BY Mary Beth Simmons

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, Arbor Day in Texas is the first Friday in November. Fall is the best time to plant trees. According to Paul Johnson, with the Texas Forestry Service, if you plant a tree in the Spring and then plant the same size tree the following Autumn, the second tree will outgrow the first within a few short years.

Here is a look at some shade trees that perform well in the Rio Grande Valley:

1. Live Oak Trees are slow growing but will live for hundreds of years. Although they are considered a Valley native, they are a relative new-comer to home landscapes. Forty years ago, you rarely saw this tree south of the ranch country. It has a spreading canopy, sometimes growing to 50 or 60 feet wide after a few decades.

2. Cedar Elm is a deciduous native tree. Deciduous means that a tree loses its leaves in the winter. It’s small, serrated leaves sometimes turn a golden-yellow before dropping. The canopy is taller than it is wide and this tree’s scale fits a small yard nicely.

3. Montezuma Bald Cypress grow naturally along our resacas. It has a moderate rate of growth but from my experience, heavy clay soils do not seem to hinder its growth. Expect a mature bald cypress to be 50 feet tall and about 30 feet wide. It will have a pyramidal shape, like a Christmas tree. Bald Cypress tolerate boggy areas but are drought tolerant once established.

4. Wild Olive or Anacahuita is a small ornamental native tree. It has large leaves and produces large showy white flowers, blooming continually almost year long. Mature height is 12-15 feet with a spreading canopy. Its gnarly trunk adds interest to the landscape. Take care not to plant this tree close to driveways or sidewalks. The fruit becomes messy over paved areas. Wild Olives don’t do well in moisture saturated soils, preferring to dry out between irrigations.

5. Texas Persimmons or Chapote is another native that is a great addition to a small yard. Mature height will be 30 feet with a spreading canopy. Its smooth trunk is especially attractive. This slow to moderate grower is drought tolerant after established.

6. Ashe Trees are fast growing, deciduous, and have a medium green leaf. Look for a seedless variety, such as a Fan-Tex Ash. According to Valley Proud, their life expectancy is only 30-40 years. They are included in this list because they are an extremely common landscape tree and an inexpensive one to purchase.

For more information on these and many more trees, go to or Both Valley Proud and Native Plant Project have detailed tree guides.