9 Arizona Evergreen Trees to Grow (Trees That Don’t Shed)

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Written By Thomas Pitto

Propagation Expert & Permaculture Enthusiast

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Home » Arizona » 9 Arizona Evergreen Trees to Grow (Trees That Don’t Shed)

The Arizona landscape is most commonly thought of as all being a low-lying desert covered in emblematic Saguaro cactus and hardy shrubs.

However, more than half the state is at an elevation above 4000 ft and, according to Britannica, AZ harbors the largest stand of Ponderosa Pine trees in the world.

The USDA growing zones of AZ extend from 4b to 10b, meaning that gardeners in the state have a wealth of different trees to choose from when deciding what evergreens to plant in their yard.

10 Evergreen Trees To Grow In Arizona

1. Mulga (Acacia aneura)

Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

Mulga is a medium-sized evergreen tree with a high and wide upright branching structure with silvery/grey foliage. Mulga is the most common acacia found in Australia and grows in interior areas where annual rainfall averages between 4-20” annually.

In its native range, it is usually found in acidic sands or sandy loams that are low in available nitrogen and phosphorus.

It’s perfectly adapted to life in the desert; its needle-like leaves (phyllodes) point upwards to catch morning and evening sun whilst avoiding the scorching afternoon sun. Whilst usually evergreen, during extended and extreme drought Mulga might shed its leaves to retain moisture.

Bright yellow flowers appear from mid to late summer. Mulga is adapted to the heat, sun, aridity, and periods of summer drought of AZ and tolerates cold down to 20 Fahrenheit.

It has become a popular species in desert-style gardens and maintains a good aspect with little maintenance or summer irrigation needed.

Other Common Names: Tree Mulga

Growing Zones: 8-11

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: Mid-to-late summer

2. Mastic Tree (Pistacia lentiscus)

Mastic Tree (Pistacia lentiscus)
Image by liesvanrompaey via Flickr

The Mastic is a slow-growing, evergreen broadleaf, growing into a small tree or large shrub. It does well in poor soils in hot dry conditions and works well as a screen for pools or any other areas in the landscape you want to be blocked out. Small red berries ripen when black.

The mastic tree is the source of mastic which is an aromatic resin that can be chewed as a tooth cleaner and breath freshener. It’s a clean tree that can be shaped into topiary easily and blooms in the spring.

Other Common Names: Turpentine Tree, Terebinth

Growing Zones: 9-11

Average Size at Maturity: 15-25 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

3. African Sumac (Rhus Lancea)

African Sumac
Image by Bri Weldon via Flickr

The African Sumac is a small-to-medium-sized evergreen tree with a wide and rounded, spreading canopy of weeping foliage. Either single or multi-stemmed, it’ll produce an abundance of spirally arranged lanceolate leaves 4” long in clusters of 3.

The foliage has a dark olive, smooth appearance above is slightly paler on the underside, and are fragrant when crushed.

Greenish/yellow flowers are borne in thick clusters on branch ends and give way to edible green berries that ripen to brown on female plants. The ripe berries are consumed by different species of birds. Older trees often have twisted dark brown bark that becomes irregularly fissured over time.

The African Sumac is tolerant of heat, aridity, poor soils, and salt. It works well in desert gardens and can be used as a shade tree.

Other Common Names: Karee, Karree, African Rhus

Growing Zones: 9-11

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

4. Indian Laurel Fig (Ficus nitida)

Laurel Fig
Image by Desert Trees via Flickr

The Indian laurel is a fast-growing evergreen that handles desert conditions spectacularly. This native of Asia and Hawaii is a medium-sized tree that can be trained into almost any size.

The foliage is glossy, dense, and has a rounded shape that points at its extremity. It provides a lush, tropical feeling, whether you use it for a shade tree or planted in groups as a privacy hedge.

Indian Laurels are fast-growing and drought tolerant once established and their dense character makes them suitable as a sound barrier for urban environments, as they also tolerate pollution well. The bark is a light/medium gray, and will no doubt stand out against the other hues of the desert landscape.

Other Common Names: Ficus Indian Laurel, Chinese Banyan

Growing Zones: 9-10

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: Inconspicuous flowers in spring

5. Carob (Ceratonia siliqua)

Image by he48 via Flickr

The Carob tree is native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It’s an evergreen tree with a broad, hemispherical crown and sturdy branches, a deep taproot, and lateral roots.

The leaves are alternate, pinnate, with or without terminal leaflets. It’s been cultivated in the Mediterranean for its edible seed pods that taste similar to chocolate.

The carob tree is well adapted to summer drought, poor calcareous soils, and temperatures between 20 – 122 Fahrenheit (-6 to 50 ° c) It also fixes nitrogen in the landscape.

Carob trees are mostly dioecious, having male and female trees. Females are most commonly cultivated for their edible pods that measure up to 6” long, although named, bisexual varieties are available at some nurseries.

Carobs are ‘limbed up,’ for use as ornamentals to expose their sculpted trunks. Left to their own devices, they’ll be more suited as dense hedges or screens.

Other Common Names: Locust Bean, St John’s Bread

Growing Zones: 9-11

Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 ft tall and 30-40 ft wide

Flowering Season: Summer

6. Italian Cypress (Cupressus Sempervirens)

Cupressus sempervirens 'Nitschke's Needles'
Images by Fern Berg, Own Work, for Tree Vitalize

The tall and stately Italian Cypress is impossible to miss in the landscape, as it provides a strong vertical accent, pointing to the stars. It’s popular in driveways and entrance ways throughout the world, and AZ is no different.

Its form can easily offset harsh building lines, and planted in rows, the Italian cypress provides an imposing windbreak or screen.

The wood of this popular Cypress tree is highly aromatic and creates a lovely aroma, as does the foliage when crushed. The Italian cypress is drought tolerant once established and will grow in full sun or partial shade, in almost any well-drained soil.

The upright columnar shape of this evergreen, coupled with the fact that it doesn’t spread very wide adds its many applications in the landscape and explains its widespread popularity.

Other Common Names: Mediterranean Cypress, Tuscan Cypress

Growing Zones: 8-10

Average Size at Maturity: 30-80 ft tall and 5-8 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

7. Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)

Laurel Cherry
Image by Leonora (Ellie) Enking via Flickr

The Cherry Laurel is an evergreen shrub or small tree that makes a fantastic privacy screen. Whilst primarily grown for its evergreen foliage, it also produces small and fragrant, cream/white flowers, blooming in late winter to spring that attract butterflies, bees as well as other pollinators. These are followed by red berries that attract many species of birds.

Cherry Laurel can be trained into any shape, giving them a wide variety of uses in the landscape. They can be grown in full sun to total shade. They’ll perform best with some shade in the harshest desert areas of AZ whilst will benefit from full sun in cooler, upland parts of the state.

Other Common Names: Common Laurel, English Laurel, Carolina Cherry Laurel

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 20-25 ft tall and 20-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

8. Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica)

Neem Tree
Image by Wendy Cutler via Flickr

Neem trees are natives of hot and arid areas of the Indian subcontinent and should thrive with little to no care in the frost-free parts of the deserts in AZ. Neem has a long history of cultivation and all parts of it are useful for a wide range of medicinal and cosmetic purposes.

Neem trees are problem-free evergreens; one of whose myriad uses is to repel pests. However, they won’t repel beneficial insects and pollinators from your yard, and the profusion of white/yellow flowers adds floral interest in spring, before turning to a vibrant yellow fruit. The flowers and fruit should prove irresistible to many local insects and birds.

Other Common Names: Nim Tree, Indian Lilac

Growing Zones: 9-11

Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 ft tall and 10-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

9. Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana)

Live Oak (Quercus Virginiana)
Image by Homer Edward Price via Flickr

The Live Oak is a large evergreen shade tree suited to the harsh and arid conditions of AZ. Whilst oaks are renowned for their slow growth, the Live Oak is a medium-fast-growing species, and is drought tolerant once established. It will also tolerate more soil moisture than other species suited to desert environments.

The adaptability of the Live Oak means it can grow almost anywhere, provided there’s enough space for its imposing width. The foliage is large and dense and cast a deep and welcome shade underneath its wide canopy.

Other Common Names: Southern Live Oak

Growing Zones: 7-10

Average Size at Maturity: 40-80 ft tall and 60-100 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Expert Recommendation

The Mugla tree’s dense evergreen canopy of grey-green foliage provides a stunning background or landscape foundation. Lemon-yellow flower rods beautifully compliment the silvery foliage in spring, after summer rains, and sporadically throughout the warm season. With its low-litter production, this is the perfect poolside, patio tree!

– Desert Horizon Nursery: 19250 S. Ellsworth Rd, Queen Creek, Arizona 85142

Greening The Desert

Arizona’s climate gives the gardener many options to grow evergreen trees of wildly different characteristics.

Whether you’re in the cooler uplands on the unforgiving low-lying deserts, there are plenty of evergreen trees you can plant in your backyard and reap the benefits of yearlong verdure from your home.

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Thomas Pitto

Propagation Expert & Permaculture Enthusiast

Thomas worked for a number of years as the head of plant propagation for a horticultural contractor taking care of many different species of ornamental trees & shrubs. He learned how to propagate certain endangered endemic species and has a love of permaculture, sustainability and conscious living. When Thomas isn't hiking in nature he can be found playing music, reading a book, or eating fruit under a tree.

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