Trees are our No. 1 weapon against climate change. That’s why the city of Dallas keeps tabs on the state of the urban forest. At last count, the city had 14.7 million trees, and its arborists encourage you to plant even more. The trees keep the city cooler, and that means about $9 million a year in savings from energy conservation. Dallas trees also capture an enormous amount of stormwater runoff — and they keep the air you breathe cleaner.
But some trees thrive in Dallas, and some do not. Here are some of the hardiest trees to plant in Dallas, ones that will give you years of shade and enjoyment without a lot of maintenance.
1. Cedar Elm
The Texas A&M Agrilife Research Extension highly recommends native or adapted plants. They need less water and are well suited to the soaring temperatures of a Texas summer. The cedar elm (pictured above) is perfect. It’s native to the Gulf Coastal plains, but it grows well in Dallas because it’s extremely drought-tolerant.
You can’t go wrong planting the state tree — if you have the room for it and can put up with its quirks. It’s also the perfect tree for pecan pie lovers, although prepare to harvest the nuts when they fall, or you’re in for a mess in your yard. They’re not suited for small urban lots, since they get very large. They love deep, well-drained soil, but pecan trees do not like to be crowded. “It is far better to have one healthy tree in a yard then half a dozen which never receive enough water because of crowding. Shade is also a negative force in growing pecan trees. Trees so crowded that the lower limbs are touching, should have 50% of the trees removed. Pruning off lower limbs does not correct tree crowding problems,” wrote Dr. George Ray McEachern, a retired extension horticulturist at Texas A&M University.
As beloved as the pecan tree is, keep in mind that at some point, all pecan trees produce pollen, causing problems for many allergy sufferers. Be sure to stock up on the allergy meds if you plant one of these!
3. Live Oak
The live oak is another beloved Texas tree, famous for its thick, heavy trunk and twisting, elegant branches. Like pecan, it is burned in Texas for barbecue (though which wood is best for which cut of meat may ignite lengthy debate among pitmasters). The live oak is drought tolerant and does well in the summer heat. It is, however, like the pecan tree, needing plenty of space. It grows to be a very large tree, with sprawling limbs that can make your yard a memorable Texas kind of place.
If there’s a drawback to the live oak, it is that it’s susceptible to oak wilt during the dry season. Be sure to trim back live oak trees only in the late summer or winter to lower the risk of oak wilt.
4. Texas Buckeye
Texas buckeye is another Texas native that thrives in Dallas. Unlike the live oak and pecan, this is a much smaller tree and a better fit for smaller spaces. It produces pale yellow blossoms in the spring and is low maintenance when it comes to soil, sunlight, and water needs. If you have pets or small children, you should be aware that the seeds of the Texas buckeye are poisonous.
5. Texas Mountain Laurel
Who wouldn’t love the smell of grape Koolaid in the breeze? The native Texas mountain laurel produces a gorgeous purple bloom in early spring. Also called the mescal bean, this hardy plant usually presents as a small tree or large shrub. It’s a good fit for yards that may not be large enough to accommodate some of the big trees. This evergreen is a pretty addition to any yard and is slow-growing.
The shiny red seeds of the Texas mountain laurel are also poisonous and should be kept away from pets and kids.
The trees on this shortlist are just five of the many trees that are well-suited to Dallas and North Texas. The city of Dallas encourages people who live inside city limits to plant trees and add to the urban forest. They also urge you to add your new additions to the tree map to help arborists keep track of the forest they hope will help cool the city and clean the air.