The soil around Houston, Texas is dark brown or black acidic clay. The average annual rainfall amount is over 40 inches. The climate is subtropical with occasional freezes during the short winter. Trees planted in the Houston area must be resistant to mildew and fungal diseases because of the high humidity. They must also be able to survive with the root systems in waterlogged soil for days at a time followed by periods of drought.
Dogwood trees (Cornus Florida) are small trees that grow up to 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Their outstanding feature is the white flower-like bracts that form in the early spring before the foliage appears. In Houston, they grow best if protected from the hottest afternoon sun or as an understory tree beneath shade trees.
The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) grows to 100 feet tall with a 30-foot spread in the Houston area. It is tolerant of wet and dry compacted soils. The light feathery foliage turns an attractive burnished orange in the fall. The bald cypress occasionally produces knobby growths from the root system called "knees" that can interfere with lawn care equipment. Otherwise, the bald cypress is an outstanding landscape specimen.
The live oak (Quercus virginiana) is a large spreading tree with a very strong branching system. Typical height in the Houston area is 35 to 50 feet, but the spread can be as much as 75 feet. It is a slow growing tree that can live for 400 years or more. A live oak tree needs to be as much as 50 years old before it would be considered a mature landscape specimen. It is an evergreen that loses its leaves in February, but they are quickly replaced with new growth.
The Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii) is a low maintenance tree. The eventual height of a Shumard oak is 75 feet with a 45-foot spread. The outstanding feature of a Shumard oak is its brilliant fall color that ranges from yellow to red. The acorns produced in the fall are attractive to wildlife.
The southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) grows to 90 feet tall with a spread as much as 50 feet. The evergreen southern magnolia has broad dark green leaves that form a thick impenetrable canopy. The southern magnolia produces very large white blooms in late spring followed by showy seed heads. Although drought tolerant, it grows best in the moist acidic soils around Houston, Texas.
The sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) has broad leaves and a pyramidal shape. The sweetgum tree grows to 100 feet and 25 feet wide. It is one of the best trees for fall color in the Houston area, producing brilliant red, yellow and orange foliage. However, the tree produces spiny seed balls that some consider messy.