10 USDA Zone 13 Trees (Fruit, Shade & Fast-Growing)

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » USDA Zone 13 » 10 USDA Zone 13 Trees (Fruit, Shade & Fast-Growing)

One of the sparsest growing zones in the US, USDA hardiness zone 13 is a climate zone only found in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

It encompasses the hottest regions in all of the US territories and appears in small pockets of the Hawaiian islands and coastal areas of PR.

As a result, choosing a wide variety of trees to suit the broiling zone 13 climate can be more complicated than it would be in cooler regions.

Fortunately, there are a range of beautiful, practical, and exotic zone 13 trees to choose from.

10 Trees that Grow Well in Zone 13

1. Coconut Palm (Cocos nusifera)

Coconut palm Trees
Image by Phillip McErlean via Flickr

A symbol of tropical exoticism that is one of the most useful and iconic palm trees in the world, the Coconut Palm is one of the first trees that gardeners in zone 13 should consider planting. With its instantly recognizable tall, slim trunk and crown of long feathery palmate leaves, it will make a graceful and iconic addition to your property.

Aside from its exotic beachy look, the most sought-after feature of the Coconut Palm is its coconuts! The fruits, or drupes of this palm are used around the world as an important food source. Coconut milk, meat, water, and oil are all highly useful with a long list of practical and health applications.

Native to the eastern Pacific, it should grow in most hot, tropical, coastal destinations. A humid and frost-free climate is essential for successful growth. Plant in full sun and fertile, moist, and well-draining soil.

Growing Zones: 10-13

Average Size at Maturity: 50-100 feet tall, with a 20-40 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Throughout the year

2. Custard Apple Tree (Annona reticulata)

Custard Apple Tree with Fruit on it
Image by Joegoauk Goa via Flickr

A small semi-evergreen fruit tree that grows throughout Central and South America, the Custard Apple tree is well worth considering for your zone 13 edible garden. It produces spherical and heart-shaped fruits in summer, and when ripe its flesh is soft, rich, and sweet. It can be used in desserts, sweets, beverages, and even ice cream.

This tree is native to Puerto Rico and is a somewhat common household crop there. The tree itself will be evergreen in zone 13, and its slender bright green leaves and upright spreading habit make it a pleasant ornamental specimen.

It also blooms with yellowish-green spring flowers, though they are fairly inconspicuous. Refrain from growing it as a houseplant – bright direct sun and plenty of space are best for this tree.

Plant the Custard Apple tree in full sun and rich, moist, well-draining soil. The most important thing is to ensure its planting location is frost-free, though this shouldn’t be an issue in the zone 13 climate.

Other Common Names: Wild Sweetsop, Sugar Apple, Bullock’s Heart, Netted Custard Apple

Growing Zones: 10-13

Average Size at Maturity: 20-35 feet tall, with a 15-30 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Summer

3. Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia)

Royal Poinciana, Flame Tree, Flamboyant (Delonix regia) Flowers and Tree
Image by Fern Berg, Own Work, for Tree Vitalize

Though it is native to Madagascar, the Royal Poinciana (also known as ‘flamboyan’) is one of the most beloved flowering trees in Puerto Rico.

It is a true treasure because of its blazing color, with the tree lighting up in summer with an incredible and dense display of scarlet flowers. It may be the most beautiful tree in PR, many areas of which fall under zone 13.

But the red flowering Royal Poinciana is beautiful even beyond its flower display. It has a broad, spreading habit and a flat-topped crown, with vibrant green and feathery pinnate foliage. It is often broader than it is tall, which adds an interesting element to its surroundings. It can be planted as a specimen, shade tree, or street tree.

This tree needs a consistently warm and frost-free climate and will grow best in humid tropical and subtropical locations. Plant in full sun and well-draining soil, otherwise it is quite adaptable to varying soil types and pH levels.

Other Common Names: Flamboyan, Peacock Flower, Poinciana, Flame Tree, Flametree

Growing Zones: 10-13

Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 feet tall, with a 40-70 foot spread

Flowering Season: Late Spring to Early Summer

4. Maga (Thespesia grandiflora)

Maga tree in bloom
Image by Wendy Cutler via Flickr

Who wouldn’t want the spectacular national flower of Puerto Rico growing in their backyard? In zone 13 the Maga tree is one of the best ornamental specimens you can choose, with its beautifully-shaped intense pink and red blooms.

These flowers look very similar to the hibiscus in both appearance and color. They also contrast beautifully with the tree’s smooth, heart-shaped green leaves.

The Maga tree can be found growing all over Puerto Rico, particularly in the north and west. For a long time, it was planted as a timber crop because of its durable hardwood and pest resistance. Today it is more common as an ornamental in public and domestic landscaping.

This humidity-loving tree should be planted in warm, tropical regions. It can grow in both full sun and dappled shade and moist, well-draining soil. It will also grow in a wide range of pH levels according to the University of Hawaii Extension.

Other Common Names: Puerto Rican Hibiscus, Maga Colorado, Flor de Maga

Growing Zones: 10-13

Average Size at Maturity: 50 feet tall, with a 20-foot spread

Flowering Season: Summer

5. Pond Apple (Annona glabra)

Pond Apple growing on a tree
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

A relative of the Custard apple, the Pond apple is a tropical fruit tree native to Central and South America and the Caribbean (as well as Florida!). It is a small tree with a rounded crown and spreading habit, as well as lustrous dark green leaves. It also produces small pale yellow summer flowers that are mostly inconspicuous.

Pond apple fruits are spherical and green, with completely smooth skin. Another significant difference between the Pond apple and the Custard apple is its flesh, which is yellow and orange when ripe instead of white. Its taste is often compared to honeydew melons, and it is used to make fruit juice as well as jams and preserves.

The Pond apple tree can be invasive in some countries in lower temperatures, but this should not be an issue in zone 13. It grows best in full sun and wet to moist soil, and can even tolerate standing water. In ornamental landscaping, it is best used as an accent tree.

Other Common Names: Alligator Apple, Swamp Apple, Monkey Apple, Corkwood, Bobwood

Growing Zones: 11-13

Average Size at Maturity: 15-30 feet tall, with a 15-20 foot spread

Flowering Season: Mid Spring to Early Summer

6. Puerto Rican Hat Palm (Sabal causiarum)

Add some backyard beauty and treat your local ecosystem with the Puerto Rican Hat Palm, a slow-growing native of Puerto Rico. Its trunk is very stout, almost bulging, and its fronds are large, with stems that can reach up to 15 feet high and enormous fan-shaped palmate leaves. Overall, it is a handsome and very impressive specimen.

In spring and summer, these palm trees produce large inflorescences smothered in creamy white flowers. All things considered, it is an excellent palm for any garden, being highly heat and drought-tolerant, long-lived, and typically easy to care for.

While the Puerto Rican Hat Palm does need to be planted in a consistently warm and frost-free climate, it is not fussy about soil types. It will grow in a wide range of different soil types, and the only significant requirement is good drainage.

Other Common Names: Puerto Rico Palmetto

Growing Zones: 10-13

Average Size at Maturity: 50 feet tall, with a 15-20 foot spread

Flowering Season: Late Spring to Early Summer

7. Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Image by Joan Simon via Flickr

A broadleaf evergreen fruit tree native to Micronesia, the Breadfruit tree has since been naturalized all around the world in warm and humid regions from Southeast Asia to South America and Africa. It is best known for its fruits, which have become a staple food in many cultures over the centuries.

The Breadfruit tree is a tropical and subtropical specimen from the mulberry family, with a dense, spreading crown and leathery dark green leaves. The fruits of the tree are large, green, and round with pale flesh.

When cooked they have a potato-like flavor, according to the Oregon State University Extension, and a texture similar to fresh bread. They should not be eaten raw as it can cause nausea.

While most often planted as a food crop, the Breadfruit tree can also be planted as an ornamental specimen, as well as an effective shade tree.

Growing Zones: 10-13

Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 feet tall, with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Sporadic production year-round (consistent in the Pacific)

8. Ausubo (Manilkara bidentata)

A highly valuable and commercially important tree in Puerto Rico, this native forest evergreen was once the most important timber tree in Puerto Rico, according to the USDA govt site. It is most often found growing on alluvial plains and coastal forests.

The Ausubo is a large tree with a dense crown and horizontally growing branches. It is slow-growing and can also be planted as a shade tree. Commercially its strong, attractive wood makes it an excellent form of timber, and it produces a milky latex that can be used to make high-quality rubber. It also produces globular berries that are edible and comparable to sapodilla.

This tree grows best in moist subtropical climates, and has no frost tolerance so should be planted in a hot environment. It is otherwise not picky about growing conditions but prefers moist, well-draining soil. It is highly shade-tolerant and relatively wind-tolerant.

Other Common Names: Balata, Bulletwood, Quinilla, Cow-Tree

Growing Zones: 12-13

Average Size at Maturity: 80-100 feet tall

Flowering Season: Late Spring to Summer

9. West Indian Walnut (Juglans jamaicensis)

One of Puerto Rico’s endemic nut trees is the West Indian Walnut, part of the Juglandaceae family. It is a large tree with lance-shaped leaves and produces edible walnuts that are rich in healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Its timber is very attractive and can be used in much the same way as its northern cousin, the black walnut.

These trees are very rare in the wild, with only a handful existing in Puerto Rico. They are threatened by habitat loss and listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of the United States. Cultivation is possible, with local farms beginning to cultivate the trees on a wider scale, and are well worth attempting to cultivate if you are able to find a seller.

Other Common Names: Nogal, Palo de Nuez

Growing Zones: 12-13

Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 feet tall

10. Ceiba (Ceiba pentandra)

Ceiba Tree
Image by musimpanas via Flickr

The national emblem of Puerto Rico, the Ceiba is a native of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The Ceiba is a large tree, with a broad spreading habit, flattened crown, and enormous trunk.

It is considered one of the largest trees in the world, so gardeners should carefully consider where they plant it. The Ceiba is best suited to very large open landscapes and is mostly grown on commercial properties.

It is also grown commercially for its fruits, or seed pods, as they contain buoyant cotton-like fibers. These fibers have many uses, particularly to line life preservers and stuff mattresses and pillows, or otherwise to be used for insulation.

The Ceiba is a fast-growing tree that experiences few pest and disease problems. Plant it in full sun and moist, well-draining soil and use it as a large shade tree.

Other Common Names: Kapok, Silk-Cotton Tree

Growing Zones: 10-13

Average Size at Maturity: 75-125 feet tall, with a 35-75 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Heat-resistant Trees for a Tropical Climate

With the hottest temperatures in all of the US territories, it isn’t always easy to choose trees for zone 13. Planting the most heat-resistant tropical and subtropical species will make it easier to develop a thriving and beautiful garden.

Being tactical with shade, mitigating potential pests and diseases, and amending your soil are just a few of the many ways you can give your trees the best chance to flourish in a difficult environment.

Tree options for Zone 13 may be vastly different from most of the US but with careful tree selection and ongoing care, you’ll have a vibrant landscape in no time.

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Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

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