30 Drought Tolerant Trees: Growing, Planting and Care for Low Water Trees

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | November 24, 2023

Man looking at a dried up river concerned about lack of water wonders if drought tolerant trees and drought resistant trees can grow, and where to plant them and how to care for drought tolerant fruit trees and more.

In a world where heat records are being shattered every month, potable water insecurity is becoming a stark reality in some regions, which makes drought tolerant trees one of the best ways you can maintain your landscape without risking the health of your plants.

Watering plants that require large amounts of water during extreme heat is costly to your wallet and the planet. Moreover, many people simply don’t have the time to invest in lots of outdoor plant maintenance.

Investing in drought tolerant trees is a solution to both problems.

This comprehensive guide outlines some of the best and most lovely drought tolerant trees and low water trees that can be used to enhance a variety of landscapes, explaining the benefits of 30 different trees you can plant and easily care for, despite water or time limitations.

Benefits of Drought Tolerant Trees

What many residential homeowners and business owners who plant trees on their property don’t appreciate enough is how expensive it can be to maintain and water a tree.

You also have to strategically inspect your property prior to planting a tree to make sure you are not planting it in an area that does not drain soil well. Waterlogged soil from excessive rains or overwatering can drown a tree or facilitate the spread of tree diseases.

Graphic illustrating the benefits of drought tolerant trees, detailing US water consumption for lawns and trees, costs of lawn irrigation systems, and the advantages of xeriscaping as a solution.

If you plant the wrong tree on your property, one that is not used to heatwaves and requires copious amounts of water to survive, then you have to initiate regular maintenance checks. It pays to consult with an arborist to get the types of trees most appropriate to your lifestyle, aesthetic needs, and potential maintenance schedule.

Treating or removing dead trees can definitely hurt your wallet. The typical cost to remove a tree from your property can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $7,000, or more depending on your circumstances and the species of the tree.1

Firstly, what is a drought-tolerant tree? And what are the benefits of planting one over a more traditional tree that needs frequent access to water?

Low Water Trees: What Are Drought Tolerant Trees?

Plants that exhibit extreme drought tolerance are also known as low water trees or drought-tolerant vegetation.2 A drought-tolerant tree will efficiently maintain its physiology and biomass functions even in extreme drought conditions.

Drought-tolerant trees remove toxins that might hinder their function even if their biomass becomes extremely desiccated, or very dry. This process is called desiccation tolerance.3

Sometimes, drought-tolerant trees develop air embolisms in their woody vascular tissue in the same way that an air bubble is deadly in a human blood vessel.

Drought-tolerant trees can self-repair xylem embolisms even though air bubbles are deadly if they occur within a human blood vessel. The xylem is woody tissue under the bark that transports water around the various parts of the tree.15

The point is that drought-tolerant trees have a plant physiology that allows them to function optimally even though they are severely underwatered – such underwatered and drought conditions would easily damage, injure, or kill other traditional trees.

The typical mature tree may need to be watered, manually or from rain, once a month.4 Many mature trees can go weeks or months without water, especially during heatwaves.

But the resilience of such trees during heat waves depends on their species, location, and drought tolerance limits.

Most trees need to absorb at least 10 gallons of water for every inch of soil covering their root ball and underground root system.5 Depending on the size of the tree, its root system, and the severity of local heatwaves, that estimate can increase to as much as 150 gallons of water per inch of soil.

It is also important to note that non-drought-tolerant plants use only about 5% of their water intake for sustenance. The other 95% of the water they absorb is stored in the tree’s body to keep it hydrated and to store it for future use.

Most trees like to be internally wet, moist, and hydrated. Over 50 percent of a tree’s biomass is just water.6

Drought-tolerant trees can go weeks or months without watering. Drought-tolerant trees have deep roots that can find water underground.

They also save water deep within their biomasses and make the most of absorbing water whenever it rains.

The point is that while you should never forget that you own a tree, once you plant a drought-tolerant tree you may never have to water them frequently or on a strict schedule.

30 Drought Resistant Trees To Plant

Below is the list of trees known for their exceptional drought resistance:

1. Amur Maple

(Acer ginnala)

The Amur Maple, also known as the Siberian Maple, is a small, deciduous species version of the Maple Tree that is originally native to Asia and Russia. The Amur Maple tree can grow to a maximum height of 20 feet and can grow optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 8.16

Close-up view of an Amur Maple Tree showcasing its vibrant green and red foliage.

(Image: Wouter Hagens21)

This tree is known for having brightly colored foliage and sturdy, woody stems. It can grow in partial or full exposure to sunlight.

Close-up view of a Big Leaf Maple tree displaying its green leaves with yellow variegation in fall.

(Image: Pacific Southwest Forest Service, USDA 22)

2. Big Leaf Maple Tree

(Acer macrophyllum)

The Big Leaf Maple Tree is a large and tall version of the drought-tolerant tree species that is originally native to the wilds of the American Pacific Northwest. This deciduous tree is reportedly the largest version of all known types of Maple trees.

It can grow to a height of about 75 feet and have a canopy width that is just as high too. Its leaves are green-colored and very glossy, turn orange and yellow when in bloom, and can measure over a foot in width.

This tree thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 through 7 only. The Big Leaf Maple Tree can reportedly live for over two centuries.

3. Western Redbud

(Cercis orbiculata)

This drought-tolerant tree is technically more of a shrub or a smaller-sized tree than a traditional tree.

It can grow to a height of about 15 to 20 feet.

Detailed view of a Western Redbud tree highlighting a group of deep pink flowers on its branch.

(Image: Şeyma D.23)

The Western Redbud primarily grows in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6 and is native to the wilds of Arizona, California, and Utah.17 It is a very drought-tolerant tree that does not need a lot of watering.

This plant can grow in partial or direct sun exposure and is prized as an ornamental tree for residential landscapes. Its leaves turn from pink to magenta and purple when in bloom; in some species, the stem turns into a red wine-colored hue.

Western Redbud Trees grow leguminous pods that are edible to human beings and animals and are actually pretty tasty.

Eastern Redbud tree displaying its dark pink blooms on slender branches.

(Image: Mahsima Sojoudi24)

4. Eastern Redbud

(Cercis canadensis)

The Eastern Redbud Tree is also known as the Judas Tree.

It is a deciduous tree native to the Eastern United States and thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through Zone 9.

It needs well-draining soil and can grow to a maximum height of 30 feet. The Eastern Redbud can grow fine in partial sunlight exposure but would do better in direct exposure.

The Eastern Redbud is prized as a landscape tree for its dazzling lavender and pink leaves that turn into a yellow-golden hue when autumn arrives. If you love birdwatching, then this tree is notorious for attracting various types of birds.

Pros and Cons of Redbud Trees

Most species of Redbud Trees are aesthetically brilliant to look at and are perfect for residential landscapes. When considering the pros and cons of Redbud Trees, note that they are really more like tall shrubs so they are compact and do not take up a lot of space.

There are many varieties of Redbud that could be suitable for your landscaping needs, and the Western Rosebud is probably the most practical choice. Still, some Redbud species have appreciable drawbacks as well.

Some species of Redbud Trees are very disease-prone and can be pest magnets. Redbud Tree wood is also relatively soft and brittle compared to other trees.

While mature aged Redbud Trees are extremely drought resistant, the young sapling version of the tree requires copious amounts of water to survive, especially the Eastern Redbud.

The Eastern Redbud is a fine drought-resistant tree to plant, but it comes with all of the drawbacks mentioned in the previous paragraph. Also, the delicious and edible pods that grow on most species of this tree are bound to attract wildlife or stray animals that may not be welcome on your property.

So, make sure you research the species of Redbud that suits your lifestyle before planting one.

5. Ginkgo Tree

(Ginkgo biloba)

The Ginkgo biloba is native to China and has a botanical lineage that probably stretches back over 300 million years. This tree probably existed when the dinosaurs were still roaming the Earth.

It is also known as the Maidenhair Tree or the Silver Apricot Tree.

Lines of Ginkgo trees, known drought resistant trees, showcasing vibrant yellow leaves on a sidewalk next to a highway, with cars in motion.

(Image: Pexels25)

The Ginkgo Tree is renowned for having medicinal and curative properties that humans can benefit from via tea extracts or dietary supplement pills.18 While many people know the name Ginkgo biloba in regard to health supplements and tea, many don’t know that it is a drought-tolerant tree.

Ginkgo biloba thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through Zone 8. The Ginkgo biloba Tree is a very tall and massive tree – while the average species can grow up to 75 feet, other species can grow to a height of 165 feet.

Ginkgo Tree leaves are fan-shaped, veiny, and aesthetically pleasing to behold. This tree is drought resistant and survives in extreme heat, smog, and acidic or salty soil.

Always consult an arborist or botanical expert to make sure that you only plant the male gender of the Ginkgo tree. The female version of this tree grows a foul-smelling fruit that will stink up your landscape, invite complaints, and potentially attract unwelcome pests and wildlife.

A pathway blanketed with purple Jacaranda leaves, flanked by towering Jacaranda trees in a park, with individuals seated on a bench.

(Image: lacontenta26)

6. Jacaranda Tree

(Jacaranda mimosifolia)

The Jacaranda Tree is also known as the Blue Jacaranda, the Blue Trumpet Tree, and the Brazilian Rosewood. It is native to the wilds of South America.

It can grow to an optimum height of about 50 feet.

This tree grows optimally under full sun exposure. The Jacaranda Tree is notorious for its dazzling and attention-stealing purplish-blue-hued blossoms.

This is one landscape tree that is going to get a lot of envy and attention from your neighbors. Many species of the Jacaranda Tree grow leaves, bark, and pods that are toxic to humans and animals, so make sure you plant a species that does not grow such pods.

7. Kentucky Coffee Tree

(Gymnocladus dioicus)

The Kentucky Coffee Tree gets its name from its historical importance to indigenous Americans and later colonialists who roasted the tree’s seeds as a coffee substitute and ate the pods that grew from it.

Detailed view of the green leaves of a Kentucky Coffee tree.

(Image: Dan Keck27)

The pod fruit must be treated and preserved to be made edible, likewise the seeds of the Kentucky Coffee Tree are toxic unless roasted thoroughly.

This is a deciduous tree that grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through Zone 8. This tree grows to a height of more than 60 feet and usually has a width of over 40 feet.

The Kentucky Coffee Tree offers a lot of shade during heatwaves and is tolerant of smog and bad soil conditions. Its leaves and bark transform into incredible hues of yellow during autumn.

It needs well-drained soil and direct sunlight exposure to grow optimally.

Low-angle view of a Pecan tree, highlighting its rough bark and green foliage, with a squirrel perched on one of its branches.

(Image: izort28)

8. Pecan Tree

(Carya illinoinensis)

Along with the almond, the pecan is the only nut-based food commodity that is primarily grown domestically.

Over 80% of the world’s pecan supplies come from the United States.

Along with the benefit of being one of the best drought-tolerant trees it could also help you start a small business. You can harvest up to 50 pounds of pecans from one tree every harvest season.

Unfortunately, planting a Pecan Tree for its nuts negates its drought-tolerant benefits. You would need to give it 700 pounds to over 850 pounds of water for every pound of pecans the tree produces.11 So, that means one tree could require over 42,000 gallons of water annually.

Your Pecan Tree will naturally grow pecans, but not on a commercial level unless you pay to water it generously and often. So, you can plant it as a drought-tolerant tree, or a potential water-thirsty commodity, but you can’t have both benefits at once.

The Pecan Tree grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through Zone 9. It requires full sunlight exposure.

This tree can grow to a height of 100+ feet.

9. Ironwood Tree

(Parrotia persica)

Ironwood Tree is native to the forests of Iran, is of compact dimensions, and usually has an identical height and width of 35 feet.

It thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through Zone 8. The tree’s foliage transforms into a vibrant array of warm-colored hues.

An Ironwood Tree standing in a field, showcasing its elongated branches and orange leaves.

(Image: AnRo000229)

It will grow in mildly acidic soil that is well draining and will grow in partial sunlight exposure. It is also generally disease and pest-resistant as well.

Detailed view of a Purple Leaf Plum tree, known drought tolerant flowering trees, displaying clusters of pale pink blossoms and its reddish foliage.

(Image: Kapa6530)

10. Purple Leaf Plum Tree

(Prunus cerasifera)

The Purple Leaf Plum Tree is sometimes called the Cherry Plum Tree, Myrobalan Plum Tree, and the Purple Leaf Tree. It is well-known for its purple-hued leaves and pink-whitish foliage.

This tree is native to Europe and Asia and grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through Zone 9. It can grow to a height of about 25 feet.

These drought-tolerant trees grow best in full sun exposure.

Almost every part of this tree, including the seeds, contains medium-level severity toxins that metabolize into cyanide when ingested. The plum fruit that grows on the tree is not toxic at all and can be consumed safely.

Additionally, this tree is a super magnet for pests and tree diseases.

11. Red Buckeye Tree

(Aesculus pavia)

There are about a dozen species of drought tolerant Buckeye Tree in the United States.

The name was derived from the fact that the seeds of this tree resemble the eye of a buckeye deer.

A Red Buckeye tree displaying its bright green palmate leaves and clusters of red flower spikes.

(Image: WikimediaImages31)

The Red Buckeye Tree is also known as the Firecracker Plant because of its vibrant, red-hued foliage

This tree grows in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through Zone 9. It can grow anywhere between 10 feet to about 25+ feet.

Since a tree must be about 13 feet tall, many species of the Red Buckeye Tree are technically really tall drought-tolerant plants. This tree contains lathery toxic compounds called saponins that are poisonous to humans – but if you can extract the saponin you could make your own artisanal soaps

It should be noted that all Buckeye Tree species contain compounds that are toxic to humans.

A California Buckeye tree showcasing its wide, dome-shaped canopy, green foliage, and clusters of white flowers arranged in panicle formations, on a sloped field beside a paved walkway.

(Image: Consultaplantas32)

12. California Buckeye Tree

(Aesculus californica)

This is a small, deciduous shrub that can grow up to about 20+ feet in height. Its foliage is a mix of dark green-hued leaves and white flowers with fiery orange-colored stamens that can be as long as 8 inches.

The tree’s bark is gray and silver. This tree is drought tolerant, but water deficits, heat waves, and extreme wind will cause it to drop its leaves.

It thrives in USDA Hardiness Zone 7 and Zone 8 and can grow in partial or full sun exposure. All part of the California Buckeye Tree is toxic to humans.

13. Southern Magnolia Tree

(Magnolia grandiflora)

The Southern Magnolia Tree is also known as the Bull Bay Tree. It is native to the Southeastern United States and can grow to a massive height.

Close-up view of a Southern Magnolia tree, highlighting its glossy dark green leaves which are rust-colored on the underside.

Some Southern Magnolia Tree species can grow as tall as 80 feet. It grows optimally in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through Zone 10.

And it can grow in partial to full sunlight exposure. This evergreen tree is known for growing white-colored foliage that measures over one foot in diameter.

You can’t have a lawn or flowers planted under a Southern Magnolia Tree. The tree’s shallow root system steals all nearby water as a drought-tolerant tree.

This tree also has a really wide and dense canopy that blocks sunlight access to any grass growing directly under it.

Some experts believe that the Southern Magnolia might even be releasing chemicals that suppress the growth of nearby fauna. Also, don’t plant this tree near sidewalks, driveways, buildings, or infrastructure, as the tree’s root system could damage them.

Detailed view of a Yaupon Holly tree, showcasing its dark green small leaves and clusters of vibrant red berries.

(Image: Evie Fjord33)

14. Yaupon Holly Tree

(Ilex vomitoria)

The scientific name of the Yaupon Holly Tree is a reference to the fact that the tree has a high caffeine content and was used by Indigenous Americans for centuries.19 American colonists witnessed the Native Americans drinking concoctions made from the tree and then violently retching afterward.

The berries of the Yaupon Holly Tree are extremely toxic and can cause retching. Small children and people with severe medical problems could die after eating six or more Yaupon Holly berries.

However, as long as you don’t consume the berries, you can safely make tea from the tree.

The bark and the leaves of the Yaupon Holly Tree can be brewed to make tea. The bark and leaves are rich in caffeine and antioxidants.12

Four grams of Yaupon Holly Tree tea, or a tablespoon, contains over 76 mg of caffeine. This tree is also known as Indian Blackdrink Tree, Cassina Tree, Evergreen Holly, Christmas Berry Tree, and Emetic Holly.

It grows optimally in USDA Plant hardiness Zones 7, 8, and 9. This tree is well suited to create strategic landscape hedges, topiaries, and privacy screens.

It is technically a tall plant that can grow from 4 feet tall to a maximum height of 30 feet.

15. Desert Willow Tree

(Chilopsis linearis)

The Desert Willow Tree grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through Zone 11. Its optimal height ranges anywhere between 15 to 30 feet.

This tree is disease and pest-resistant and will grow in any soil conditions.

Close-up view of a Desert Willow tree, featuring its green lance-shaped leaves and dark pink flowers.

(Image: Denver Botanic Gardens34)

The Desert Willow Tree will grow in sand. It just needs well-draining soil and full sunlight exposure to grow well.

This is perfect for adding visual daring to your landscape as it blossoms fiery-pink-colored and trumpet-shaped flowers.

Detailed view of a Crepe Myrtle tree, highlighting clusters of pink blossoms against a clear blue sky background.

(Image: GAIMARD35)

16. Crepe Myrtle

(Lagerstroemia indica)

The Crepe Myrtle Tree is an Asian native plant species that is very popular as a landscape tree in the Southern United States, especially in Texas. This deciduous and drought-tolerant tree grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 through Zone 9.

It is essentially a shrub that can grow anywhere between 3 feet tall to 50 feet, depending on the species you plant.

This tree is favored for the natural and patterned stippling of its bark and its visually pleasing pink foliage. It is also a magnet for pests like aphids.

17. Sweet Gum Tree

(Liquidambar styraciflua)

The Sweet Gum Tree, a deciduous tree, grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through Zone 9.

It can grow to a height of 70+ feet and be as wide as 45+ feet.

Close-up view of a Sweet Gum tree, showcasing its green star-shaped leaves.

(Image: WikimediaImages36)

Centuries ago, Indigenous Americans would peel the bark from the tree, collect the sap resin, and chew it akin to how modern people chew gum, hence the name of the tree.

This tree has a distinctive 5-point green leaf that changes into fiery shades of red, orange, and yellow in the fall.

Wide-angle view of a Golden Rain tree standing in a field, with green foliage and bright yellow blossoms.

(Image: byrev37)

18. Golden Rain Tree

(Koelreuteria paniculata)

The Golden Rain Tree is native to East Asia and is well-known in India and China.20

It is sometimes called a China Tree, Pride of India Tree, and the Varnish Tree.

The seeds of the tree can be processed to make varnish – it used to be commoditized in Asia, hence its various names. It grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through Zone 9.

It can grow anywhere between 20 feet to 40 feet tall. This is a deciduous tree with foliage that transforms into stunning hues of gold and yellow.

So, when the leaves eventually drop, the experience approximates a golden rain of leaves, hence its Americanized nickname.

19. Dawn Redwood

(Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

This drought tolerant deciduous conifer is more known for growing to a majestic size than its foliage.

It is essentially a subspecies of the sequoia and can grow to a height of 170 feet and live for over three centuries.

A wooden bridge in between tall Dawn Redwood Trees in a dense forest.

(Image: adrian201938)

It grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through Zone 8. Some species of this tree have leaves that change color into dazzling hues of red in the fall.

Make sure that you have enough space on your landscape to plant a tree that might grow to 100 feet in height at the minimum. The tree’s trunk grows girthy and wide and its root system is deep and expansive.

You could destroy your sidewalk, driveway, or home’s infrastructure integrity by planting this tree too close to them.

Wide-angle view of a Japanese Zelkova tree standing in a field, displaying its expansive, upright branches with lush green leaves.

(Image: Daderot39)

20. Japanese Zelkova

(Zelkova serrata)

This tree develops teardrop-shaped leaves that change into warm-colored hues during the Fall, but it is more prized for its hardiness and resistance to disease.

The Japanese Zelkova is native to Japan, South Korea, and China.

It was imported to the United States because it is highly resistant to Dutch Elm disease and several other tree diseases. Many arborists recommend planting the Japanese Zelkova as an alternative to the disease-prone Elm species.

It is also highly pest resistant.

This tree can grow anywhere between 50 feet and 100 feet in height and thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through Zone 8.

21. Mimosa Tree

(Albizia julibrissin)

Also known as the Powder Puff Tree and the Silk Tree, the Mimosa Tree is native to Asia and considered by some authorities to be an invasive species.

You will have to plant this drought-tolerant tree far from other trees and fauna.

Close-up view of a Mimosa tree, highlighting its delicate fern-like leaves and yellow seed pods attached to its slender branches.

(Image: WikimediaImages40)

The tree is highly prized for its aesthetics – the flower of this tree is a fiery red, pink, and white airy puff of spindly, wiry, and thin petals.

It grows in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 through 9. The tree can grow anywhere between 20 to 40 feet tall.

This is a tree that might win you some tree exhibition trophies during periods of foliage bloom. One drawback is that this tree is also a magnet for pests and diseases.

A towering Scotch Pine tree, showcasing its deep green needles, standing in an open field.

(Image: WikimediaImages41)

22. Scotch Pine

(Pinus sylvestris)

This drought-tolerant tree is notable because of how much it aesthetically stands out from other trees. Its bark is reddish-orange while its leaves are a bluish-green hue.

It’s an evergreen pine tree that also grows cones.

It is native to Europe and Asia and grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 2 through Zone 8. This tree can be found globally and can be used as an outdoor Christmas Tree substitute.

It can grow anywhere between 30 feet to 70 feet tall.

23. Thornless Honeylocust

(Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis)

This Thornless version of the honey locust species of tree is prized for its drought tolerance, leaves that turn honey yellow in fall, and the taste of the seed pods it grows.

Close-up view of a Thornless Honeylocust tree, highlighting its brown seed pods and small green leaves on its branches.

(Image: Hans42)

The Thornless Honeylocust grows coiled seedpod fruit that is non-toxic, edible, and has a honey-sweet taste.

It grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through Zone 9. This tree can grow up to 75 feet tall.

A Weeping Bottlebrush tree displaying its slender green leaves and drooping branches.

(Image: sarangib43)

24. Weeping Bottlebrush

(Callistemon viminalis)

The Weeping Bottlebrush Tree is native to Australia and grows in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9, 10, and 11. It can grow anywhere from 15 to 20 feet tall.

This tree must be grown in direct sunlight exposure and won’t grow optimally in partial sunlight exposure or in a very cold climate.

The name is derived from the fact that the tree’s flowers look like the vibrant red-colored bristles of pipe or bottle cleaner. Also, you will have to manually trim and prune it into a traditional tree form, since it naturally grows into a barrel-shaped shrub shape.

25. Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar

(Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’)

This is a hauntingly beautiful multi-stemmed tree that will arrest the attention of anyone who sees it. This tree grows drooping, vine-like, and steel-blue-hued leaves that hang off of its branches akin to willow tree leaves.

A Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar tree standing in a field, showcasing its green needles on its drooping branches.

(Image: Szilas44)

The average species grows a few feet to 10 feet tall, but other species can get much taller. This tree is multi-stemmed and prone to spreading out its root system and needs a lot of space to grow.

It is native to Morocco and Algeria. This tree grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6 through Zone 9.

It is quite a disease and pest-resistant tree and difficult to transplant once planted.

Wide-angle view of a Utah Juniper Tree on a dry cliff-side, highlighting its rounded crown and dark green leaves, overlooking distant mountains and a clear blue sky.

(Image: MikeGoad45)

26. Utah Juniper

(Juniperus osteosperma)

If you want a tree that you can plant and walk away and forget about, the Utah Juniper might be the one for you. It is native to the southwestern United States, is long-living, and can thrive in desert conditions.

The Utah Juniper almost looks like a petrified tree – the bark is scaly, striated, and almost stone-like. The trunk actually twists and coils as it ages.

A Utah Juniper Tree can live for almost 700 years.

Its root system can spread for over 100 feet while its taproot can go down over 15 feet. This is a tree that is designed to exist with the bare minimum of local resources.

It produces powder-blue-hued berries that are edible but not pleasant tasting or smelling. This is not the most aesthetically pleasing tree to look at, but you can essentially plant it and forget it.

Just make sure you dedicate a lot of space for it to grow. It thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through Zone 8 and can grow up to 20 feet tall.

27. Sweet Acacia Tree

(Acacia farnesiana)

This drought-tolerant tree produces fragrantly sweet, circular, and yellow-colored pom-pom-shaped flowers when in bloom.

The Sweet Acacia Tree grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9,10, and 11. It does not need a lot of water and can grow in alkaline heavy soil.

Close-up view of a Sweet Acacia tree, featuring its vibrant yellow puff-like flowers on a branch.

(Image: carlosfx46)

One drawback is that it does grow thorns on its stems. It can grow anywhere between 15 to 20 feet tall.

Low-angle view of a Common Hackberry tree, highlighting its brownish-gray bark with rough ridges, slender branches, and lush green leaves.

(Image: AnRo000247)

28. Common Hackberry Tree

(Celtis occidentalis)

The Common Hackberry Tree is highly disease and pest-resistant – it was touted as an alternative to the disease-prone Elm Tree. The Common Hackberry Tree can survive floods and drought and can grow in almost any soil condition.

It can provide ample shade – however, it has an open canopy that also provides ample light to reach the grass and flowers under it.

This tree is deciduous and can grow up to 60+ feet and grow just as wide. It thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

29. Olive Tree

(Olea europaea)

Olive Trees are evergreen, drought tolerant, heat tolerant, and can withstand heatwaves. One olive might be able to produce anywhere between 20 to 150 pounds of olives.

However, if your aim is to plant a drought-resistant tree that can grow when starved of water, you will have to settle for a low-end yield.

A towering Olive tree standing in a field, displaying its deep green foliage on slender branches.

(Image: Hans48)

Olive Trees grow optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9,10, and 11. A small Olive Tree can grow to about 6 to 30 feet in height and up to 8 feet width-wise.

Olive Trees can thrive in rocky soil and need direct exposure to sunlight to thrive. Certain Olive Tree species can have green or silvery foliage.

A Mulga Tree in a field, displaying its expansive upright branches with needle-like leaves during sunset.

(Image: Mark Marathon49)

30. Mulga Tree

(Acacia aneura)

The Mulga Tree is an evergreen native to the desert climes of Australia and is a plant that is explicitly built for extreme drought tolerances. It doesn’t do well in sub zero or frosty climates, but it is drought tolerant, survives the heat, and will grow in any soil condition.

The Mulga Tree also produces an edible legume that can be made into a peanut butter-like paste. The roots of the Mulga Tree are also nitrogen-fixing, meaning it has beneficial bacteria that extract nitrogen from the ambient atmosphere to enrich the soil like a natural fertilizer.

You can plant other plants near the Mulga Tree and they will thrive and receive ample soil nourishment via its nitrogen-fixing abilities. It is a multi-stemmed shrub-like tree with silver-hued needle-shaped leaves and yellow flower foliage.

It can grow to be about 20+ feet high and just as wide. This tree grows optimally in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8, 9, 10, and 11.

Best Uses of Drought-Tolerant Trees

This guide explores the top applications of these resilient plants.

Which Drought-Tolerant Trees Are Efficient Shade Trees?

The Weeping Bottlebrush and Common Hackberry trees are great drought-tolerant trees that will provide ample shade for your properties.

Which Drought-Tolerant Trees Are the Best Landscaping Trees?

The Kentucky Coffee, Mulga, Ginkgo, Golden Rain, and Eastern Redbud are great choices to consider if you need drought-tolerant landscaping trees.

What Are the Best Front Yard Trees With Drought Resistant Properties?

The best front yard trees with drought-resistant properties are Crepe Myrtle, Eastern Red Cedar, Golden Rain, and Ginkgo Tree.

What Are the Best Small Drought Tolerant Trees That Helps Save Landscaping Space?

The Hackberry, Ginkgo, Eastern Redbud, Crepe Myrtle, Kentucky Coffeetree, Desert Willow, and Juniper are examples of small drought tolerant trees that grow to a height well under 13 feet and won’t take up too much landscape space on your property.

What Are the Drought Tolerant Shade Trees?

Desert Willow, Ginkgo Biloba, Red Maple, Kentucky Coffeetree, and Hackberry are great drought tolerant shade trees.

Which Drought Tolerant Flowering Trees Are Great for Ornamental Landscaping Purposes?

Weeping Bottlebrush, Mimosa, Golden Rain Tree, Buckeye, and Amur Maple are excellent drought tolerant flowering trees that display attention-grabbing ornamental flowers.

Which So-Called Drought Tolerant Hot Trees Can Withstand Heatwaves?

Utah Juniper, Sweet Acacia, Mulga, Crepe Myrtle, Hackberry, Red Maple, and Ginkgo trees are drought-tolerant “hot trees” that can survive intense and extended periods of intense heat.

What Are the Best Xeriscaping Plants?

Utah Juniper, Mulga, Desert Willow, Sweet Acacia, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Common Hackberry, and Blue Spruce are prime examples of xeriscaping plants suitable for water-efficient landscaping.

Different Types of Drought-Tolerant Trees and Plants

This guide showcases diverse types of drought-tolerant trees and plants ideally suited for such environments.

What Types of Cedar Trees Are Drought Tolerant?

Eastern Red Cedar and Ashe Juniper are types of Cedar Trees that are notably drought tolerant. However, these tree species are not true cedar trees – American prospectors accidentally called them such because of their cedar-like scent.13

What Types of Pine Trees Are Drought Tolerant?

The Ponderosa, Scots, Slash, Japanese Black, Pinyon, Shoeleaf, Loblolly, and Coulter are all types of pine trees that are very drought tolerant.

What Are the Best Drought Tolerant Plants?

Sometimes the best way to start growing a drought-tolerant plant is via a large plant pot near your door or in your garden. Cactus, Olive, Salvia, Agave, Yucca, Stonecrop, and Rosemary are excellent drought-tolerant plants that you can grow in a pot.

What Are the Best Desert Landscaping Plants?

The Desert Willow, Sweet Acacia, Desert Ironwood, Eastern Redbud, and Ginkgo are visually dazzling desert landscaping plants that you can strategically incorporate into your landscape.

What Are the Best Drought Tolerant Fruit Trees?

Olive, Pecan, Purple Leaf Plum, Utah Juniper, Mulga, Thornless Honeylocust, Peach, Apple, and Pear Tree are the best drought tolerant fruit trees that you can plant. However, be warned that your fruit yields will be lower than usual if you don’t want to worry about watering a tree.

What Are the Fast Growing Drought Tolerant Trees?

The Eastern Redbud, Ginkgo, Desert Willow, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Olive, Golden Rain, and Bur Oak are species of fast growing drought tolerant trees.

What Are the Best Drought Tolerant Evergreen Trees?

Evergreen trees are tree species that don’t shed their trees from season to season. The best drought tolerant evergreen tree species are Southern Magnolia, Norway Spruce, Eastern Red Cedar, Scots Pine, and American Holly.

What Are the Best Drought Tolerant Flowering Plants?

Salvia, Yarrow, Yucca, Agave, and Zinnia are the best drought-tolerant flowering plants.

Drought-Tolerant Tree Advantages

Local weather patterns, where you plant a tree, and the species of tree you plant will determine how much water the tree will need to survive. Those factors will also determine how much money you will spend to water and maintain such trees and keep them healthy.

One American household might use 116,800 gallons of water annually, or about 320 gallons of water per day.7 About 30% of that water estimate is usually allotted for water lawns and trees on residential landscapes.

In states with hotter climates, and especially those with frequent heat waves, one American household may allot over 60% of their household water to maintain their lawn and tree.

A typical lawn irrigation system, or a home sprinkler system, can cost anywhere between $3,600 to $10,000 to install.8 Additionally, a household with four family members who use 100+ gallons of water each daily will average a monthly water bill of about $73 – or an annual water bill of $876.9

You can save on your water utility costs and lawn, and tree maintenance duties, and help the ecology by planting drought-tolerant trees.

You need to know what species of tree you plant on your property; non-drought-tolerant tree species that are planted in areas with extremely hot climates may experience stunted growth or even die because they get less water than they are used to. Water evaporates from the soil quicker in hot climates.

The same is true if you live in a windy climate. Windy weather also accelerates water evaporation in the soil near trees.

If you plant a tree that needs frequent watering in a drought-prone area, you may actually need to wrap a garden hose around it from time to time so it can soak in enough water. Drought-resistant trees are likely to die from a water absorption deficit and require expensive removal, unlike a traditional water-dependent tree.

But you will never have these problems if you invest in planting drought-tolerant trees only. These practices are now known as xeriscaping, or strategically planting drought-tolerant trees for their aesthetic and water-saving benefits.10

Now, here are 30 drought-tolerant trees that you should consider planting on your residential or commercial property.

Best Drought Tolerant Trees by State

With varying climates across different states, selecting the right tree is essential. Here are the best drought-tolerant trees suited to these specific states:

What Are the Best Drought-Tolerant Trees Utah?

Red Maple, Japanese Zelkova, Pinyon Pine, Kentucky Coffee Tree, and Oak Gambel are great drought-tolerant trees to plant if you live in Utah.

What Are the Best Drought-Tolerant Trees for California?

The best drought-tolerant trees for California to plant are Crepe Myrtle, Desert Willow, Olive, Maidenhair, Golden Rain, and Western Redbud.

What Are the Best Drought-Tolerant Trees in Southern California?

The California Sycamore, Carrotwood, Flametree, Blue Leaf Wattle, and Purple Leaf Acacia are great to plant if you live in Southern California.

What Are the Best Drought-Tolerant Trees Texas?

Yaupon Holly, Dwarf Yaupon Holly, Southern Magnolia, Weeping Bottlebrush, Crepe Myrtle, and Texas Mountain Laurel are excellent drought resistant trees to plant in Texas.

What Are the Best Drought-Tolerant Trees Colorado?

The Thornless Honeylocust, Common Hackberry, Bigtooth Maple, and Eastern Red Cedar are some of the best drought-tolerant trees to plant in Colorado.

What Are the Best Drought-Tolerant Trees Arizona?

Desert Willow, Mesquite, Sweet Acacia, Palo Verde, and Ponderosa Pine are great trees to plant in Arizona.

What Are the Best Drought-Tolerant Trees Nevada?

If you live in Nevada then you should consider planting the Thornless Honeylocust, Nevada Agave, Sweetbush, and Desert Marigold trees to benefit from their drought tolerance growing aspects.

What Are the Best Drought-Tolerant Trees New Mexico?

The Pinon, Eastern Redbud, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Common Hackberry, Crepe Myrtle, and Honey Mesquite tree are drought-tolerant trees (New Mexico), making them appropriate species for planting in the region.

What Is the Benefit of Planting a Fruit-Bearing Drought Tolerant Tree?

Apple, Olive, and many other fruit-bearing trees are very drought-tolerant.

However, you can’t have it both ways when it comes to drought-tolerant and fruit-bearing trees.

A blossoming Apple tree in a field, showcasing its expansive branches covered in green leaves.

(Image: jhenning50)

Fruit-bearing trees need direct sunlight, fertilizer, and lots of water to optimally produce bountiful fruit harvests.

Bountiful fruit harvests have to be sacrificed if you want a drought-tolerant tree you don’t want to worry about watering or caring for.

What Is a Major Drawback of Planting a Drought Tolerant Tree?

Some drought-tolerant trees have root systems that will grow and sprawl dozens or hundreds of feet to find water at risk of strangling nearby plants and fauna. Drought-tolerant trees could become massive and damage pipes, sidewalks, and nearby infrastructure.

Drought-tolerant trees can grow out of control, so research which species will better suit your landscaping needs before you plant them.

How Does Planting Drought Tolerant Trees Help To Fight Climate Change?

Many of the drought-tolerant trees listed in this comprehensive guide are multi-stemmed shrubs – and shrubs are better at naturally scrubbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than trees or soil.

Multitudes of shrubs planted within 2.4 acres of land have the power to naturally recycle over 15 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.14 You can do your own small part in the climate change battle by planting a few drought-tolerant shrubs.

If you want to plant trees without worrying about watering them or maintenance, then choosing some drought-tolerant tree species is probably your best option.

Drought-tolerant trees can thrive in almost any soil condition, heatwaves, and since many are shrubs, they can help fight climate change via carbon sequestration.

Frequently Asked Questions About Drought-Tolerant Trees

How Often Do Young Drought Tolerant Trees Need To Be Watered?

You may need to water young drought tolerant tree saplings, seedlings, or cuttings daily and then every other day for at least the first six months before planting into the ground.

Which Drought Tolerant Trees Are Better To Plant, Deciduous or Evergreen?

Evergreen trees don’t shed leaves in cold weather or during the fall. If you plant a deciduous drought tolerant tree, then you will have to spend weeks every fall and winter raking and cleaning up fallen leaves.

Are Desert Plants More Appropriate To Place in Pots or the Ground?

Transplantation can be a traumatic process for a cutting or transplant. It might suit you to grow desert plants in a pot for several months or a year before planting it in the ground.

How Many Types of Trees Are There in the World?

Some experts believe that there are over 3 trillion trees in the world, representing various types of trees.

Where Should Drought Tolerant Shade Trees Be Placed on a Property?

You should consult with an arborist or landscaping expert before you plant drought tolerant trees on your property for shading purposes. If it is a young tree, you want to make sure that it grows in the right place to provide the strategic shading positioning you want in the months and years to come.

What Are the Drawbacks of Planting Drought Tolerant Landscaping Trees?

You have to pick and choose the maintenance drawbacks you want to deal with depending on the species. If you choose deciduous landscaping trees to plant on your property, then you will have to schedule a lot of time raking and collecting fallen leaves every Autumn.


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