I Wish People Would Ask This!
“What are the best long-lived shade trees for Texas? I’m more interested in quality than fast growth.”
I am just never asked that. Sad, but true. Everybody gets wrapped up in wanting fast growth.
That’s when I ask them to help me develop a list of other attributes that might also matter – things like adaptability to local soils and climate, pest resistance, good looks, strength of limbs, and so forth.
Somewhere along the line the factor of life expectancy enters the picture, since all the fast-growing trees have fatal flaws. So that’s when I come up with these comments:
Oaks will live 100 to 500 years (or longer), and the four best for big parts of Texas are live oak, Shumard red oak, chinquapin oak and bur oak.
In East Texas and other areas with acidic soils you can add in water oak, willow oak and southern red oak.
Cedar elms, Chinese pistachios, pecans, bald cypress (acidic soils only) and magnolias live up to 100 to 150 years.
Those are the best large shade trees for our state, because not only are they survivors, but they’re also handsome and low-maintenance.
So, compare those against fruitless mulberries, Arizona ash, silver maples, mimosas, cottonwoods, sycamores, Siberian elms and all those other fast growers. They’re much better choices than those speedsters that flame out after 10 or 15 years.
Go for quality. You’ll be decades ahead!