Dec 21 2015Share

Tired Of Skimming And Cleaning? 10 Pool-Friendly Shade Trees

By Kathleen Ferris

Cities need trees, including our desert cities. Trees help to mitigate the heat island, reduce ground temperatures in the evening and remove pollutants from the air. Trees raise property values, save energy by shading walls and windows, and attract birds and other wildlife. Here's the question: Why don't we plant more of them?

Here's one answer: Some people think of trees as messy. Yes, all trees drop at least some leaves, twigs, berries, blossoms, seeds and/or pods. For many people, this is a lovely natural way for trees to create their own mulch, add to the natural look of a landscape and feed wildlife.

For others, this is “litter” on their grass and gravel or in their pools. We hear you. Here’s a solution: 10 hardy, drought-tolerant trees you can plant that drop less than most trees. These trees often are called “pool friendly” trees.

Pistacia Chinensis 6 Med (1)        Sm C Cacalaco 1 Med        Sp E Erythrocorys 1 Med1

Chinese Pistache         Cascalote                Red Cap Gum

1.  Arizona Rosewood (Vauquelinia californica):  Shrubby evergreen that thrives in full sun or partial shade and grows to 10 feet. Clusters of white flowers in spring.

2. Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco): Evergreen that likes full sun and grows to 15 feet. Yellow flowering spikes winter through spring.

3. Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis): Large tree that likes full sun and grows to 40 feet. It turns a reddish orange in the late fall and drops its leaves (but all at once and once a year).

4. Ironwood (Olneya tesota): Evergreen that likes full sun and grows to 25 feet. Lavender flowers in late spring.  

5. Leather Leaf Acacia (Acacia craspedocarpa): Evergreen that likes full or reflective sun and grows to 10 feet. Yellow puffy flowers spring into summer.

6. Live Oak (Quercus virginiana): Evergreen that likes full sun and grows to 40 feet. Subtle green flowers in the spring.

7. Red Cap Gum (Eucalyptus erythrocorys): Evergreen that likes full sun and grows to 25 feet. Red berries that blossom yellow in the summer.

8. Willow Acacia (Acacia salicina): Evergreen that likes full sun and grows to 30 feet. Puffy cream-color flowers in the spring.

9. Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora): Shrubby evergreen that likes full sun and grows to 8 feet. Clusters of purple flowers in the spring.

10. Silk Floss Tree (Chorisia speciosa): Evergreen that likes full sun and grows to 30 feet. Pink to red flowers in the fall then loses its leaves.

There are many more drought-tolerant trees, pool friendly or otherwise. Ask for help at your local nursery. Here are a few dos and don'ts before you buy and plant a tree.

Live Oak       Leather Leaf Acacia       Ironwood

Live Oak              Leather Leaf Acacia         Ironwood

  • Do know how tall and how wide a tree will grow when mature. Fitting the right size tree in the right space keeps trimming to a minimum.
  • Do ask your nursery expert if the tree will be healthier in the turf or arid area of your yard.
  • Don’t buy a tree in less than a 15-gallon container.
  • Don’t plant a tree too deeply.  This is a common reason why trees fail to thrive. Allow the bell-shaped roots to protrude out of the ground.
  • Don’t mix mulch with the desert soil. The soil gets hot, burns the mulch and leaves gaps around the roots. Put the mulch on top of the soil around the base of a tree.
  • Do move your watering lines as a tree grows. Watering at the edge of the canopy helps the roots expand and keeps a tree solidly in the ground during the harshest winds.

Perhaps it’s time to make a contribution to your city’s urban forest. You’ll find more information about how to select, install and successfully grow trees (as well as shrubs, vines and groundcover, grasses, cactus and succulents) at

For 46 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit

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