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California Guide to Growing Trees

California is a beautiful place to live, and it’s also one of the most popular places in America for people to move. Whether you’re new to California or just looking for more information about growing trees in your area, this guide will provide tips for planting and raising trees in your yard.

California Trees

The Best Flowering Trees to Grow in California

Golden Rain Tree

Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria Paniculata) is a species of flowering plant native to eastern Asia, in China and Korea. Introduced to America in 1763, Golden Rain Tree has become a popular landscape tree worldwide.

Golden trees are known for their delicate appearance, but they can also be durable in harsh climates and pollution. Golden Rain Trees are a great choice for Californian landscaping due to their ability to withstand tough conditions. They’re one of the few eye-catching trees in California that has a short-lived winter display. This tree peaks during winter with rich orange seed pods, before its leaves change to an attractive deep green. The Golden Rain Tree produces bright purple flowers throughout the summer months, making it a beautiful visual on your property all year round! 

Planting & Care

Golden Raintree trees are sun-loving trees that need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and will thrive in areas with 8 to 10 hours of unfiltered sunlight per day. They prefer soil that is loose and well-drained, but not too dry. Young trees should be watered while the soil is dry to about 1-2 inches down, and frequently during the warmer months because they are sensitive to dehydration.

Spring is the best time for fertilizing trees with a high-nitrogen fertilizer and fewer nitrogen levels should be given after. Golden Rain Trees have sparse branches, so make sure to prune them to promote strong branching structures later on.

Bird of Paradise

The bird of paradise (Crane Flower) is a plant found in tropical climates such as California with blooms resembling the shape of a crane, hence its name. Bird of Paradise plants have canes and large, thick leaves that are much the same as banana leaves. Flowers sit among these green leaves and look as if cranes are perched in the foliage. The flowers sit on top of green canes with horizontal blue-grey bracts that sit horizontally. At the end of these bracts, orange petals shoot straight up, looking like a bird’s feather crown.

The Bird of Paradise is an excellent first tropical plant because it is not picky. It grows indoors or out, and easily in containers.

Planting & Care

Bird of paradise trees prefer soil with good drainage in full sunlight, and they like to stay near a sunny window during the cold months. Watering them should be a rare event because these plants do not need much water. You need not worry about the food supply. The bird of paradise will not require much fertilizer because it is a light feeder. If you grow Bird of Paradise outside, they should only be trimmed when their leaves start to become bothersome. These trees are self-sustaining and can cause the roots to damage buildings’ foundations.

Tuscarora Crape Myrtle

The Tuscarora Crape Myrtle, a hybrid of the Japanese Crape Myrtle and the common Crape Myrtle developed by the US National Arboretum in 1978.

What’s so unique about the Tuscarora Cree Myrtle? This gorgeous flowering tree, grown in-state and resistant to disease, is the perfect addition to your California landscape. It produces bright green summer foliage that becomes fiery red during the winter months. Unlike other crape myrtles, the Tuscarora crape myrtle thrives in both cold and warmer climates. The best part about the Tuscarora crape myrtle is that it offers more than just looks – it provides a range of benefits to its environment as well, including providing flowers during both seasons. 

Planting & Care

Crape myrtle trees require full sun. They thrive in dry climates and different soil types but are sensitive to frost. Place the tree in a hole that is twice the width of its root ball and fill it with soil before watering well.

The Tuscarora Crape Myrtle is highly drought-tolerant but may need more attention with watering during the hot summer season. During cooler seasons, this shrub only needs to be watered once per week.  If it feels dry 2-3 inches down, that’s a sign you need to water. These trees should be fed with a well-balanced fertilizer during the early spring. If a tree is in good shape, trimming it will not require any cutting. Trim trees by removing low branches and dead ones around the bottom of the plant.

The Best Shade Trees in California

Red Sunset Maple Tree

The colors of this California-grown Red Maple are outstanding. Plus, the rich tones in the leaves develop over a week earlier than other varieties, staying as bold and true for weeks even through hot dry weather. The Red Sunset Maple is one-of-a-kind for many reasons, and its versatility makes it even more special. Plus, it will last for years with no problems. 

Planting & Care

Find a sunny or lightly shaded spot with moist soil to plant your Red Sunset Maple Tree. They can also live in dry regions and grow well in most types of soil. To start your tree, dig a hole to cover the root with soil and tamp it down so there are no air pockets that could damage its roots. When placing your seedling in this site, water it well to settle the soil around the roots and make sure you have provided adequate space away from buildings or walls for growth (at least 20 feet).

The Red Sunset Maple Tree has few limitations on water availability, but it is more drought-resistant than other trees. For the first few years, just water it when the plant lacks moisture. It also does not have significant pest or disease issues and is therefore low maintenance. When it’s time to prune your tree, do so before the spring bud breaks and after the leaves have fully unfurled. In addition to periodic maintenance, be sure to remove stray branches throughout the year whenever you spot them.

Japanese Gold Dust Aucuba Shrub

The Japanese Gold Dust Aucuba is a fast-growing tree with leaves that are variegated and can change colors in different months. If you like the classics then Japanese Gold Dust is for you. This classic tree variety grows easily – girdled with big leaves that can survive drought and look lovely in your yard year after year.

Planting & Care

Select a location with well-drained soil and 4-6 hours of sunlight. Dig a hole that is about 3 times the width of your plant’s root ball, position it away from major structures and place it in a backfilled area before watering it to settle its roots.

Once established, Aucuba trees are drought tolerant. To prevent dehydration, water the Auca more regularly for the first few years–at least once a week—until its roots have fully developed. Fertilizer is not generally required.

The Best Fruit Trees in California

Donut Saturn Peach Tree

The Saturn Peach is a thornless variety and can also be found in other colors. Its coloration and flavor set this variety apart from others, as it tastes like sugar plum with hints of almonds and features little acidity. Unlike other peaches, the skin of the Saturn Peach is easy for kids to eat. The freestone center pops out easily when you press against it with your thumb. 

Planting & Care

Saturn Peaches are extremely adaptable in terms of soil type; they can grow in full sun or partial shade and thrive in most soils. After planting, protect the roots with a thick layer of mulch, leaving an area near the trunk bare. Water deeply after planting to settle the roots. During the first few years, you might need to water weekly during the hottest months. After two years, add nitrogen-based fertilizer in late spring or early summer and remove any shoots that do not seem to be producing.

Santa Rosa Plum Tree

The most popular, commercial use, and home growing plum tree is the Santa Rosa variety. It produces an abundant harvest each year of sweet dark purple fruit. The Santa Rosa tree is great for growing in most soil types, self-fertile, and takes up little space. The plums appear mid-June through to the end of August, are delicious fresh or dried, and make anything from jams to pies. 

Planting & Care

Gently comb leaves and any compacted roots for the root ball before you place it in the hole. Fill half of the hole with soil and water it to settle. Add organic mulch around the tree, but don’t touch its trunk so rot won’t be a problem for your new friend!

If the leaves at the edge of your tree’s branches are turning brown or wilting, then it is not receiving enough water. The bark on the trunk should return to its original light-brown color if you are watering it too much. It’s good to keep that soil moist 3 inches deep (or more). Plums are typically fertilized once annually, during April or June. Young trees that are three years old and younger may benefit from a balanced fertilizer formula applied in two separate applications.

When is The Best Time to Plant Trees in California

If you are looking for the best time to plant trees in California with minimal care and maintenance then planting them during winter is your best bet. The soil is typically moist and there are few bugs, so this makes it easier for seedlings to grow. However, if you have more time and resources available, fall would be better as this will allow the tree enough time before cold weather sets in to establish itself properly into its new environment.

Can You Plant All Season Long?

The cool thing about gardening in California is that you can plant all season long! Even in the summertime, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy gardening. There are vegetables and herbs which can grow year-round in your garden or on your patio. These plants will produce tasty ingredients for recipes, like tomatoes, lettuce, basil, and even oregano! You may be surprised by how many plants are available year-round.

What are The Best Trees to Plant Each Season in California

Springtime

In springtime, you should plant Blue Oak Tree (Quercus Douglasii), Coast Live Oak Tree (Quercus agrifolia), or Daphne Odora ‘Peter Davis’.

Summertime

Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria Paniculata) trees produce gorgeous yellow flowers and are great for areas where summer temperatures might be higher than usual due to their heat-loving nature. You also can plant Pepper tree (Schinus molle), English Oak, Palo Verde tree (Parkinsonia Microphylla), or Desert Willow Tree (Chilopsis Linearis). 

Fall time

Autumn Blaze Maple (Acer platanoides) trees turn a gorgeous red and orange in the fall, which is perfect for those who want to add more color. Catalina Cherry Tree (Prunus ilicifolia), Weeping Willow, and Golden Deodar are also recommended.

Wintertime

The Blue Spruce makes an excellent choice because it has beautiful blue needles, provides shade, and is easy to grow. Plus it smells great! It thrives well in warmer climates like those found in California. The Norway Spruce also has beautiful blue needles, but they have more of a purple hue than the spruces mentioned. You also can plant Amur Maple (Acer Ginnala) which has beautiful red leaves and is very hardy, or Oregon Grape trees.

What Trees Have The Least Invasive Roots in California

This is a difficult question to answer, as many of the most popular tree varieties in California have invasive roots. Luckily, you have options! These three trees all have minimal root invasiveness and will provide lots of shade to make your backyard more comfortable: the live oak, the western red cedar, and the blue gum eucalyptus.