more water from the soil. Many large, mature trees only require supplemental water during extended droughts.

The Health of a Tree

Trees that are battling pests or pathogens may have different water requirements than those who are in good health. Additionally, those trees that have become stressed by drought or poor weather may require more water than trees that have not been exposed to such conditions.

The History of the Tree

The things a tree has experienced over the course of its life may alter its supplemental water needs. For example, trees usually require significant quantities of water for the first year or two following installation.

Methods of Administering Supplemental Water

You can apply water to a tree’s root system in a number of different ways. Some of the most common strategies include the following:

Hose Irrigation

Simply spraying water on a tree’s roots with a hose is a viable method for those with the time to do so (it takes about 5 minutes for a medium-pressure hose to dispense 10 gallons of water). Be sure to apply the water around the dripline, where the bulk of the absorbing roots are, rather than saturating the soil near the trunk.


Sprinklers are not an ideal method by which to supply trees with supplemental water, but they will work if need be. Just be sure to aim the sprinklers so that they are soaking the ground near the drip line, and that they aren’t repeatedly spraying the trunk.

Drip Irrigation

Unlike traditional sprinklers, which waste a lot of water, drip irrigation systems use tiny spray heads to deliver the water right to the soil. Drip systems are ideal for those with small groups of trees, although they can be designed to cross long distances if necessary.

Soaker Hoses

Like drip irrigation systems, soaker hoses are a very efficient way of watering trees, and because they allow you to provide a lot of water over a long period of time, they are ideally suited for watering trees.


If you need help determining the water needs of a tree on your property, reach out to your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants. One of our experienced tree-care professionals will visit the property, inspect the trees in question and help you arrive at a reasonable estimate of its water requirements.

How Do You Know If a Tree Will Fall?

Although trees are remarkably resilient organisms, they all die eventually, causing most to fall to the ground. Because of the immense weights some trees reach, this can represent a very significant danger to your home and family. Even if the entire tree does not fall, shed branches can cause serious injuries and property damage.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to determine when a tree will fall. However, skilled arborists can determine if a tree is at high risk of doing so. While you should always contact an arborist if you are concerned about a tree on your property, but you can learn to look for a variety of the signs arborists consider when assessing a tree.

Some of the most telling signs and symptoms trees can exhibit include the following:

Co-Dominant Trunks

Trees that have “twin” trunks lack the structural integrity of those with bearing a single trunk. The attachment point between the two trunks is rarely strong, and such trees frequently split at the junction. However, several kinds of supports can be used to help strengthen these junctions, so removal is not always necessary for such trees.

Mushrooms on or near the Tree

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungal networks, so they only occur where there is significant fungal penetration in an area. And while not all fungi are pathogenic, it is important to have any mushrooms (whether they occur on the tree’s trunk or on the ground under the canopy) evaluated to determine the relative likelihood of limb drop or failure.

Large Cracks

Large cracks – especially those oriented horizontally along tree trunks – can make a tree very susceptible to failure. Small vertical cracks may not be serious, but only a trained arborist can determine which cracks require action and which can be ignored.

Large Tree Hollows

While small hollows are rarely a problem for otherwise-healthy trees, large hollows can compromise the structural integrity of the tree. Additionally, because most hollows are associated with some degree of decay, the damage may be much more extensive than it appears on the surface.

Shifting Soil near the Base of a Tree

Shifting or mounding soil is one of the most troubling signs a tree can display, and it indicates that failure is imminent. Always act promptly when mounding soil is noticed, by keeping everyone away from the tree and contacting an arborist immediately.

Nearby Tree Failures

Trees often help shield other trees from strong winds, so when an individual on the periphery of a group of trees falls over, the trees behind it can be at increased risk of failure. In fact, these formerly shielded trees are often at greater risk of failure, as they did not produce reaction wood to help strengthen them against the prevailing winds.

General Health of the Tree

Trees that are struggling with parasites, pathogens or environmental factors are at high risk of failure. Arborists will judge the general health of a tree by inspecting the root system, and looking for symptoms like crown dieback (usually characterized by dead and dying branches in the canopy).

History of Limb Drop

Trees that have previously dropped large limbs are more likely to drop additional limbs in the future. This is especially true of trees that seem to shed limbs for no apparent reason – a phenomenon called sudden limb drop.


If you are concerned about one or more of the trees in your yard, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants immediately. We will send out one of our trained, skilled and experienced arborists, who will assess the risk the tree presents and recommend a prudent course of action.

Five Great Fruit Trees for Southern California Yards

Fruit trees are great additions to almost any yard, as they not only offer the same benefits most other trees do, they also provide you with a bounty of fruit each year. Several fruit trees also exhibit a very attractive growth habit, and a few produce beautiful, showy flowers in the spring or summer.

But to ensure your fruit tree installation is a success, you’ll need to select good species for your property. Fortunately, residents of Southern California have a number of viable options from which they can choose.

1. Persimmon

Persimmon trees (Diospyros spp.) are 20- to 40-foot-tall trees that are native to various portions of North America and Asia. They are handsome trees, with attractive bark that produce huge quantities of fleshy fruits. However, not all persimmons are created equally: Many, such as the American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) contain bitter-tasting tannins. Accordingly, you’ll want to go with the Fuyu persimmon (Diospyros kaki‘Fuyu’), which produces very tasty fruits without many tannins at all.

2. Avocado

Avocados (Persea americana) have become very popular trees in southern California over the last decade or two, and it is easy to see why: They are very attractive, hardy trees with thick canopies, which means they not only provide delicious fruit, but privacy and shade too. You can grow avocados from seed, but you may have to wait a decade or more to get a good crop, so it is usually preferable to start with container-grown saplings. Note that different avocado varieties exhibit two different flowering patterns (termed A and B), and you’ll want some of each to achieve the best possible fruit set.

3.Meyer Lemon

The Meyer lemon tree (Citrus x meyeri) is a wonderful fruit tree for Southern California yards. Part lemon tree and part mandarin orange, Meyer lemons taste like low-acid lemons (which makes them great for deserts), and they can actually be eaten with the peel. Meyer lemons tend to exhibit a pretty bushy growth habit, and they produce sprawling root systems, so be sure that you have enough space to accommodate them before choosing them for your yard.

4. Fig Tree

Many fig trees will grow well in Southern California, but the Brown Turkey variety (Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’) is probably the one most ideally suited for our region. These 15- to 30-foot-tall trees grow best when planted somewhere with full sun exposure and deep, well-drained soil. Figs are deciduous trees, so they won’t provide shade in the summer. However, their growth form is quite attractive, and they still provide visual interest, even in the winter. Just be sure you like figs before planting a few of these trees, as they tend to produce two crops a year – one in late spring, and another in late summer.

5. Grapefruit

Another citrus tree that grows well in Southern California, grapefruit trees are especially well-suited for coastal areas, such as Malibu, Santa Monica and Long Beach. Several different varieties are suitable for our region, but the Marsh seedless (Citrus × paradisi ‘Marsh’) variety is one of the best choices. Grapefruit trees can be a bit tricky to grow, so you’ll need to plant them in an ideal spot to be successful – just be sure the trunk won’t be scorched in the sun, and that the soil is deep and loamy.



If you’d like to add a few fruit trees to your yard, give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. We’ll assess your property, provide you with a few species recommendations and even install them for you, if you like. Proper species selection and installation is crucial for fruit tree health, so it always makes sense to solicit the help of professionals when you are starting out.

Bringing Fall Color to California: Enjoy the Changing of the Seasons

Most of the tree species that exhibit bold fall colors are native to the eastern portions of the US, with the best examples occurring in the northeast. In fact, people travel from miles around each year to check out the fall color in places like Vermont and New Hampshire.

Relatively few of the trees native to Southern California have jaw-dropping fall color, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy watching the leaves change in the fall; you just need to plant a few of the right trees.

1. Maidenhair

If you like gold-colored leaves in the fall, there are few trees that can match the beauty of the maidenhair tree (Ginkgobiloba). One of the oldest tree species in the world, maidenhair trees are relicts from a time when dinosaurs walked the earth. Maidenhairs are big trees (some exceed 100 feet in height), so they aren’t appropriate for tiny lots. Be sure to select male cultivars when picking out your maidenhair trees, as the females produce copious quantities of foul-smelling seeds, which will stink up your entire yard.

2. Chinese pistache

The Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) produces some of the best fall color of any tree that will grow well in Southern California. It is a moderately drought-tolerant, hardy species that is resistant to most local insects and diseases. Chinese pistaches reach about 50 feet in height, and they have a similar spread, thanks to their beautiful round canopies. Female pistache trees will produce small, purple to pink berries, which often attract birds and other wildlife. These trees will grow throughout most of our region, but because they tolerate pollution fairly well, they are one of the best choices for those living in the congested portions of Los Angeles and the surrounding area.

3. Sweetgums

If you just want eye-popping color, it is hard to go wrong with sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua). Sweetgums can produce gold, red and purple colors – sometimes in a single leaf. Sweetgums are big trees with incredibly invasive root systems, so you must be sure to select a planting location large enough to accommodate them. Naturally occurring sweetgum trees produce copious quantities of woody fruit, called gum balls, which can be quite a nuisance. Fortunately, many cultivars, such as the (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Rotundiloba’), have been developed that do not produce fruit. However, the ‘Palo Alto’ cultivar produces better fall color and is ideally suited for the Southern California climate.

4.Japanese Maple

Maples are rightly celebrated for their impressive fall color, and the tiny Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is no exception. Suitable for even the smallest properties, Japanese maples are famous for their slow growth rate and attractive branching structure. In our region, Japanese maples should usually be planted in partially shaded areas, so they won’t overheat in the California sunshine. Japanese maples aren’t very salt tolerant, so they are better choices for inland locations, such as Glendale and Pasadena.

5. Japanese Persimmon

The Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is a medium-sized tree that offers several different types of visual interest in the fall and winter. First, the green leaves will begin to turn yellow or orange. Shortly after this, they will begin to fall off, revealing the glorious orange fruit and the handsome, plate-like bark. Persimmons require well-drained, loamy soil, and they are moderately drought tolerant once established. In addition to the delicious fruit and attractive fall color they provide, persimmons also have very dense canopies that provide great shade.


If you’d like some help adding a little fall color to your property, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants. We’ll visit your property and help you figure out the best species to plant, and provide some tips for maximizing their color each year.

Picking Trees for Your Property: Going Beyond Hardiness Zones

It is always exciting to pick out new trees for your property, but there’s more to proper species selection than many people commonly suppose. For example, many homeowners and property managers rely solely on the USDA Hardiness Zone of their area to filter their possible choices. But while your local hardiness zone is an important factor to consider when deciding on the best trees for your property, there are plenty of other things you’ll want to factor into your selection algebra.

What Are USDA Hardiness Zones?

Hardiness zones are mapped out regions of the United States, which are created based on a single criterion: the annual low temperature. The zones are each designated by a number and a letter, with each number representing a 10-degree range, and each letter representing a 5-degree subdivision.

For example, places in USDA Hardiness Zone 9a experience winter lows of between 20 and 25 degrees Fahrenheit, while those in USDA Hardiness Zone 9b experience winter lows between 25 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Most portions of southern California are classified in USDA Hardiness Zones 8a through 10b (see full map of California’s hardiness zones here).

Yet while low winter temperatures are clearly an important consideration, they leave plenty of important information out. Sunset Zones are another useful classification scheme, whichare formed with more information than USDA Hardiness Zones are. Created by Sunset Magazine, Sunset Zones also consider things like humidity, length of the growing season and large-scale wind patterns to provide a clearer picture of your local growing conditions. Most regions of southern Californiaare classified in Sunset Zones 18 through 24.

However, they still fail to take into consideration plenty of other important criteria that will influence your new tree’s chances of survival.

Additional Considerations for Tree Selection

Don’t misunderstand: USDA Hardiness Zones and Sunset Zones are fantastic tools, which can help you rule out inappropriate species at the outset of your selection process. However, you’ll also want to consider the following criteria when selecting trees for your property.

Sun Exposure

California may be known as the Sunshine State, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your property enjoys full sun exposure. Your home, your neighbor’s trees and a number of other things can all created vast shaded areas. Some trees will thrive in these partially shaded areas, but you must be sure to choose those that can tolerate low light levels.


Even native species, which are obviously well-suited for the southern California climate, may not thrive in your yard if you lack the space to properly host them. Accordingly, you’ll want to carefully assess the amount of space available, and choose a tree suitably sized for it. While you should definitely consider the height of any potential tree you select, it is more important to consider the tree’s spread.

Water Availability

Even if your geographic area receives ample rainfall, the local drainage patterns and hardscapes can alter the way water flows across the surface. This can leave some small areas within your property bereft of enough rain, while other areas may remain relatively damp all year long.

Potential Pests

A variety of native and invasive pests plague southern California, and you’ll need to avoid picking trees that are vulnerable to the local threats. Some invasive pests also exhibit very localized distributions, meaning that someone at one end of a zip code may plant vulnerable trees with impunity, while others must avoid doing so entirely.

Soil Characteristics

Even though the basic soil characteristics of a region change over the course of miles, small changes in chemistry, structure and composition often manifest over much smaller scales. This is because the large-scale soil characteristics are determined by the long-term geology and climate of the region, while the small-scale characteristics are chiefly the result of the ways humans have interacted with the land over the past few decades or centuries.


Sunset Zones consider large-scale wind patterns when devising their classifications, but they can’t possibly account for the fact that your yard is right next to a cliff, busy highway or open field – all of which can alter the local wind patterns. Most trees can adapt to relatively strong winds (particularly if these winds tend to blow in a single direction), but different trees withstand wind to different degrees, and you’ll need to consider the winds of your area before making your choice.

Environmental Health

Most trees will grow in pristine, virgin wilderness areas, but only a select few will thrive in polluted, urban areas. This isn’t as big of a consideration for those living in rural areas (although local farms can have a damaging effect on these areas), but those living in the city must consider the ability of any tree considered to withstand polluted air and water.


Again, Sunset and Hardiness Zones can provide valuable information, and they should factor into your selection process. But it is important to look beyond these classifications, and weigh the tree’s needs against the specific characteristics of your yard.

If you’d like some help selecting the best trees for your property, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants. Whether you live in Malibu, Beverly Hills, Pasadena or anywhere else in the greater Los Angeles Area, we’ll send out one of our certified arborists to analyze the local conditions and make recommendations for your new installation project.



Drip Irrigation: A Great Strategy for Southern California Properties

There are a number of ways to provide the water that your trees need, but many of them are rather inefficient.

Sprinklers and garden hoses – the most common ways by which property owners water their trees — spray water on the tree and the surface of the surrounding soil; but the tree’s fine absorbing roots that need the water are located a few inches under the ground. This means that it takes some time for the aboveground water to soak into the soil, where the roots can access it. During that time, some of the water evaporates or runs downhill, providing no help to your tree what-so-ever.

Fortunately, there is a way you can administer water directly to a trees roots: You just need to use a drip irrigation system.

The Basics: What Is Drip Irrigation?

Drip irrigation is a method by which you can add water to the soil surrounding your tree’s roots through the use of small hoses and tiny sprinkler heads. The hoses usually hook up to your home’s water spigot, although they can occasionally draw water from rain barrels and similar reservoirs. Small sprinkler heads are placed in carefully selected spots near individual trees, and they spray the water directly onto the soil below. Water pumps and electronic timers help to automate the process, which makes most drip irrigation systems easy to operate.

The Benefits of Drip Irrigation

The primary benefit drip irrigation systems provide is improved water efficiency – some properties will use almost 50 percent less water after switching to a drip-based system. This not only allows you to do your part to save water, but it will save you money too. Also, because the vast majority of the water discharged on the soil percolates down below the surface, drip irrigation systems don’t cause big problems with runoff water. This can help keep our local rivers and streams cleaner, as runoff water frequently carries pollutants from the local roads and streets.

The targeted administration of water also helps to reduce the number of weeds growing between your trees. Because drip irrigation systems don’t coat the trunks of your trees in water, they’ll also reduce the likelihood that your trees will suffer from fungi and decay.

The Challenges Posed by Drip Irrigation Systems

Drip irrigation systems aren’t exactly expensive, but they do represent a significant investment. Most arborists and landscapers would agree that they are well worth the cost, but it is important to factor the costs of the system into your decision-making process.

Aside from the initial costs of acquisition and installation, there is only one other major challenge that drip irrigation systems present: They require semi-frequent maintenance. Over time, holes will develop in the hoses and water emitters will become clogged with minerals, dirt and debris. Replacing small segments of hose or the odd emitter or two isn’t terribly expensive, but it will take some effort to swap out the broken parts.

Nevertheless, drip irrigation systems are helpful tools for maintaining the trees on your property, and their benefits clearly outweigh their drawbacks.


If you are interested in having a drip irrigation system installed on your property, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants. We’ll help you determine the water needs of your trees and point out the places where the trees can best use the water you provide.