Growing Drought Tolerant Trees: What Are The Best Drought Tolerant Trees

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By Teo Spengler

In these days of global warming, many people are concerned about impending water shortages and the need to preserve water resources. For gardeners, the problem is particularly pronounced since prolonged drought can stress, weaken and even kill backyard trees and shrubs. Growing drought tolerant trees is one good way a gardener can make the home landscape more resistant to dry weather. Read on to learn about the best drought tolerant trees.

Trees that Handle Drought

All trees need some water, but if you are planting new trees or replacing those in your backyard, it pays to select trees that handle drought. You can identify drought tolerant deciduous trees and drought resistant evergreen trees if you know what to look for. A few species – like birchdogwood and sycamore – are decidedly not good dry-weather species, but many others species resist drought to some extent.


When you want trees that handle drought, consider a number of different factors to find the best drought tolerant trees for your backyard. Choose native trees that are well adapted to the soil and climate of your region since they will be more drought tolerant than non-native trees.

Pick small-leafed trees like willow and oak, rather than leaves with large leaves like cottonwood or basswood. Trees with small leaves use water more efficiently. Pick upland tree species rather than species that grow on bottomlands, and trees with upright crowns rather than those with spreading crowns.

Opt for colonizing species like pine and elm rather than species that move in later such as sugar maple and beech. “First responder” trees that are the first to appear in burned out fields and generally know how to survive with little water.

Drought Tolerant Deciduous Trees

If you want those beautiful leaves that drift to the ground in autumn, you’ll find lots of drought tolerant deciduous trees. Experts recommend red and paperbark maple, most species of oak and elms, hickory and ginkgo. For smaller species, try sumacs or hackberries.

Drought Resistant Evergreen Trees

Despite the thin, needle-like leaves, not all evergreens are drought resistant evergreen trees. Still, some of the best drought tolerant trees are evergreen. Most pines use water efficiently, including:

  • Shortleaf pine
  • Pitch pine
  • Virginia pine
  • Eastern white pine
  • Loblolly pine

You can also opt for various hollies or junipers.

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