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Drought-Tolerant Trees

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Drought-tolerant trees can withstand dry conditions once established. No native or commonly used landscape plant is drought-resistant until it becomes established in the site. All plants require a steady supply of moisture when first planted.

Trees can tolerate drought if they are deep-rooted. Deep roots can harvest soil moisture from past rainfalls. Trees planted in the landscape should be deeply watered for the first two or three years before they can become full drought resistant.

Roots follow moisture in the soil; deep watering will result in deep roots. Surface watering–the water you might give a lawn or perennial plants–will be insufficient to sustain mature trees. Avoid shallow-rooted trees and increase drought tolerance by watering trees deeply until they are well established.

Leaves of sweet bay tree, Laurus nobilis
Leaves of sweet bay tree, Laurus nobilis

Drought-Tolerant Trees

Common NameBotanical NameZone
Acacia, BaileyAcacia baileyana8-10
Ash, greenFraxinus pennsylvanica3-9
Bald cypressTaxodium distichum4-10
Bay; sweet bayLaurus nobilis8-11
Birch, riverBetula nigra4-9
Birch, WhitespireBetual mandschurica japonica4-7
Buckeye, CaliforniaAeschulus californica6-10
Buckeye, OhioAesculus glabra3-7
Desert willow tree in bloom, Chilopsis linearis
Common NameBotanical NameZone
Cedar, blue atlasCedrus libani ‘Glauca’6-9
Cedar, deodarCedrus deodara6-9
Crape myrtleLagersroemia indica7-9
CypressCupressus spp.Varies
Desert willowChilopsis linearis8-9
Elm, ChineseUlmus parvifolia5-9
Fir, whiteAbies concolor3-7
GinkgoGingo biloba3-9
Hawthron, WashingtonCrataegus phaenopyrum3-9
Honey locust, thornlessGleditsia triacanthos var. inermis3-8
Incense cedar tree, Calocedrus decurrens
Incense cedar tree, Calocedrus decurrens
Common NameBotanical NameZone
Incense cedarCalocedrus decurrens5-8
JunipersJuniperus spp.Varies
Linden, silverTilia tomentosa 3-7
Magnolia, southernMagnolia grandiflora6-10
Mahonia, leatherleafMahonia beali6-9
Maple, AmurAcer tartaricum spp. ginnala2-6
Maple, NorwayAcer platanoides3-7
Maple, redAcer rubrum3-9
Maple, silverAcer saccharinum3-9
MesquiteProsopis glandulosa10-11
Mountain, ash EuropeanSorbus aucuparia3-6
Blooming Palo Verde trees, Cercdium
Blooming Palo Verde trees, Cercdium
Common NameBotanical NameZone
Oak, burQuercus macrocarpa2-8
Oak, pinQuercus palustris4-8
Oak, whiteQuercus alba4-9
Oak, willowQuercus phellos4-8
OliveOlea europaea8-10
Pagoda tree, JapaneseSophora japonica6-8
Palo verdeCercdium9-10
Pine, AustrianPinus nigra4-7
Pine, JackPinus banksiana2-6
Pine, Japanese blackPinus thunbergii5-7
Japanese black pines, Pinus thunbergii
Japanese black pines, Pinus thunbergii
Common NameBotanical NameZone
Pine, mugoPinus mugo2-7
Pine, ScotchPinus sylvestris3-7
Pine, whitePinus strobus3-8
PistachioPistacia chinensis6-9
RedbudCercis canadensis3-9
Russian oliveElaeagnus angustifolia3-8
Serviceberry, shadblowAmelanchier spp.3-8
Sugarberry; hackberryCeltis spp.Varies
YellowwoodCladrastis lutea6-8
YuccasYucca spp.4-10

Also of interest:

Drought-Tolerant Shrubs

Drought-Tolerant Annuals and Perennials

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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Drought-Tolerant Shrubs

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