How to Pick The Perfect Tree – Part II

Want the perfect tree for your yard?    There is simply no way give everyone one single answer to this question.

Part of the issue is that you are going to purchase a living being.    Like any living being, your tree is going to need the right place to live. When it comes to where a specific tree will thrive – there are some very specific needs.

Many Factors to Consider

In “How to Pick The Perfect Tree – Part I,” we discussed soil, weather, micro-climate, purpose of the tree, and aesthetic appeal to you. Trees come in vastly differing shapes, sizes, forms, leaf textures, flowering habit, leafing habit, fruiting characters, thorniness, allergenicity, aesthetic appeal, and litter creating ability.

Those are technical factors.    But what about you?


Consider what tugs on your heartstrings.   Do you love hummingbirds?    Maybe you should select a “hummingbird tree.”  There are many ways to attract these little charmers. With nectar-rich flowers of course, but also with nice dense evergreens they can nest in.

Broad-bill Hummingbird. Image courtesy J. Clark.

Speaking of evergreens. Do you miss the pine tree you grew up climbing?    There are pines for virtually every corner of the Southwest. If you haven’t yet, sign up for my newsletter. I’ll send out a notice for the class “Living Holiday Trees,” sometime in autumn.  You can plant the correct living tree for your corner of the Southwest.    Decorate and enjoy it indoors at the holidays, then plant in your yard for years of pleasure.

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Make A List

Before you ask for the perfect tree at the nursery, make a list of all your needs and overall abilities.   Okay, you don’t have to write out the list – but at least think about these items.


Any tree for your space should be aesthetically appealing to you.    Love purples and pinks?    A chaste tree or ironwood might be right – unless you are deathly allergic to the bees which pollinate them.


Human Health.

While fruiting olive and mulberries have been banned in many municipalities, the far far FAR more allergenic trees such as ash, cedar, African sumac, and junipers are all legal – and sadly widely sold and planted.

Tree Care Needs.

Also called “cultural requirements.”    Consider how much care you want to provide for the new living being in your space.    Water, fertilizer, pruning, litter, frost protection?

All trees need water.    If the summer or winter rains don’t provide enough water, you will have to add some.    Some species like a good deep soak every three weeks in summer (notably citrus and pecans).    Are you the kind of person that will remember to do this?

Yellow edges and green veins. Sign of stress. This plants needs the soil acidified.

Soil type affects care needs.    Our naturally alkaline soils are fine for many trees, but some need a more acid soil, for example citrus and bottle brush.  Without repeat applications of soil acidifiers, these trees suffer and usually die.  Will you cater to this tree whim?

Your Tolerance for Tree Litter.

Very living thing sheds.    You are shedding hair and skin cells all over your house.   Your tree will shed in your yard.    Some trees drop their leaves and are “naked” for part of the year (are deciduous).   Evergreens may always appear green, but they shed too.    For instance, the evergreen silk oak (Grevillia robusta), always has some leaves on it, but it also always drops leaves and grows new ones. Every day.  In spring you also get the flowers and fruits, in other words, an unholy mess.    If you don’t mind litter, go ahead and plant a silk oak.

Your Home and Neighborhood.

Try to match the overall character of the tree with the character of your home and neighborhood.    It matters when it comes to resale value.    A Santa Fe style home may look great with an informal mesquite tree, but an Italian style villa would not.
Notice how different these tree forms are! Sprawling mesquite versus rigid Italian cypress. This is on the University of Arizona campus.

Final Tree Answer

For the ultimate non-litter, un-thorny, low-water use, non-allergenic, longest lasting floral display tree — plant a silk one.    But since silk fades in the sun, and isn’t the best at providing shade, not to mention lacking the sheer aesthetic appeal of a living tree, you will have to make some compromises as you pick your not-quite-perfect tree.

How about a tree for yummy fruit?

May I recommend my book?  The Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Guide offers not just growing guides but some of the latest varieties – including ones specifically for raised bed and container growing. Price is what you would pay on Amazon – only when you buy from me you get a signed copy!soule-books-buy

From the review:

In this updated 2nd edition of Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening, you’ll find much-needed advice and practical tips on growing an edible garden, no matter which part of the southwestern US you call home.

Growing in the Southwest isn’t easy. It’s either too hot or too cold and often very dry. The region hosts a range of soils and climate conditions that can be difficult for a gardener to navigate. That’s why this region-specific garden guide is a must-have for every Southwestern gardener!

Botanist Dr. Jacqueline Soule simplifies the ins and outs of gardening in the Southwest and serves as your guide to success. Regardless of whether you’re tending an in-ground plot, a small container garden, or a series of raised beds, Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening is an invaluable resource.”

Profits from the sale of this book go to the Arizona-based Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.

© Article copyright Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.

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