10 Great Trees for the Metroplex

Nothing adds more value to your landscape than a magnificent tree with winding limbs spreading shade over your property. When planting a tree, look for one that will be long-lived, resistant to disease and drought, and suitable for our soils. Here are some excellent choices. (see “do not plant ” for some not so good choices) Note: unless noted, these trees below are all native to the State and our area, a sure sign they are well adapted to our soils.

Large Trees

We have to start with the State Tree of Texas, the Pecan. Many varieties of this tall and beautiful tree are available. From sampling many tree’s nuts along my lawn care routes, I unequivocally recommend the native trees with large nuts over the hybrids with small or paper shell nuts. The large nuts taste better and are more productive to shell than the smaller ones. In addition, a native tree is vested in the area and has stood the test of time.

Live Oak
Beautiful shade tree with evergreen leaves. If pruned correctly has perhaps the most graceful branching structure of any tree. Can be messy though, dropping acorns in the fall, leaves in late winter and finally flower buds in early spring. They lose most of their leaves each year as the new ones are forming and can look kind of bare or sickly for one month out of the year.

Shumard Red Oak
Stately upright shade tree. More predictable branching than the Live Oak. Shiny green leaves make this one a great tree to show off. Consider also Burr Oak, similar growth to Red Oak, but less polished with distinctively different leaves and having a more ‘robust’ or even ‘Texan’ personality than the Shumard. Neither has stunning fall color, although some years the Shumards will turn a bright red.

Cedar Elm
Large gracefully branched shade tree with small leaves that can turn a brilliant yellow in the fall with the right weather conditions. This native tree is well suited to the area. Both Cedar and Lacebark Elms can have a long leaf dropping season starting in late summer which can make them troublesome around a pool or high traffic area.

Lacebark Elm
Another elm well suited to the area. This specimen has very attractive and showy bark. Both Cedar and Lacebark Elms can have a long leaf dropping season starting in late summer which can make them troublesome around a poll or high traffic area.

Chinese Pistachio
Native to China, the Pistachio has beautiful compound leaves each made up of 6-10 pairs of leaflets. When these leaflets rustle in a light breeze, they really create a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. I like trees with compound leaves for their uniqueness and recommend at least one (whether a large shade tree or a smaller ornamental tree) in each landscape. Stunning fall color, can show reds and yellows at the same time. Reasonably fast growing.

Medium Trees

Yaupon Holly Tree
Although often pruned into topiary, when left to their own devices these trees can be gorgeous evergreen additions to your landscape growing to 20-30’. The females sport pretty red berries in the winter. Use as a specimen tree for a high focal point of the landscape or it can make a wonderful evergreen screen for suburban use.

Very similar to the Yaupon Holly but this one is deciduous. In the winter the female specimens lose their leaves to display masses of red berries. An unusual plant that brightens the winter.

Eve’s Necklace
Pretty glossy compound leaves give a neat but relaxing impression. Pretty bloom in the spring, with unusual smaller round seed pods forming in little black strings, hence ‘necklace’. This medium tree is rarely planted and should be used more in the landscape. I see more growing in natural environments than I do in peoples gardens. If you want something different, try this one!

Crape Myrtle
Probably the most common small/ medium tree planted in our area. Prolific bloomers all summer long in a multitude of colors. These trees do best when left alone and thoroughly ignored. They have gorgeous bark when left to grow to maturity. Can suffer from powdery mildew on the leaves in the spring, which is usually due from over watering and can be easily treated.

Some confusion surrounds whether or not to prune or ‘top’ this plant each year.
Ideally, they should be untopped and left to go tree form, especially when combined with careful pruning of interior limbs (not topping). This can turn a sometimes-scrawny plant into a graceful beauty.
However, that being said, many Crape Myrtles are simply planted too close to houses etc to be allowed to go tree form. In this situation, their height must be contained, or like any small tree, if left unchecked, they will rub windows, fascia board and shingles - causing damage. The unavoidable downside to topping is that, after a few years, they will start to form ungainly ‘knuckles’ or ‘stumps’ at the point of pruning each year. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this. The only choices are contain the height, let it go tree form, or replace the plant with something smaller.

Small Trees

Japanese Maple
Native to Japan, this shade lover is a beautiful tree as a focal point in a shady area of your landscape. They will not grow in sun. There are many species of this plant, those with the burgundy foliage being more desirable than the green. While most varieties begin each spring with greenish leaves, some plants leaves just refuse to turn burgundy and stay greenish all summer. Although it is thought this is due to lighting, it is actually genetic. A good rule of thumb to avoid buying a green leaf variety is to study the new bark of your prospective tree. Not on the trunk, but on the smaller branches or of the tree. If the bark is mostly burgundy, it’s an indication the leaves will mature to burgundy. If the bark is mostly green, they will tend to stay green.

Flame Leaf Sumac
Nice compact ornamental tree with green compound leaves turning bright red in the fall as the name implies. This is a hardy tree, but will not respond well to over watering or fertilizing. Native to Texas.