Specialized Trees for Southeast Texas Area

Texas Specialized Trees

List of Palm Trees Suitable for Gulf Coast or Zone 8 inland Texas

  • Trachycarpus fortunei (Chinese Windmill Palm): trunks to 12′, a choice palm, hardy to 20 degrees.
  • Rhapidophyllum hystrix (Needle Palm): clumps to 3′, has long needles around base of trunk, the most cold-hardy of palms – to 10 degrees!
  • Butia capitata (Pindo Palm): trunks to 10′, good spread, nice bluish-gray foliage. hardy to mid 20’s.
  • Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm): Trunks to 20′, edible fruit, hardy to mid 20’s.
  • Sabal palmetto/Sabal texanis  (Cabbage Palm): trunks to 20′, hardy to lower 20’s.
  • Sabal minor (Blue Swamp Palm): Clumps to 5′, large bluish leaves, excellent for damp/wet areas, native to Texas coastal flood plains. Can only be grown from seed – doesn’t transplant well so don’t collect from the wild, Nurseries do grow and stock this plant, hardy to 20 degrees.
  • Chamaerops humilis (European/Mediterranian Fan Palm): Thickly clumps to 10′, very decorative, hardy to lower 20’s.
  • Washingtonia robusta or W. filifera (Washington Palm), trunks to 40″, gets very large, removing spent leaves often a problem, hardy to lower 20’s. W. filifera is more cold hardy than robusta.  These two species interbreed freely.
  • Serenoa repens (silver form very ornamental):  a clumping, shrubby palm to 4′, needs well drained soil,  hardy to near 20 degrees.   Considered a weed in FL, hard to find in TX.
  •  There are other palms that will survive Texas coastal and South Texas winters.  The Palm Society of South Texas can provide further information on this topic.

An excellent Site for finding further information sources about Palms is “Searching the Internet for Palms”.

For good cold hardiness information on palms,  go to Cold Hardy Palms,  a page with recommended palms for colder climates by Phil Bergman

List of Citrus Trees Suitable for Milder Texas Areas

Citrus can be successfully grown in the Gulf Coast and some inland Texas areas providing you stick to the more cold-hardy varieties recommended below. Growing any other citrus plants will be very risky in our area. These recommendations have been provided by the Galveston County Extension Service. Most citrus that will endure Houston area winters is grafted on trifoliate orange (Poncirus) rootstock. Texas Cooperative Extension publication GC-102, “Home Citrus Production in Galveston County” is an excellent source for information on citrus growing in our Zone 9 area along the Texas coast.

Satsuma Oranges (almost any variety can withstand temps to 25 degrees). Owari. Big Early, Armstrong, and Arnolds are some variety of names found in the local nursery trade. (Risky in Central TX)

Calamondin Orange: (Citrofortunella mitis) – this small tart seedy orange is grown more for ornamental value than for fruit value. This makes a great potted plant with fragrant citrus bloom and ornamental small fruit. These oranges can be squeezed into iced tea to add a great flavor.

Changsha Tangarine is even more cold hardy than Satsuma oranges and can be grown true from seed. Clementine and Fairchild Tangerines are also listed as very cold in cold tolerance.

Kumquat: (Fortunella spp) Nagami and Meiwa are the best varieties. Nagami is very tart fruit, Meiwa very sweet to eat (skin and all).

Orlando Tangelo, a cross between orange and tangerine is listed as good in cold tolerance but would do best in a protected area.

Limequat: this cross between a lime and kumquat can be grown in Zone 9 with good cold tolerance. The fruit can be used for the same purposes one would use a lime.

Meyer Lemon: (not believed to be a true lemon but a cross between lemon and satsuma orange), has fair cold tolerance and would need a very protected area for in-ground growing. Other Lemon varieties are NOT cold tolerant to the Gulf Coast or Central Texas area and need winter protection.

Grapefruit: The only grapefruit variety recommended by citrus experts for the Gulf Coast area is Bloomsweet, a pear-shaped, mild to sweet-tasting fruit.

Most grapefruit and orange varieties: All are not cold tolerant to the Houston or Central Texas area. There may be some exceptions, or a sufficient microenvironment might protect less hardy varieties from the winter cold.

Trees Suitable for Wet Areas

  • Betula nigra (River Birch)
  • Platanus occidentalis (Sycamore)
  • Taxodium distichium and T. Mucronatum (Bald and Montezuma Cypress)
  • Acer rubrum (Red Maple)
  • Quercus aquatica (Water Oak)
  • Carpinus caroliniae (American Hornbeam)
  • Nyssa aquatica (Water Tupelo)
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood)

Trees to Avoid – and why

  • apium sebiferium (Chinese Tallow) – short-lived, rampant reseeding, and messy – fall color is only redeeming feature)
  • Albrizia julibrissin (Mimosa) – very disease prone
  • Prosopis glandulosa (Mesquite) – unruly shape, brittle wood
  • Acer negundo (Box Elder) – only exception may be the variegated cultivar ‘Flamingo” which is highly ornamental. (rampant growth, draws box elder bugs)
  • Salix species (Willows) – rampant root system, rampant grower, short-lived.
  • Acer Saccarinum (Silver Maple) – brittle wood, surface roots
  • Trees not suited to poor draining Beaumont clay – e.g. Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) or Carya species (Hickory) in coastal plain areas.
  • Gingko Biloba (female plants only due to pungent fruits)
  • Fraxinus selutina (Arizona Ash)  – disease-prone, fast grower but short-lived, weak branches
  • Melia azedarach (Chinaberry) –  Prolifically invasive from seeds, harmful to native species.

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