Trees That Are Suited to Climate

Most of these native trees and shrubs can be propagated from seeds or cuttings although some may require special handling.


California Buckeye

(Also known as horse chestnut or California pear)

Where: Occurs naturally on dry slopes and canyons.

Size: 15 to 40 feet, rapid growing, short-lived.

Color: Deciduous, lush green foliage in spring, small cream colored flowers on spikes.

Growth: Large pear-shaped fruit, tolerates dryness which slows growth, causes foliage to drop earlier.

Catalina Ironwood

Where: Found on dry slopes, in chaparral.

Size: 16 to 50 feet

Color: Slender evergreen valued as specimen. Dark green, fern-like leaves. Large clusters of white flowers.

Growth: Flat brown oblong fruit, seeds germinate without special treatment, can be grown from cuttings also. Prefers well drained soil, coastal conditions.

Cuyamaca Cypress

Where: Occurs in chaparral.

Size: 25 to 50 feet, erect or spreading.

Color: Evergreen, blue-gray or gray-green long foliage, smooth reddish bark.

Growth: Moderate growth rate. Likes well-drained soil and can withstand cold.

Tecate Cypress

Where: Occurs in isolated areas naturally, but valued in garden.

Size: 15 to 30 feet, often irregular form.

Color: Evergreen, rich to dull green tiny leaves shaped like scales that overlap. Brown or cherry-red bark.

Growth: Dark brown seed, germinates sporadically, more so during dryness of summer. Once established, does well in hot, dry weather. Somewhat susceptible to cypress canker disease.

Mexican Elderberry

Where: Found in open valleys, canyon and flatland below 4500 feet elevation.

Size: 6 to 20 feet

Color: Deciduous, with thick leathery leaves. Clusters of pale yellow, fragrant flowers. Bluish black, sphere-shaped fruit.

Growth: Fast growing and wild looking, although it can be pruned and shaped.


Where: Grows in wide range of conditions, from sea to mountains

Size: 16 to 140 feet, widely branched evergreen. Suitable for large estates or parks. Indians called some of the old specimens council trees and met under their spreading branches. Color: Evergreen with dark green, leathery foliage. Red bark. Orange or red berry that attracts waxwings and robins.

Growth: Can be grown from seed if stratified for at least one month. Urn-shaped flowers with sweetish scent. Tolerates heat, cold and drought.

Coast Live Oak

Where: Found in valleys and foothills of coast range from Sonoma to San Diego County.

Size: 30 to 75 feet with stout spreading branches. Suitable for large gardens and parks.

Color: Evergreen with stiff, leathery, dark green foliage.

Growth: Slow growing, can be grown from acorn or cutting. Best near coast; tolerates heat but not prolonged freezing.

Engelmann Oak

Where: Occurs naturally in dry foothills of Los Angeles and San Diego Counties.

Size: 16 to 60 feet.

Color: Evergreen with thick, blue-green leaves. Bark with gray scales.

Growth: Can be planted as acorn in ground. Provides erosion control.

Bishop Pine

Where: Found on coast intermittently

Size: 50 to 85 feet.

Color: Evergreen with clusters of dark yellow-green foliage

Growth: Grows rapidly. Tolerates salt air and sea breezes, poor soil and low water.

Coulter Pine

(Also known as Big Cone Pine)

Where: Found on dry rocky slopes in the foothills.

Size: 40 to 80 feet. Suitable in large gardens. Largest pine cones weigh as much as 8 pounds.

Color: Evergreen with rigid, dark blue-green foliage in bundles.

Growth: Moderate growth rate. Highly adaptable to heat, dry and gravelly soils, and wind but not cold.

Digger Pine

Where: Grows naturally in dry, lower foothills.

Size: 50 to 75 feet. "Has a most engaging and picturesque way of growing at right angles to the slope, so that it leans out from the hillside in partial defiance of gravity," writes Donald Peattie in "A Natural History of Western Trees."

Color: Evergreen with long, drooping gray-green needles and thick, irregular bark.

Growth: Grows rapidly, especially in rich soil. Needs little water.

Torrey Pine

(Also known as Soledad pine)

Where: Endemic to small area in North County and on Santa Rosa Island.

Size: 35 to 50 feet. Away from coast becomes more upright and taller.

Color: Evergreen with dark grayish green leaves in clusters of five.

Growth: Best in well drained soil. Can be propagated from seeds or cuttings and has moderate rate of growth.


California Coffeeberry

Where: Found in chaparral

Size: 3 to 14 feet.

Color: Evergreen with rapid growth. Greenish clusters of flowers. Black, berry-like fruit.

Growth: Can be grown from seeds or cuttings. Very adaptable and tolerates sun, dryness, rocky or heavy soil.

Catalina Cherry

Where: Chaparral and canyons of offshore islands

Size: 15 to 50 feet

Color: Tree-like, long-lived evergreen. Dense spikes of small, white flowers. Black fruit, which can be messy underfoot.

Growth: Seed is easily germinated. Needs well drained soil but tolerates low or even no water, sun.

Flannel Bush

(Also known as fremontias)

Where: Occur only in California and Baja California on dry slopes.

Size: 6 to 20 feet

Color: Evergreen with large, lemon yellow flowers. Pointed, brown fruit.

Growth: Can be germinated from seed, process speeded up by soaking in hot water. Water when young, then discontinue; vulnerable to over-watering.

Hollyleaf Cherry

Where: Found in dry slopes and foothills. Part of a small, select group of natives to become welcomed into the garden in the early 1900s. Cultivated for many years, possibly even by Spanish settlers. Indians and birds used for food.

Size: 10 to 25 feet

Color: Evergreen, long-lived. Holly-like, round or oval, rich green foliage. Small white flowers. Sweet, red to purple fruit.

Growth: Easily grown from seed, volunteers readily. Growth pattern slow at first, then speeds up. Needs porous soil. Water regularly until established. Cannot tolerate cold of mountains.


Where: Found in coastal sage scrub and southern oak woodland. Indians and early settlers used its berries to make beverages

Size: 3 to 10 feet

Color: Evergreen with oblong, dull green, dusty looking leaves. Clusters of small white to pink flowers. Pink to red fruit.

Growth: To germinate from seed, soak in hot water. Needs water the first season, none thereafter. Has many uses as an ornamental and can even be espaliered.

Sugar Bush

Where : Dry slopes, chaparral from Santa Barbara County to Baja California. Indians used to make sugary drink. Not recommended in high fire danger areas.

Size: 5 to 10 feet.

Color: Evergeen with leathery, dark green foliage. Clusters of pink flowers; tight clusters of reddish fruit.

Growth: Soak seeds in hot water to help germinate. Needs well drained soil, adapts inland.


(Also known as Christmas-Berry)

Where: One of most common natives on slopes and canyons of foothills and mountains in Southern California. Used as food and drink by Indians and settlers; attracts birds. Has long been used in gardens and in landscaping.

Size: 6 to 25 feet

Color: Evergreen with crisp, dark green foliage. Large clusters of small white flowers, sought out by bees. Bright red berries in clusters.

Growth: Rapid growth rate. Seed germinates easily, soil best if dry.

Tree Mallow

Where: Native of Channel Islands, found in Encinitas, San Dieguito Valley

Size: 3 to 10 feet

Color: Evergreen with light trunk setting off bright green foliage. Rose-purple blossoms.

Growth: Spartan, easy to care for. Can be short-lived. Especially suited to coastal areas.

Western Redbud

Where: Widespread in California on dry slopes and canyons in foothills. Indians used bark for medicine, baskets; young buds in salads

Size: 6 to 18 feet

Color: Deciduous with round, apple green leaves. Magenta flowers on short stalks. Long dull red pods, branches often reddish purple.

Growth: Rapid-growiing; long-lived. Good drainage essential.

The information in this chart was compiled from a variety of sources, including "Growing California Native Plants" by Marjorie G. Schmidt; "Native Trees of Southern California" by P. Victor Peterson; "Native Plants for Use in the California Landscape" by Emile Labadie; and "Trees of San Diego" by Patricia Waldron.

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