Landscape design for commercial sites can offer unique challenges as not only does everything have to look good, there are special considerations such as exposures, vehicle traffic and the public’s use of the site that must be taken into account. Tree maintenance for many commercial locations can necessitate particular consideration as trees must often be irrigated, pruned, and cared for in areas of high public traffic and in many cases, in parking lots which adds a whole new dimension of complexity. There are some trees, however, that are strong winners in commercial establishments. The list below will get you started in your thinking.

Shade Trees for Temperate Parts of the U.S.

Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) Slow to moderate growth from 30-60 feet tall with nearly equal spread. Good fall color, foliage turns luminous orange to red (sometimes shades of yellow). This is the only tree to scarlet in the desert. Tolerates a wide range of conditions and is drought tolerant when mature. Reliable tree for street side or parking lot planting. Zones 4-23. Little grown in 4-7.

Pin oak (Quercus palustris) Moderate to fairly rapid growth to 50-80 feet tall, 30-40 feet wide. Wait to remove lower limbs until tree is mature and has formed an open, rounded top. In brisk fall weather, leaves turn yellow, red, and finally russet brown. Less tolerant of dry conditions than most oaks. It is a fine tree for growing in grass. Zones 2-10, 14-24.

Hackberry (Celtis sinensis) Moderate growth to 40 feet tall and nearly as wide. Rounded crown and spreading, sometimes pendulous branches. Leaves to 4 in. long, smoother and glossier than other hackberries. Resistant to oak root fungus. Good street, turf or parking lot tree, as it is deep rooted. Drought tolerant. Zones 8-16, 18-20.

Evergreen Trees for Temperate Parts of the U.S.

Norway Spruce (Picea abies) Fast growth to 100 feet tall, 20 feet wide. Tolerates heat and humidity better than most spruces. Extremely hardy and wind resistant. Valued for windbreaks in many areas. Zones A2,A3; 1-6, 14-17.

Southern Live Oak ( Quercus virginiana) Moderate to fast growth, eventually reaching 40-80 feet tall with a heavy limbed crown spreading twice as wide. Long lived. Best in deep, rich, moist soil. Best oak for lawn planting is low desert. In hot interior climates, it’s the most attractive of all evergreen oaks. Zones 4-24.

Arborvitae (Thuja ‘Green Giant’) Partial shade in hottest climates. Can grow 3-5 feet per year, ultimately reaching 30-50 feet tall, 10-20 feet wide. Although arborvitaes will take both damp and fairly dry soils, they grow best in well drained soil. Shear as a tall hedge or use as a tall screen. Zones A3; 1-9, 14-24.

Commercial Trees for the Southwest Desert & Arid Regions

Palo Verde trees (Parkinsonia aculeate), also (Cercidium floridum) Tough, trouble free desert tree valued for floral display, shade and colorful bark. These trees attract birds. Prune only to enhance form. Lightly filtered shade is cast by intricate canopy of twigs rather than by tiny leaves. Zones 8-14, 18-20.

Mesquite trees (Prosopis spp.) They are among the toughest and most useful of desert trees. They have roots that will travel great distances to find water, however they can also adapt to lawn water. With adequate water can grow to 30 feet with a picturesque, spreading canopy approximately as wide. Little pruning is needed; do the job only to remove broken or dead limbs. Zones 10-13, 18-24.

Palm Trees for Commercial Sites

Fan Palms (Washingtonia spp.). Are best suited to large properties, avenues, parkways. Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia robusta) to 100 feet tall, 10 feet wide; trunk is slightly curved or bent. Head of bright green foliage is more compact; leafstalks are shorter, with a red streak on the undersides. Zones 8-24; H1, H2.

Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) Big, heavy trunked plant to 60 feet tall, with a great many bright green arching fronds that form a crown to 50 feet. Need regular water. Best planted in parks, along wide streets, or in other large spaces; not for small city lots. Zones 8,9, 12-24; H1, H2.

Trees are an essential component of your property’s landscape and often times can require quite an investment. Make sure you are setting yourself up for success with trees capable of withstanding not only your climate, but also the particular nuances offered by your site. While the zone recommendations provided here are guides, there are considerations about the conditions in your specific area that should be taken into account so consultation with an experienced landscape professional is encouraged.

Photo courtesy of Heritage Landscape Services.

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