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Desert trees with deep roots?

Posted by lhabq 6 (My Page) on
Thu, May 2, 13 at 17:15

I am really hoping to be able to plant a tree in my back yard (new house with no landscaping done in the yard yet!) and have been doing some reading on the topic. It sounds to me like almost all trees have relatively shallow roots, 12-18'' below the surface, with the exception of some trees that would be just entirely too large to plant my little yard!

However, I just wanted to ask the question here in kind of a last-ditch effort to see if anyone has any other suggestions! My roadblocks seem to be:
* The yard is small, as are the neighbors' yards, and I don't want a tree that will have roots that could potentially cause problems for my house's foundation, or for my neighbors houses.
*Similarly, no matter where I plant it, it would be close to my cinder block wall, which I don't want to ruin with tree roots, either.
*I live in the high desert of central NM, in a fairly windy area (especially in the springtime). So I need a tree that could withstand the strong winds (sometimes gusts are even up to hurricane force), but is also drought and cold-hardy. The coldest it has gotten here in recent years, I think, is roughly -5 F.
*Because of the small yard size and proximity to my and other houses, I am also hoping for a relatively small tree, possibly under 30' if possible.

I realize that I just may not be able to plant a tree, but I just thought I'd give it a last try!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) is a possible option check out the link for others...

Here is a link that might be useful: New Mexico Trees

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, May 2, 13 at 19:18

The desert is the one place where some trees may actually go deep. There finding water is more the need than getting enough air. When the soil is baked deeply by the sun there is plenty of air.

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

Being a St Louis boy I am not that familiar with your area. However when I visited Phoenix I was VERY impressed with their Botanical Garden.

If I recall that is a much lower elevation than you but they had SOOO many more trees and succulents than I was expecting to see.

Are any of the conifers out of the question? Naturally Bristlecone comes to my mind first but heck, what were the others....all along the roads up Mount Charleston....

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

Don't be afraid of tree roots- humans have been living among trees for a long time and most of our dwellings survive.
By all means do investigate potential plantings for the possibility of invasive roots, but a general fear of all tree roots is not necessary.

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

Some conifers to consider :
Arizona Cypress(especially Blue Ice), Alligator Juniper(unsure of its cold hardiness), Pinyon Pine (very slow growing, mine grows between 3-5" per year), and Eastern Red Cedar (non-native for New Mexico).
I have seen several examples of both Arizona Cypress and Eastern Red Cedar planted within 3'-6' of a house and apparently causing no problems. Both of these trees will lean slightly away from the structure seeking sun. (personally I would not recommend any tree closer than 15' to a house).
At low rainfalls, these trees will stay at 30' or less height.

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

Thanks for all the feedback! It's good to know there just might be a few options. I wouldn't say there is a general fear of all tree roots - it's just in the reading I had done it sounded like the fact was most trees have shallow roots. We had trees much closer to the house than most people would recommend when I was growing up, and those never caused problems (other than their huge size, that is). I would say I'm trying to be cautious because this tree won't just affect me - it will be close to neighbors as well. The bigger problem is actually finding a tree that fits ALL of my criteria, not just roots.

Greenthumbz, thank you for the link. I'll take a look and see what I can find.

Conifers are not out of the question. I do like the idea of an evergreen, actually. I'll read about all the suggestions.


This post was edited by lhabq on Sun, May 5, 13 at 17:42

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

In Elko, which is a dry desert place which sees temps down to -10 or lower every other winter and has been down to -22 within the last 5 years, the only trees that grow big are some spruces (colorado is popular), poplars (they seem to stand anything) and siberian elm.

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Tue, May 7, 13 at 18:48

Check with David at the desertedge blog. He'll have some excellent suggestions. He's in NM and knows the climate well.

Here is a link that might be useful: the desert edge blog

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

Sowing seed or really small seedlings of Burr oak and Plateau live oak, watered for the first 2 years in the landscape. I am in the east where moisture is abundant, but these 2 have been mentioned as tough trees that when they get some attention after first planted will reward you with good performance once settled in. That is Quercus Macrophylla ( Burr oak) and Quercus Fusiformis ( Plateau Live oak) both are PH tolerant.

RE: Desert trees with deep roots?

Bur Oak is an excellent tree and drought-resistant. The OP mentioned "small yard". Bur Oak has the potential to be large.

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