Drought-Tolerant Trees in Hot Summer Months

Q: I’ve planted some drought-tolerant species that later died during the hot summer months.

If they are listed as drought-tolerant, shouldn’t this be a guarantee against mortality in the dry period?
Trees listed as drought-tolerant are those that have genetically adapted to sites in their native habitat that regularly experience prolonged dry spells.  However, all newly-planted trees can use some help from us. 

During the first couple growing seasons the tree is expending a lot of energy trying to get its roots established in the soil.  We can make this easier by providing water and covering the soil with wood-chip mulch.  Proper planting and then keeping the soil moist to a depth that includes all the roots will speed root establishment and hasten the day when the tree really can withstand droughts on its own.
 We need to quickly add that it is equally important to not over-water.  Moist is different than soggy, and you can judge this by feel or use of a moisture meter.  A damp soil that dries for a short period will allow adequate oxygen to permeate the soil.  This aeration is as important as water.  It has been said that more trees in urban settings drown rather than die of drought.  This can be prevented by checking the soil during the summer and being careful that lawn irrigators are not unintentionally providing too much water on young trees.

Some Drought-Tolerant Species

Arborvitae 

Honeylocust

Arizona Cypress 

Japanese Zelkova

For a more complete list, please visit the Drought Tolerant Tree List

Japanese Zelkova

20 Comments

  1. I purchased a Hybrid Poplar Tree from the tree store this spring. I live in zone 9 (2 ” of rain this month)and I am wondering if I planted the correct shade tree for my area(hot). Some say it is only used in new developments for fast shade then needs to be cut down in later years as they grow too tall and they are not a strong tree that withstands strong winds.Is this true as I would like to pull it and put a good strong, fast growing shade tree in its place.My owners did not replace the Hackberry they cut down.

  2. Hybrid poplar trees are fast growing and provide a quick solution when one needs to immediately establish a shady spot. Arbor Day Farm grows this tree for fuelwood demonstrations, while others are using the tree in phytoremediation to clean up polluted soils.

    It is important to determine whether the tree you have selected is indeed the, “Right Tree for the Right Place.” Tell us where you live and a little more about the site where want to grow this tree on your property.

  3. What is wrong with a new tree planted in April that has brown spots on the leaves. I planted it a was suggested and have mulsh around the botom.

  4. I LIVE IN CENTRAL FL. ZONE 9. I AM PLANTING IN BETWEEN HOMES.PLENTY OF ROOM.FULL SUN AND NOT MUCH RAIN THIS SUMMER.WE ARE A TREE CITY TOO. THERE ARE ABSOLUTLY NO TREES IN THE IMMEDIATE AREA. THE OWNER IS NOT A TREE LOVER, THEY HAVE CUT MOST OF THEM DOWN IN OUR PARK.NO REPLACEMENTS PLANTED EITHER.(HOT)I FEEL OBLIGATED TO PLANT THE RIGHT TREE IN MY AREA FOR FUTURE ENJOYMENT AND WILD LIFE.

  5. Jo Ann…there are countless reasons a newly planted tree could exhibit brown spots on its leaves. Common plant health problems are caused by abiotic factors such as cultural practices or the environment. Other common plant health problems are caused by living biotic agents such as fungi, bacteria, viruses or nematodes.

    The brown spots you see are a symptom…the key is to actually determine the cause.

    The Foundation has created a few useful tool to help you. A good one is the Tree Health Guide which will put you in touch with local certified arborists & cooperative extension agents.

    http://www.arborday.org/treeinfo/treehealth.cfm

    We also offer a printed copy of Tree City USA bulletin #44, What Ails Your Tree? This useful guide will help take steps towards making a proper diagnosis.

    http://www.arborday.org/Shopping/Merchandise/MerchDetail.cfm?id=127

    Keep in mind that as late summer approaches leaves will start to exhibit minor foliar damage that is merely unsightly, but not harmful to the tree.

  6. Deborah…here is a great online tree selection resource from my friend, Dr. Ed Gilman at the University of Florida.

    “There are five components to choosing trees for a planting site. Begin by evaluating 1) site attributes above and below ground, 2) potential site modifications and 3) tree maintenance (management) capabilities. Then 4) choose desirable tree attributes, and 5) select appropriate trees for the site.”

    http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/selection.shtml

    Whether you live in central Florida or lower Alaska it is important to do a proper site evaluation. Regardless of where you live this is a helpful web site.

    The Arbor Day Foundation offers two wonderful tree selection tools to try out.

    - Best Tree Finder: Tree Wizard

    - Right Tree, Right Place

    I invite you to explore these resources and determine the best tree for your property in central Florida.

  7. I have land in Duchesne County, Utah. The only trees that grow there now is Pinyon Pine & Juniper. Elavation is 7000 Feet. I need to know how much extra water I need to provide to fulfill the requirement for “Normal Moisture”. I would like to grow White Fir or CO Blue Spruce or Mtn Ash. Would the Foundation provide me some Info to help grow these trees?

  8. Tom…here are some helpful resources on growing water wise trees & plants from Trees Utah and Waterwise Utah.

    Be sure to read through the watering tips on the Waterwise Utah web site. They provide helpful info about when to water and what type of conditions one should wait to water. Expect to mulch a little thicker in your region of the country to retain moisture & protection for your trees.

    While the Trees Utah species list isn’t elevation specific it should help narrow down the best tree choices.

    http://www.treeutah.org/waterwise.htm
    http://waterwiseutah.org/outdoor.htm

  9. I was wondering about which of the flowering trees/plants I can use. Where we live we have a very large deer population.
    Is there something you can suggest that will keep them from eating the plants while they are maturing?

  10. Hello
    I would like to know which tree should I use? I have 10arcre I would like to place tree to make a good place to go deer hunting there are only 3 trees on there now
    thank you
    Larry

  11. Our condo association has a large, empty green space that used to be a dump. Nothing will ever be built on it. I would love to plant a beautiful specimen tree in the center and develop a park-like atmosphere around it. It gets full sun (Zone 8) and no irrigation. Can you recommend a tree for these conditions?

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