Clean Shade Trees for San Joaquin Valley, California

MizleslieSeptember 7, 2011

I'm looking for suggestions on clean drought resistant shade trees. What I'm looking for are trees that provide a nice canopy of shade that do not drop fruit or pods or sap all over and are not invasive with seedlings coming up and won't crack cement or ruin sprinkler lines. We live in Madera County in the San Joaquin Valley and it's very hot in the summer usually triple digits with the winter getting to the 30's. Not a whole lot of rainfall, which is why I need drought tolerant. I don't mind trees that lose their leaves in the fall and winter, as I don't mind raking up leaves, but as I said before I just don't want the mess of seeds and pods and sap. I'm just certain, I want large shade trees that would give us a beautiful canopy of shade from the absolute awful heat of summer. We live on over 2 acres of property so size isn't a problem. I've researched several sites and I keep getting different suggestions, such as a Chinese Elm or California Pepper but then hear that they are invasive or messy. Most individuals plant Eucalyptus out here, but I think they are scraggly and really don't provide a nice canopy of shade. Please help, I could use the advice.

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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

You've got tons of resources there. You have SelecTree, Co Extension (altho that County likely underfunded), old CUFR reports, Sunset Western Garden Book, tons. Likely no state has better resources.

I can't say off top of my head that Chinese elm or London plane or California sycamore are clean, but those do better there, provided your water is OK. If you are not irrigating then your choices are severely limited, unless they can get down to untainted groundwater. Before man came, outside of Tulare Lake and riparian areas, there were little to no trees on the valley floor (which is why so many went to eucalypts).


    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 8:09PM
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We are on our own well out here and will be irrigating. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 4:17PM
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jlcjlr(9b Sacramento CA)

If I had the room, I would plant a Sawleaf Zelkova. A neighbor has 2 in her front yard which faces west and they are spectacular, shading the whole front yard and her house. My spot is smaller so my wishlist includes a Shantung Maple. The link is for the Zelkova but the site search will take you to the Shantung. If you know Sacramento at all, this site describes where to go see specimens.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sacramento Tree Foundation

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 11:48AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

I did field work in Davis on Zelkova but never published the results, far up my list of favorites. In the southern SJV they will likely need minimum 15" of water to not look ratty and attain a decent size if they can't find clean groundwater. You'll find most trees that you want for shade will want at least 10" of supplemental water if they can't find clean groundwater (meaning free of selenium, ag salts, etc). Farther away from the house you can start planting natives or adapted and provide less water. If you're up in Davis you should go to the arboretum at UC and look at their acacia collection (toward the western end) and gather some ideas on what they can be used for on your property as ornamentals.

BTW, STF has done the best research on tree shade benefits; if you want trees to shade your house - and you should - the greatest benefits in the SJV are found in planting to the west, then the southwest, then southeast. Directly to the south interferes with warming winter sun.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 12:23PM
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California has several varieties of live oak trees. One of those or possibly Arizona Cypress if you're looking for drought and heat tolerant and not too much litter. I would go for a mix of conifers and deciduous trees and try to stay with those that are native to Cal. Several trees come to mind, but may have litter problems. Species survive when they produce copious amounts of seeds and that spells litter!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 10:53AM
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