Texas is huge and offers a wide variety of climates and growing conditions. While the southern regions have semi-arid conditions, Central Texas experience hot, humid summers and milder winters. Texas gardeners often plant shade trees to help provide relief from the harsh summer sun. If you live in Texas, select shade trees according to general culture, mature size, bloom information and intended use.
The Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), commonly called the pistachio tree, belongs to the Anacardiaceae plant family and performs well in most Texas regions. This medium-sized shade tree ranges from 40 to 50 feet in height with spreads reaching up to 30 feet. The Chinese pistache bears aromatic, dark green foliage that turns vibrant red and orange shades in the autumn. The grayish-brown bark sloughs off to reveal peach-colored inner bark.
This low-maintenance tree prefers full sun positions with well-drained, rich soils. The Chinese pistache tolerates drought, heat and high winds. Non-showy, green flowers appear on female trees in April, followed by inedible, blue fruits that mature in the autumn. Texas gardeners often plant the Chinese pistache in smaller lawns and along streets.
The Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina), also called the velvet ash and the desert ash, belongs to the olive family (Oleaceae) and grows well along Texas canyons and stream banks. Reaching about 40 feet in height, this ash tree variety features ridged bark, a spreading crown and green leaves that turn yellow in the autumn. Non-showy, yellow blossoms appear in April and May. This hardy tree likes dry, rocky soils that receive plenty of sun. The Arizona ash works well as a shade tree in lawns and along roadways.
The anacua tree (Ehretia anacua) goes by many names, including the sandpaper tree, the knockaway tree and the sugarberry tree. This borage family member (Boraginaceae) ranges from 20 to 45 feet in height and features aromatic, dark green leaves and reddish bark. Clusters of fragrant, white blossoms appear in April, followed by edible, yellow to orange fruit that matures in June. The anacua tree prefers dry soils in partly shady to fully sunny positions. Gardeners in Central to North Texas often use the anacua as a deep shade tree in woodlands, chaparrals and thickets.
The live oak tree (Quercus virginiana), sometimes called the southern live oak or the coastal live oak, features a wide, rounded canopy that provides excellent shade for hot Texas landscapes. This beech family member (Fagaceae) features stocky trunks, massive branches and glossy, deep green leaves. Mature live oaks reach up to 80 feet in height and 100 feet in width. This oak variety often suffers from oak wilt. Yellow blossoms bloom in April and May, giving way to small, deep brown acorns. Live oaks perform best in neutral, moist soils that receive partial to full sunlight.