9 Evergreen Trees to Grow in California (Northern/Southern)

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Written By Thomas Pitto

Propagation Expert & Permaculture Enthusiast

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Home » California » 9 Evergreen Trees to Grow in California (Northern/Southern)

California is a state that’s over 800 miles long and incorporates a diverse range of landscapes including high elevations in the Sierra as well as low-lying deserts.

CA is home to an abundance of both broadleaf and needle-leaf evergreens and incorporates USDA growing Zones 5a to 11a.

No matter where you are in CA, there are plenty of different evergreen trees for you to consider planting in your yard.

9 Evergreen Trees To Grow In CA

1. Olive (Olea europaea) – Northern & Southern CA

Olive tree (Olea europaea)
Image by scott1346 via Flickr

Olives are extremely long-lived trees suited to a Mediterranean climate. The silvery/dark green/grey leaves and gnarled trunks add architectural interest to any garden. If you want to add some Mediterranean flavor to your landscape, then consider planting an olive tree.

They are extremely hardy and are rarely affected by any serious pests or diseases. Olive trees are especially suited to coastal areas and any other hot and dry areas of CA, where the climate mimics that of the Mediterranean.

Olive trees form a dense and attractive canopy that can block out any unwanted noises or sights from your neighbors. Make sure to plant your olive tree in full sun in well-draining soil.

Other Common Names: Olive tree

Growing Zones: 9-11

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

Flowering Season: Late Winter to Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Bay Laurel Tree (Laurus nobilis) – Northern & Southern CA

Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis)
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

The Bay Tree is another Mediterranean native that’s also suitable for many California climates. It’ll grow in the North, Central, and South Coast, Central Valley, the desert as well as the Sierra and Coastal Mountains. Bay trees have naturally compact forms and are often multi-stemmed.

Bay trees have a dense habit so are suited for background plantings, and screens, or can also be trained into specimen trees.

Small yellow flowers appear in the spring. Bay trees are dioecious, with separate male and female trees. If female trees are pollinated, the flowers are followed by small purple/black berries. Bay trees aren’t fussy about soil type but do need well-draining soil.

Whilst bay trees are evergreen, leaf drop may occur If temperatures drop below 20 Fahrenheit.

Other Common Names: Bay Laurel, Sweet Bay, True Laurel, Grecian Laurel

Growing Zones: 7-10

Average Size at Maturity: 10-25 ft tall and 10-25 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

3. Primrose Tree (Lagunaria pattersonii) – Northern & Southern CA

Primrose Tree (Lagunaria pattersonii)
Image by 阿橋 HQ via Flickr

The Primrose tree is a flowering broadleaf evergreen tree, native to Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, parts of coastal Queensland, and parts of northeastern New South Wales in Australia. They have a slender, pyramidal habit and are cultivated as street and park trees in parts of CA.

They grow best in areas where the temperature rarely drops below 45 Fahrenheit but can handle occasional dips to 25 Fahrenheit.

Norfolk Island Hibiscus (Lagunaria patersonia) Tree and Flower Buds
Images by Fern Berg, Own Work, for Tree Vitalize

The Primrose tree produces hibiscus-like flowers that are up to 2” across and are pink to white, with a projecting stamen with golden to orange anthers. The flowers are followed by brown pods containing seeds surrounded by fine hairs that can cause skin irritation in humans.

The foliage of Primrose trees is ovate and leathery, olive-green above and grey-green on the underside. Primrose trees require well-drained soil, a medium amount of moisture, and full sun. They can handle poor soils, as well as salt spray.

Other Common Names: Norfolk Island Hibiscus, Cow Itch Tree, Pyramid Tree

Growing Zones: 9b-11

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

Flowering Season: Summer to fall

4. California Pepper Tree (Schinus molle) – Northern & Southern CA

California Pepper Tree (Schinus molle)
Image by Teresa Grau Ros via Flickr

The California Pepper is a fast-growing shade tree that boasts attractive pendulous branches and an exfoliating trunk. The leaves are compound and pinnate and are composed of fine-textured leathery leaflets. The leaves are aromatic and measure up to 12” long whilst the leaflets can measure 2 ½ inches.

Greenish white flowers appear on the branch ends in late spring. Berries hang in clusters from the tree, maturing in the autumn to a shade of bright red, and can be used as a substitute for peppercorns. Young trees have a gray bark, but as they mature it exfoliates to reveal a red heartwood.

California pepper trees require full sun and well-draining soil. Once established, California Pepper trees require little irrigation and are suitable for xeriscaping.

Other Common Names: American Pepper, Peruvian Pepper Tree, False Pepper Tree, Peruvian Mastic, Escobilla

Growing Zones: 8-11

Average Size at Maturity: 25-40 ft tall and 25-40 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

5. Canyon Live Oak (Quercus chrysolepis) – Northern & Southern CA

Canyon Live Oak tree
Image by Laura Camp via Flickr

The Canyon Live Oak is a large tree native to Baja California to Southwest Oregon. In CA, it’s mainly native to foothills and desert mountains and is the most widespread oak in the state. Canyon Live Oaks have spreading, near-horizontal branches typical of all oak species.

It’s also the most morphologically diverse Oak species, having radically different characteristics depending on where it’s grown. The dark green leaves are ovate, simple, and alternate.

The Canyon Live Oak is deer resistant and attracts squirrels and certain birds. The acorns can be eaten. The Canyon Live Oak will grow best in full sun to partial shade in clay, sand, or loam in very acidic to slightly alkaline soil.

Other Common Names: Canyon Oak, Golden Cup Oak, Maul Oak

Growing Zones: 8-10

Average Size at Maturity: 15-100 ft tall and 40-100 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

5. Sweet Shade (Hymenosporum flavum) – Northern & Southern CA

Native Frangipani, Sweet Shade (Hymenosporum flavum) Tree and Flowers
Images by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

The Sweet Shade is a slender evergreen that’s native to New South Wales in Australia. It has a light grey bark and glossy leaves that form clusters at the branch ends. Fragrant flowers appear from late spring to early summer.

The Sweet Shade tree is perfect for small areas where a compact and upright evergreen tree is needed.

Plant in full sun to partial shade and water deeply and infrequently to avoid weak branching. The Sweet Shade will grow in sand or loam and responds to pruning well so can be maintained in a small and tidy form, should you need to.

Other Common Names: Queensland Frangipani, Native Frangipani

Growing Zones: 9a-11a

Average Size at Maturity: 25-35 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring to Summer

7. Cajeput Tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia) – Southern California

ree (Melaleuca quinquenervia)
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

The Cajeput Tree is a medium to large evergreen with a tall and upright habit. The pale green lanceolate leaves are leathery and 2-3” long with a pointed tip. Creamy white flowers appear in large brush-like clusters at the end of the branches from late summer into the fall.

Cajeput trees will grow in southern California coastal areas just above sea level. It’ll tolerate heat and light frost.

The exfoliating bark is white and forms thick spongy layers that can be peeled off like paper. The Cajeput is native to Coastal Eastern Australia, and is adapted to a diverse range of soil types, including silt, clay, and loam, and will even tolerate seasonal flooding. The Cajeput Tree is fast-growing and is well suited to narrow spaces.

Other Common Names: Paper Bark Tree, Tea Tree, White Tree, White Wood, Cajeput Oil Tree

Growing Zones: 9-11

Average Size at Maturity: 25-40 ft tall and 15-25 ft wide

Flowering Season: Summer to fall

8. Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) – Northern & Southern CA

Camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora)
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

The Camphor Tree is a large evergreen native to China and Japan and has become common in southern areas of the United States as a shade or specimen tree. The stems of young trees are bright green tinted with red, and the bark resembles oak as they age.

The glossy evergreen leaves produce an aroma when crushed. Small flowers appear in the spring and are followed by black drupes.

Camphor has a sprawling form, fragrant bark, and leaves and also provides food for birds and other animals when other native food sources have been exhausted.

Camphor trees have large shallow roots that can easily crack pavements and other infrastructure. Plant in full sun in sandy, fertile moist soil for best results.

Other Common Names: Camphor Laurel

Growing Zones: 9-11

Average Size at Maturity: 50-65 ft tall, 50-60 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

9. Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum) – Northern & Southern CA

Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum)
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

The Sweet Pittosporum is native to warm temperate rainforests and grows well in open habitats as well as shaded areas.

The leaves are a waxy glossy green. Fragrant blossoms appear in late spring to early summer or year-round in warmer areas and are followed by bright orange/yellow seed pods that look like berries.

Sweet Pittosporum is a fast-growing tree with an attractive profile that’s suited to coastal areas in the state of CA. The long lanceolate leaves provide a tropical appearance. Sweet Pittosporum prefers well-drained soil and won’t tolerate compacted soil.

Other Common Names: Victorian Box, Australian Cheesewood, Mock Orange, Victorian Laurel, Native Daphne

Growing Zones: 9-10

Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 ft tall and 30-40 ft wide

Flowering Season: Late spring to early summer

Always Green

Evergreens provide year-round interest through their foliage. The lack of shedding leaves often makes them less messy than their deciduous companions, and consequently gives less work to garden weary homeowners.

The state of CA, with its warm and mostly mild climate, gives homeowners many options when it comes to planting evergreen trees; from temperate species to some tropical and subtropical species that can thrive in coastal areas.

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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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