Falling under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zones 6 to 9, Texas is a large state featuring diverse climates. While the areas along the Gulf Coast experience hot, humid summers and mild winters, West Texas gardeners face desert-like growing conditions. The South Texas plains experience hot, rainy summers, while the Texas Hill Country enjoys lower winter temperatures and a long growing season. Texas gardeners must consider their USDA Hardiness Zone, plant vigor and growth rate when selecting trees for gardens and landscapes.
The Texas ash (Fraxinus texensis), a member of the olive family (Oleaceae), is a fast-growing tree that matures to heights between 30 and 45 feet. This deciduous tree naturally occurs on canyon ridges, rocky slopes and limestone hills across Texas. It blooms green flowers from April through June, and the green leaves turn vibrant red, orange and yellow tones in the autumn. The drought-tolerant Texas ash prefers dry, acidic soils in partly shady locations.
The honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), a small tree or a large shrub in the pea family (Fabaceae), reaches up to 30 feet in both height and spread. The twigs feature green leaves and long, sharp thorns. Fragrant yellow to green flowers bloom from February through September during wet weather. These sweet-smelling blossoms attract both birds and bees. This fast-growing mesquite variety naturally occurs along Texas stream banks. This tree needs dry, well-drained soils in sunny positions.
The American elm tree (Ulmus americana) is a member of the Ulmaceae family that reaches 60 to 80 feet in height with slightly smaller spreads. American elms are fast-growing trees highly susceptible to Dutch elm disease. Red and green flowers bloom from February to April, while the green leaves turn a non-showy yellow in the autumn. The American elm naturally grows in lowland areas and along stream banks across Texas. This heat-tolerant elm variety prefers moist soils in partly shady to fully sunny locations. Texas gardeners often plant American elms as shade trees and lawn trees.
Southern Red Oak
The southern red oak (Quercus shumardii), also called the shumard oak, is a quick-growing, adaptable tree in the birch family (Fagaceae). The green leaves often turn an attractive scarlet red color in the autumn. Non-showy, white or green flowers appear from March through May, followed by acorns on the mature oak trees. The southern red oak reaches between 50 and 90 feet in height with slightly smaller spreads. This tree needs moist to dry soils in part shade to full sun. The southern red oak works well as a lawn tree or shade tree.
The American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), also called the plane-tree and the buttonwood, is a member of the Platanaceae plant family. This fast-growing sycamore variety generally reaches between 75 and 100 feet in height with similar spreads. The large, green leaves change to a non-showy brown in the autumn. Yellow or red flower clusters bloom in March and April, followed by brown or orange fruiting balls. The American sycamore prefers moist, silty or loamy soils in part shade to full sun. Texas gardeners primarily use this tree in large planting areas with difficult soil.