Many homes in the Southwest are single story, so small trees provide appropriate scale to the landscape. With less extensive root systems, small trees rarely lift sidewalks or walls. Not often do they block views nor compete with nearby plants.
Some homeowner associations require trees be no more than 18 feet high.
Following are only a few of the small trees that flourish in this area.
• Acacia Mulga with its gray, thornless foliage contrasts nicely with desert plants. Originally from Australia, Mulgas are drought tolerant, frost hardy, and low maintenance. These small trees can be seen in the Continental Shopping Plaza parking lot.
• Acacia Palo Blanco has been described as the best small tree for planting close to buildings because it grows slowly and does not develop large lateral branches. Cold damaged in the mid-20s, it should be planted in a warm location.
• Texas Olive matures at 15 feet and is one of the most dramatic small trees with its large rough green leaves and clusters of long-blooming pure white flowers. Not related to olive trees, it is named after its fruit which looks much like olives.
• Kidneywood is a small native tree greatly under-used in this area. It matures at 15 feet, is deciduous with shaggy bark and sweetly scented white spring flowers. Kidneywood is thornless, easy to maintain, and nearly litter free.
• Desert Hackberry, a thorny, drought-tolerant evergreen with zig-zag branches is the perfect small tree for birders. Its dense canopy provides edible berries, cover, and nesting sites for songbirds.
Before purchasing, check out a tree’s size at maturity to save years of continued pruning. For a landscape that looks good and functions well, plant small trees in limited spaces.
Mary Kidnocker is a University of Arizona Master Gardener who lives in the Green Valley area. Her articles are featured weekly.