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Wednesday - May 13, 2009

From: Burbank, CA
Region: California
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native trees for shade in Burbank, CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I need a few ideas for a non-deciduous (or nearly non-deciduous)tree that grows fast and will provide shade. Shade need not be total. Chinese Elms come to mind but I'm not sure of the growth rate. Camphor Laurel is too messy I'm told. I'm trying to provide at least dappled shade to a patio year round (can be denser shade during summer months). I live in Los Angeles so certain "deciduous" trees may not lose their leaves. I also need it to be frost resistant as my particular area of LA gets frost at least 30 days a year.


Please don't plant either Ulmus crassifolia (Chinese or Siberian elm) or Cinnamomum camphora (Camphor laurel). Chinese elm is native to, well, China, as well as Japan and other parts of temperate and tropical Asia. Camphor Laurel is native to the same areas, is invasive and will take over natural habitats in disturbed areas, and is spread by berries eaten by birds. In Australia, it not only has become incredibly invasive, but toxins in the tree are apparently causing some species of birds to nearly disappear. Living in Southern California, you should know that California soils and living conditions are so attractive to plants that non-native invasives have taken over and nearly destroyed many natural areas that cannot be replaced. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the care, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. These two trees are classic reasons for that practice. A plant already adapted by thousand of years in your area will require less fertilizer, water and maintenance and not threaten other plants, because they have all been co-existing for a long time.

So, we will go to our Recommended Species section, click on Southern California on the map, and select on trees. If our native plant database has information on the speed with which a tree grows, we will pass it on to you, but we really don't recommend choosing a tree for its speed of growth. Fast-growing trees usually have weak wood, break down easily, are susceptible to pests and diseases and are short-lived. And we will also let you know if the tree on our list is considered deciduous, realizing that it may not be in Southern California. You can use the same procedure to search for trees on your own, or even shrubs that might fill the bill. Follow each plant link to the webpage on that individual plant, read about its characteristics and, for more information, go to the bottom of that page and click on the link to Google.

Trees for Southern California

Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) - deciduous, 10 to 20 ft. tall, blooms pink, purple March and April, medium water use, sun or part shade

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) - deciduous, willow-like (though not a true willow), 15 to 30 ft. tall, blooms white, pink, purple April to September, low water use, sun

Fraxinus velutina (velvet ash) - deciduous, to 40 ft. tall, water use low, sun

Quercus agrifolia (California live oak) - evergreen, 20 to 50 ft. tall, medium water use, sun, part shade

Umbellularia californica (California laurel) - slow grower to 40 ft., evergreen, high water use, part shade

Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Chilopsis linearis

Fraxinus velutina

Quercus agrifolia

Umbellularia californica



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