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For the HomeFor the GardenFood & EntertainingResourcesArticle Archive
For The Garden

Patio Trees

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: January, 2014, Page 130

(Leucaena retusa)

Type: Deciduous tree

Elevation: Low; mid; hardy to 26 degrees F

Blooms: Yellow-gold; spring to summer

Size: 20'H by 15'W

Soil: Well-drained; rocky

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Maintenance: Trim selectively for attractive structure. Left unpruned, it can be used as a screening shrub.

Attracts: Small mammals and birds (to its high-protein seeds); wildlife and deer (to its foliage)

Note: It is native to west Texas and the Chihuahuan Desert and has brittle branches that may break during storms.

Why we like it: Thornless, with lacy foliage and showy fragrant puffball flowers; golden leadball adds tropical appeal while withstanding reflected heat.

(Cercis canadensis v. mexicana)

Type: Deciduous tree

Elevation: Low; mid; hardy to 0 degrees F

Blooms: Dark pink-purple; early spring

Size: 15'H by 15'W

Soil: Tolerates poor, rocky soil if well-draining

Light: Full sun; afternoon shade in low desert

Water needs: Low

Maintenance: Selective pruning helps to form a multitrunked patio tree.

Attracts: Henry’s elfin butterfly (larval host); native bees, butterflies and moths (nectar); birds (seeds)

Note: It can drop limbs to survive drought without dying.

Why we like it: Before trees leaf out in spring, flowers cover bare branches with show-stopping color.

(Sapindus saponaria v. drummondii)

Type: Deciduous tree

Elevation: Low; mid

Blooms: Cream; late spring to early summer

Size: 10'-30' H by 10'-30'W

Soil: Any

Light: Full sun; partial shade

Water needs: Low (will take extra moisture)

Maintenance: Selective pruning helps shape into a patio tree. Remove unwanted sucker growth.

Attracts: Birds

Note: Unique translucent amber berries display dark seeds inside. Berries contain a toxic alkaloid—saponin—and may be used to make laundry soap. Do not ingest berries or seeds.

Why we like it: In fall, its leaves turn a yellow-gold. Western soapberry spreads by root suckers to form thickets; thus is good for naturalizing or for a wildlife habitat.

(Haematoxylum brasiletto)

Type: Deciduous or semi-evergreen tree

Elevation: Low; hardy to 26 degrees F

Blooms: Yellow; spring to summer

Size: 7'-20'H by 7'-20'W (usually stays small)

Soil: Well-drained; thrives in rocky, alkaline soil

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low to medium

Maintenance: Selective pruning helps shape into a patio tree.

Attracts: Birds, butterflies

Note: This tropical, spined plant suffers frost damage but recovers in spring. Plant near a warm, south-facing wall and away from foot traffic.

Why we like it: Distinctive year-round interest includes vivid flowers, heart-shaped leaflets, coppery seedpods and unusual gray fissured bark.

Other Favorites:  Evergreen soapberry (Sapindus saponaria); Texas redbud (Cercis canadensis v. texensis)
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