Tree Selection

Tree Selection

Please consider planting trees from an area tree list. Choosing one of these trees is not a 100% guarantee of long term survival; that depends on many factors. Not all trees will grow well in all Panhandle soil conditions. However, these trees have been proven, long term, to require much less maintenance and are more suited to our climate and conditions than others when planted in the right location. The BP America Arbor Trail (located between Coulter Street and Wolflin Avenue, just north of I-40) within Amarillo's Rock Island Rail Trail identifies 24 tree species and provides an opportunity to see the tree sizes and shapes, along with growth characteristics.

Tree List

I'm sure this isn't a complete list of trees that will grow with lower maintenance and irrigation. Additions and subtractions to tree lists occur as time proves suitability or failure. Siberian elms, silver maples, willows and Bradford pears are a few that come readily to mind that have been extensively promoted and planted, only to later find drawbacks to a carefree existence on the Texas High Plains.

Consult with an arborist for the latest in which trees to plant. Many new varieties of these trees are available now. They may not be available locally, but can be brought in. An arborist is also trained in selecting not only the best variety for our area, but the best specimen. If you don't see the name of a tree on this list that you're considering, ask an arborist for its suitability for our area.

  Trees for the High Plains    
  Common Name Botanic Latin Name  
  Austrian black pine Pinus nigra  
  Arizona rosewood Vauquelinia californica  
  Bald cypress Taxodium disticum  
  Big tooth maple Acer grandidentatum  
  Bur oak quercus macrocarpa  
  Cedar elm Ulmus crassifolia  
  Chinese pistache Pistacia chinesis  
  Chisos rosewood Vauquelinia corymbosa var angustifolia  
  Chitalpa Catalpa x chilopsis  
  Desert willow Chilopsis linearis varieties  
  Golden raintree Koelreuteria paniculata  
  Hackberry Celtis occidentalis  
  HOT WINGS Tatarian Maple Acer tataricum 'GarAnn' PP 15,023  
  Japanese black pine Pinus thurnbergiana  
  Japanese Zelkova Zelkova serrata  
  Kentucky coffee tree Gymnocladus diocus  
  Lacebark elm Ulmus parvifolia  
  Mountain mahogany Cercocarpus montanus  
  New Mexican privet Forestiera neomexicana  
  Oklahoma redbud Cercis canadensis  
  Pecan Carya illinoensis  
  Pinyon Pine Pinus edulis  
  Princess Kay Plum Prunus nigra 'Princess Kay'  
  Red oak Quercus rubra  
  Shademaster honeylocust Gleditsia triacanthos  
  Shumard oak Pinus strobiformis  
  Texas ash (Zone 7, possibly 6) Fraxinus texensis, syn F. albicans  
  Wafer ash Patellae trifoliata  
  Washington hawthorn Crataegus cordata  
  Weeping white spruce Picea glauca 'Pendula'  
  Western soapberry Sapindus drummondii  
  Woodward columnar juniper Juniperus scopulorum 'Woodward'  

Trees to Avoid

A number of trees have been tried and found lacking in their suitability for our area's climate and conditions. These are not necessarily bad trees -- just trees planted in the wrong ecosystem. It can be argued there is a purpose and a place for every plant. Our area has conditions that take its toll on most trees, our tree list is short. Because our tree list is so meager compared to other regions, it is even more important to plant a diversity of trees within neighborhoods. Diversity, even among our abbreviated tree palette, helps prevent the spread of insect and disease problems. Exclusively planting two or three tree species within neighborhoods leads to problems.

  Trees to Avoid in the High Plains    
  Most maples, esp. silver maple Acer ssp.  
  Most poplars Populus ssp.  
  Cottonwoods, except in riparian areas Populus deltoides  
  Most willows Salix ssp.  
  Siberian or Chinese Elm Ulmus pumila  
  Most ash trees Fraxinus ssp.  
  Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua  
  Most sycamores Plantanus occidentalis  
  Bradford pear Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford'  
  Salt cedar Tamarix ssp.  


Location, Aesthetics and Purpose

The first thing to do when deciding on planting a tree is the location. Tree selection is based not only on suitability for our area, but the exact location in your landscape.

Consider the landscape's micro climates and hydro-zones. A tree requiring moist soil should not be planted with buffalo grass turf, nor should a more drought tolerant tree be planted in the midst of a blue grass lawn. I like a lot of flowers in my front yard. One consideration in planting trees I take into account is the amount of shade it might cast on sun loving flower beds.

Your considerations will dictate whether the best placement is on the south or west side of the home, always depending on enough space for mature growth. Choose a tree that's in proportion to your home and site. Do not plant so close to buildings that the mature shape is distorted. Plant a tree to enjoy it in its entirety.

Our choices are often dictated by the aesthetic qualities of the tree itself. For visual interest of form, shape, flower, leaf or bark color and texture. Maybe fragrance influences our choice. Deciduous or evergreen? Spring flowering or splendid autumn color?

What is your motive for planting the tree? Is it for shade, for energy conservation in the form of lower cooling or heating bills, a need for a wind break? Is your motive for screening noise or a view? There are many factors to take into consideration.

Safety Begins at Planting and Selection

Before digging your planting hole, identify where your underground utility lines (electric, gas, telephone, cable, water and sewer) are located. Call the "Texas One Call" number of 1-800-245-4545 or the "Call Before You Dig" toll free number at 1-800-344-8377 for help in locating buried lines. It is recommended that the hole should not be within 24 inches of the lines.

Avoid planting trees directly under power lines, however trees that grow no taller than 25 feet at maturity are consider safe. The higher the mature height of the tree, locate it further away from the power lines.

Tree growth up to 25' Closest to power lines

Tree growth 25' -- 40' Plant 25' from power lines

Tree growth more than 50' Plant 20' away from power lines

Ice on tree limbs and branches cause breakage and damage to utility lines. Strong Panhandle winds and tree growth into utility lines lead to power outages. Avoid those unsightly safety cuts the power utilities must perform to insure a constant and safe flow of electricity and communication.

Angie Hanna