While it has a reputation for being a green, lush, and rainy region for several months of the year, the Pacific Northwest is also known for summers that can be very hot and dry. It’s not uncommon to experience long stretches of time with no measurable precipitation, and oftentimes, we find ourselves officially in a drought—with no rain in the forecast.
These conditions can significantly affect vegetation around the region, and often require extra watering and care of plants and trees that aren’t very tolerant to heat.
If you’re thinking about planting some new trees that can handle and adapt well to the warm, dry summers, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the different species of heat-tolerant trees out there. You might be surprised at the variety of tree species that actually do quite well in hotter conditions, and Mr. Tree can help you figure out which is the best for your yard. Here are four of our favorites:
Eastern Red Cedar
This is an evergreen tree species that dates back to aboriginal America, meaning it’s been around for quite some time, and at one point covered large swaths of the continent. Today, these trees are still seen in front yards all across the country, due to their versatility.
A typical eastern red cedar will grow in a pyramidal shape, with stiff green to bluish-green needles, and will also produce small, round fruit. The species typically grows 8 to 10 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet tall. Once established, you can expect this tree to grow between 13 and 24 inches per year.
Eastern red cedar is a type of tree that really does best in hot, sunny spots, so consider this when deciding on where to plant your tree—ideally, away from shade cast by other trees. This popular and hardy pine variety is often used for screen planting and in front yards, while smaller dwarf varieties can serve a more ornamental purpose.
A nice feature of the eastern red cedar is that it also tolerates most types of soils, so there’s no need to go to great lengths to ensure you have the ideal conditions. Along with high drought tolerance, it can also handle occasional flooding, which makes it a good candidate for the two different seasons we experience in the Pacific Northwest—dry and wet!
This deciduous tree is native to the central states of the US, from Pennsylvania to Nebraska and from Minnesota to Oklahoma, but it does well in the Pacific Northwest too. The name comes from the early Kentucky settlers who noticed the resemblance of its seeds to coffee beans.
This aesthetically pleasing tree usually grows to a height of 60 to 75 feet, but the rate of growth is slow to medium. You’ll probably only see height increases of 12 to 24 inches per year.
Similar to the eastern red cedar, the Kentucky coffeetree enjoys full sun and should be planted in an area where it will receive plenty of light. Beyond that, it’s considered to truly be one of the “toughest” trees around, since it adapts to drought, flooding, and other conditions.
Kentucky coffeetrees are known to do well in urban environments, since they can also tolerate pollution. If you’re a city dweller looking for heat-tolerant trees that also produce springtime blossoms with fragrant flowers, this might be the species for you.
The Shumard oak is another deciduous variety of tree that can handle heat and drought. It will also delight you with lovely fall colors, which the leaves take on in autumnal months. It’s often planted to serve as a shade tree, and it looks great in a front or side yard while also serving the function of shielding your house from the sun.
One of the fastest-growing types of red oak, the Shumard oak quickly reaches mature heights of 75 to 90 feet. Once it reaches maturity, it produces acorns every two to four years. These are much loved by wildlife, so expect to see some squirrels in your yard with this tree!
Shumard oaks tend to tolerate pollution better than other trees, which is why they pack an extra punch for anyone looking for heat-tolerant trees that also do well in the urban landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. This species generally grows in a rounded shape, and the four- to eight-inch leaves are dark green for most of the year, until they turn red or red-orange in autumn.
This medium-sized, pyramidal evergreen species is also known by several other names, including the Afghan, Mondell, elder, or Calabrian pine. Compared to many other trees, the shape is more open, with greater spacing between the branches. The long, stiff needles are dark green, and the pinecones it produces are oval and reddish-brown. These trees have a pleasant, fresh fragrance as well.
Eldarica pines are considered some of the hardiest evergreens available when it comes to hot weather and are considered suitable for desert-like environments. Indeed, the tree’s origins are traced back to the steppes and deserts of Central Asia, where conditions can be arid. Eldarica pines also serve as very effective windbreaks. Perhaps for the same reason, they can handle almost anything, including a strong breeze.
These trees enjoy full sun, and once established, they can tolerate dry conditions without a problem. Eldarica pines grow from 13 to 24 inches per year, which is considered a medium rate. At their most mature height, they are between 30 and 60 feet tall.
Heat-tolerant trees do well in the hot summers of the Pacific Northwest climate, and many species are also able to thrive in the wetter parts of the year. Talk to certified arborists, such as those at Mr. Tree, about your options—your trees may just provide the shade you need on a hot day in the future.