One of the most important decisions in planning your yard is what trees to plant and their locations. If trees are planted too close to the house, your foundation is jeopardized, too close to the street and they encroach on city property, too close to your fence and they encroach on your neighbor’s property.

The mature height and width of each tree you plant must be considered so that it fits the location where it will spend its life. Smaller-sized trees that work well in most city lots include the palo brea, sweet acacia, Chinese pistache and Texas ebony. Taller trees that can stand alone in a large yard include shoestring acacia, sycamore, velvet ash and sissoo.

Deciduous trees such as ash, Chinese pistachio, velvet ash, sycamore, mulberry and Chinese elm allow sunshine to fill your yard with warmth during winter months and provide cooling shade during summer.

Drought-tolerant trees, such as palo verde, palo blanco, mesquite, Texas ebony and sweet acacia are tough trees that grow well in our arid desert.

Is there a pool? Avoid deciduous trees or flowering trees that will drop litter in the pool on a regular basis. Do you want a showy tree with beautiful spring blooms? If so, plant an orchid tree, ornamental pear, jacaranda, or Royal Poinciana. Be aware most flowering trees also have seed pods that cause litter. Of the three listed, the orchid tree has the narrowest canopy, while the Royal Poinciana has the widest.

A yellow bell or orange bell is a multi-branched shrub with trumpet-shaped blooms that can be pruned to form a small tree that is perfect for a patio area. Its canopy must be pruned regularly to keep it from becoming “top heavy.” Trumpet-shaped blooms attract humming birds and other pollinators year-round.

If you want a tree that produces fruit, check the chart below for varieties that grow well in Yuma. There are many to choose from, even apple trees.

Our mild winter months are a good time to plant trees that are not frost-sensitive. Frost-sensitive trees can be planted after our last frost is done, which usually occurs the end of January.

To plant a tree, dig a hole a bit larger than the width of the container and the same height as the container. Press on the sides of the plastic tub to loosen the soil and slide the tree out and into the hole. Fill in with dirt dug from the hole and water to settle the soil.

Add more dirt, if needed, and create a basin of dirt below the outer edge of the tree’s canopy. The basin allows you to flood irrigate so water reaches down to the tree’s roots. Once the tree is established, the basin is no longer needed and should be removed.

No matter which tree you choose, you will have to maintain its shape with yearly pruning. Crossed branches that are rubbing and dead or diseased branches are first to be removed. If the inner canopy is too thick and needs to be opened up, prune away enough branches to allow those remaining to grow unobstructed and uncrowded. Never prune a tree into a geometric cylinder, cube or sphere.

The mistake many people make is planting a large tree in a small space. This means the tree must be pruned severely to keep it from overreaching its location. If you drive around town, you will see huge ficus trees reduced to small pancake-shaped cylinders. Such severe pruning will eventually kill the tree, leaving the homeowner with a huge, dead tree trunk sitting in the yard.

When trees are pruned down to the main trunk, the tree will eventually die. Such severe pruning also encourages multiple shoots to grow from the stumps of the branches that are left. These shoots are weak and break easily.

An old Chinese proverb states, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the next best time is now.” Now is the time to plant trees that are not frost sensitive.

Happy gardening.

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