Time to Plant a Tree

With our Mojave Desert temperatures warming, it’s time to plant that tree you have wanted to add to your yard.

Palo VerdePhoto by Ellen Ross
Palo verde trees provide good patio shade

Recently I tagged along on the tree tour at the Springs Preserve. The preserve displays a variety of interesting trees that would create a lovely canopy in your yard. Carefully selected trees with canopies can reduce energy costs and water demands, cool the indoor temperature, and improve outside air quality. They also offer a shady environment for all of us and a welcome habitat for birds.

The trees at the Springs were selected for their ability to survive the Vegas Valley’s extreme temperatures and thrive in our alkaline soil and intense sun. The preserve’s arborists, horticulturists and plant staff have created an ensemble of trees to meet the criteria for our harsh desert climate.

Trees provide a landscape accent and are living sculptural additions to any home. Properly selected and placed, they are wonderful signatures of taste, style and color. In Las Vegas, most yards are small and homeowners need to select plants sized to complement their lots. A small tree needs to be planted 10 feet from any structure; a medium tree, 15 feet; and a large tree 20 feet away.

Southern Nevada, a part of the shrub-filled Mojave Desert, has an interesting variety of native trees that grow in the washes. They are generally compact, shrubby and use little water. Many of these native trees do just fine in our varied desert soils. Whether the soils are sandy or clay-based, the trees are at home here in Las Vegas.

Now some top choices for our desert landscape. Consider your yard as an artist’s canvas. How do you flatter your house while creating an interesting design and a cooling effect in summer?

I’d like to recommend the Sweet Acacia, which in spring has a sweet perfume with masses of fragrant yellow-orange puffball flowers. The Shoestring Acacia is another favorite since it is thornless. It has a willowy leaf that looks like shoestrings blowing in the wind. Both acacias are hardy and drought-tolerant.

Western RedbudPhoto by Ellen Ross
The Western Redbud blooms from late spring
through early November

The Desert Willow has narrow leaves, and the gorgeous pink or white orchid-like flowers have a wonderful sweet aroma. They are a real treat as they bloom late spring through November. The magenta-pink flowers of the Western Redbud, which is native to the Southwest, emerge in the early spring. You can see the blossoms now at the Springs Preserve. This small tree is eye-catching in any landscape.

Blue Palo Verde has thorns but I love its airy blue-green branches. The tree canopy has masses of light yellow flowers in the spring. This showstopper is a perfect fit for low water-use landscapes. I also love the Foothill Palo Verde, or Desert Museum variety, as it can be shaped as a small patio tree. Its lacy leaves form a delicate canopy.

The Chilean, Honey, Native and Screwbean Mesquite trees have broad canopies with wide-spreading branches. More contained is the African Sumac. The fast-growing Common Locust is a favorite with its bouquets of fragrant wisteria-like spring flowers. Another attractive small tree is the Texas Mountain Laurel, which has glossy evergreen leaves and beautiful purple blooms. The flowers smell remarkably like grape Kool-Aid. The Chaste Tree, or Vitex, has numerous lilac flowers at the branch tips.

With so many desert-friendly trees, you can frame your home with a variety of colors, shapes and heights. Trees also add environmental benefits in cities, not the least of which is shelter and shade for both humans and wildlife. So, go ahead, dedicated Las Vegans, put down some roots. Plant that tree. Arbor Day is just around the corner.


12 responses on “Time to Plant a Tree

  1. Great article, Ellen. We have a Palo Verde in our backyard and we just love it, and so do all the birds who stop by to sing and preen in its branches.

  2. Holly,

    Glad to hear that you too love our desert trees. Let’s continue to encourage our friends and family with desert plants.

  3. Ellen, a home surrounded by incredible seasonal trees was my dream right from the childhood. Fortunately or unfortunately we had only the Sugar Maple trees around our home and I can still remember when the autumn comes they start to gloom and little birds chirping early in the morning. Honestly apart from a palm tree nothing else comes to my mind when I think about desert trees. I think its high time for me to catch up with fauna.


    PS: Your photographic skills are too good. Particularly that of The Western Redbud 🙂 Keep going and I hope you dont mind sharing tips on taking a great pictures

  4. Please take time to enjoy variety of trees at the LV Springs Preserve as well as Red Rock, Mt Springs and Mt Charleston. It’s all there. We just have to take time to experience nature….Ellen

  5. Trees in general add the feeling of dewiness to us. Given it’s natural beauty, it simply is a wonderful canvass placed in our backyard. Hence, it really is a plus factor considering the intense heat we are actually facing these days with the effects of global warming. It certainly is a must have in every home, at least.

  6. Trees give us the feeling of freshness and calmness. It adds color to the environment and gives us shade whenever we need it. I just hope people would plant those trees on their backyard not only to give beauty but also to help Mother Nature as having trees gives us benefits.

  7. It is really getting hotter and hotter each day. And it’s due to climate change. I just hope many people would plant any trees and plants everywhere as they help in adding freshness to the environment.. I think I would do just that.

  8. Thanks for the post. More people should be planting trees most especially now as the climate is changing drastically. These trees look good and helps give me the shade during the hot weather.

  9. The issue with the trees is pretty simple. We nned them! they produce the air that we need to survive! Nice topic 🙂

  10. Trees in general add the feeling of dewiness to us. Given it’s natural beauty, it simply is a wonderful canvass placed in our backyard. Hence, it reall

  11. Trees in general add the feeling of dewiness to us. Given it’s natural beauty, it simply is a wonderful canvass placed in our backyard. Hence, it reall

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