Picking trees and shrubs for dry locations

Crepe myrtles love hot dry weather and are available in a wide variety of heights and widths, many times depending on pruning.

Oklahoma summers can be hot and dry. As homeowners begin to water, they will find certain sites in the yard harder to keep watered than others. So why not plant different landscaped plants in those sites that will survive under dryer conditions?

Below is a list of trees and shrubs that do well in hot, dry conditions. In fact, one of the ways a gardener can hurt these plants is to over-water them once they are established. Don’t completely abandon watering, however, even these drought tolerant plants may need some water in extremely dry times. They will also need regular watering the first year after transplanting. A complete list can be obtain from the local OSU Extension office.


Arizona Cypress – An evergreen cypress with green, gray-green or silver-gray-green color, depending on the cultivar. This is a rapidly growing tree that will attain a height of 30-40 feet and a width of 15-25 feet.

Caddo Sugar Maple – A natural growing maple tree that can be found in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. It grows to a height of 50-60 feet and 20-30 feet wide. One of the most attractive trees with bright fall colors.

Goldenrain Tree — A deciduous tree that grows at a moderate pace to a height of 25-30 feet and a spread of 15-20 feet. Dark-green leaves, bright-yellow blooms and large, papery seed capsules make this tree a real eye-catcher in the summer.

Eastern Red Cedar – An evergreen tree native to Oklahoma and Texas. It grows at a moderate rate to a height of 40-50 feet and a width of 25-35 feet. Seek out improved varieties.

Osage Orange — A rapidly growing deciduous tree with dark-green, glossy leaves. This tree will reach 40-60 feet in height with 20-40 feet spread. A new selection, ‘Whiteshield’, is both fruitless and thornless.

Pinyon Pine – A slow growing, evergreen, dense, dark-green to blue-green colored pine that will be 20-30 feet tall and 15-20 feet wide at maturity.

Bur Oak – A slow growing, dark green, glossy leaf, deciduous oak that becomes quite large with age. It can gain a height of 60-80 feet and be 40 to 70 feet across. This oak needs supplemental watering when young.

Western Soapberry – This is a medium-sized, deciduous tree that grows at a moderate rate to a mature size of 30-40 feet tall and 25-35 feet wide. The leaves are pecan-like, medium-green in the summer, turning bright-yellow in the fall.

This list of shrubs that do well on dry sites is larger than the list of trees because it includes cactus and succulents.


Crepe Myrtle – This shrub or small tree loves hot dry weather. It is available in a wide variety of heights and widths, many times depending on pruning. Flower colors varies with variety

Yaupon Holly – This tough, evergreen holly is fast growing and can reach 25 feet in height and 10-12 feet wide.

Vitex or Chaste Tree – A large 9-15 feet tall by 10-15 feet wide deciduous shrub or small tree with medium-green leaves and bluish-purple flowers in June through September.

Juniper – Selections from this large group of evergreen shrubs vary from 4 inches to 25 feet in height. Most junipers have a spread of 4-6 feet. The foliage color varies from shades of green to gray-blue.

Nandina – These are upright, evergreen shrubs with green, summer foliage that turn bright red in the winter. Standard nandina cultivars are 4-6 feet tall, while a shorter group of cultivars tops out closer to 30 inches in height. ‘Nana’ is a dwarf cultivar that grows to 18 inches high and wide.

Sumac – This group of plants is close kin of the native sumac of Oklahoma, but have far better ornamental characteristics. Ornamental sumacs have been selected for their fragrance, colorful berries and brighter, red-orange fall color.

Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly column for The Lawton Constitution.

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