The urban forest in North Texas has taken quite a beating over the past few years. From high winds and tornadoes in 2019 to freezes in 2021 and 2022, to varying drought conditions throughout, many trees have been damaged beyond saving. Now is the perfect time to start reforesting our community by planting hardy, long-lived trees that can thrive in our environment. Choosing the right tree to plant can be challenging, though. Many of the trees planted in recent decades are not well-suited or ideal for North Texas, and have had issues with diseases or pests, or have simply not lived as long as was hoped. Luckily, there are several types of trees in a range of sizes that can thrive here and provide years of beauty and enjoyment.
Small and Ornamental Trees
Smaller, decorative species may not be what first comes to mind when one thinks of trees, but there are several tree species that can do well in smaller yards or as part of more developed landscaping. Whether native or nativized, the trees on this list generally do not get bigger than about 25 feet and are a perfect choice when there is not a lot of room to spare. To see our previous list of top ten ornamental trees, visit this post.
- Texas Mountain Laurel
- Drought- and frost-tolerant, the mountain laurel likes good drainage and has beautiful spring blossoms.
- Desert Willow
- The desert willow is low-maintenance and loves full sun. Its summer flowers attract pollinators.
- There are several cultivars of redbud that grow in North Texas, but keep an eye out for the Texas or Mexican redbuds, which are drought-tolerant.
- Fruit trees
If you have a little more room, but don’t want to plant a full-size canopy tree, there are several medium-sized options that can provide more shade and structure than smaller trees while still staying manageable when mature.
- Prairie (“Flameleaf”) Sumac
- The prairie sumac is known for its brilliant red fall color and is a great native ornamental.
- Most North Texas are familiar with the Chinese pistache, but there is a related Texas pistache that is a native option.
- Goldenrain Tree
- Heat-, drought-, and poor soil tolerant, the goldenrain tree is not native to Texas, but can grow in a wide range of urban conditions.
- Sometimes seen as manicured hedges, the yaupon can naturally grow into a single- or multi-stemmed tree.
When most people think of a tree, this is what they picture. Growing to several stories high with a large canopy, full-size trees provide the most shade and structure and, if properly cared for, can live for decades. Large trees need a lot of room to grow, and are perfect for open yards.
- The pecan is the state tree of Texas and thrives in our area. If you want to consume the nuts, be sure to keep an eye out for pecan phylloxera.
- Cedar elm
- Cedar elm is the most common elm tree in Texas, and can be found all over the state. Cedar elms are known for their verticality and narrow canopy.
- Tulip tree
- While tulip trees are not as common in Texas as other magnolias, they are heat- and soli-tolerant as well as pest-resistant.
Trees to Avoid in North Texas
Not all species of tree are well-suited to our local environment. While some of the trees listed below were popular in the past, they are not recommended if you are looking for a new tree to plant.
- Common in the southern and coastal parts of Texas, palms are not suited to North Texas soil or temperature swings.
- River birch
- The river birch is not drought-tolerant, and most urban areas do not have high enough soil moisture for river birches to thrive.
- Bradford pear
- The Bradford pear was once a very common landscape tree in North Texas, but many Bradford pears in the area are reaching the end of their 30-year life span, and starting to fail. Additionally, Bradford pears are prone to poor, overcrowded limb structure, which makes them more likely to split.
Whatever trees you choose, it is critical to plant at the right time and in the right way. The winter and early spring are the best times to plant, as the stress of summer heat can hit new trees hard. Proper watering is key to helping a newly-planted tree get established. Using mulch around the root zone is the best way to control soil moisture and temperature and provide organic material for soil health. In some cases, fertilization and soil amendments can be beneficial, but it is important to avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers that can stimulate unsustainable new growth.
At Texas Tree Surgeons, we love trees and we love our community! While we don’t sell or plant trees ourselves, our ISA Certified Arborists and ISA Board Certified Master Arborists are happy to provide consultations for tree selection, placement, planting and care, and even to accompany you to a nursery to find the best stock! Contact us today to find out more!