Southeast Texas is an area with high humidity, a high average rainfall and frequent hurricanes. Not only are the summers very hot, the area experiences freezing temperatures, including an occasional ice storm, in the winter. These conditions create a challenging environment for all plants, especially trees, so it is important to choose a tree that has a long record of success in the landscape.
The camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) is an evergreen shade tree that requires little maintenance once established. It can be allowed to grow into a tall branching tree or be kept as a multi-branched shrub that is cut back every year. The fast-growing camphor tree has broad, shiny, aromatic leaves that smell like camphor when crushed, and small black berries that are attractive to birds. The typical height of a camphor tree is around 60 feet with a 30-foot spread.
The Japanese loquat is a small evergreen tree with broad leaves up to 1 foot long, or more. It produces white flowers in the spring followed by a small, orange, edible fruit. The typical height of a loquat is about 15 feet with an equal spread. It is often used as a screen or border plant in the back of the garden rather than a specimen tree. For fruit production, plant several trees within 50 feet of each other for good cross-pollination by bees and wind.
The American holly (Ilex opaca) grows slowly to a height of 40 feet with a spread of 15 feet. It has a pyramidal shape and is long lived. The leaves are the classic holly shape with several stiff, sharp points on each leaf. The typical red holly berries are produced on the female plants only in the fall. You will need a male plant in the vicinity for pollination if you would like your female holly plant to produce a good crop of berries. Purchase holly trees in the fall so you can see which trees will produce berries.
The eastern redcedar is a fast-growing evergreen tree that grows well in Southeast Texas where water is usually plentiful. However, the tree is considered drought tolerant once established. The eastern redcedar can grow to 50 feet or more with a 15-foot spread in a suitable habitat. Female plants produce attractive blue berries in the fall. It is a good plant to use for a screen or windbreak.
The live oak (Quercus virginiana) grows to 50 feet tall with a 30-to-50 foot spread when mature. It is considered a large spreading tree when mature. The live oak is an evergreen tree that sheds its leaves in February, followed by a fast regrowth of leaves. It can live up to 1000 years, or more. The oldest live oak known lives on the Texas coast near Rockport and is 1200 years old.