What Trees Are Drought-tolerant in Washington State?

What trees are drought-tolerant in Washington state
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As Washington summers grow increasingly arid, the quest for a lush, water-wise garden becomes paramount. The solution? Drought-tolerant trees that promise beauty and resilience while conserving our vital water resources. Whether you’re a seasoned arborist or a green-thumbed novice, this guide will help you navigate the verdant array of drought-resistant options suited to the Washington climate.

Understanding Drought Tolerance

At the heart of a drought-tolerant tree lies its remarkable ability to thrive with minimal water. These resilient species possess adaptations—deep root systems, water-retentive leaves, and efficient photosynthesis mechanisms—that enable them to withstand dry spells and flourish.

Native Champions

Washington’s native flora boasts a diverse range of hardy and adaptable plants. Let’s explore each species in more detail:

Pacific Madrone

  • Unique and striking coppery-orange bark, providing visual interest throughout the seasons.
  • Adaptable to various soil types, including rocky or dry areas, making it a versatile choice for gardeners.
  • Evergreen foliage, offering year-round greenery and a natural privacy screen.
  • Attractive to pollinators, drawing bees and butterflies to your garden.

Garry Oak

  • Ideal for expansive landscapes and open spaces, providing ample shade.
  • Well-suited to dry summers and drought-tolerant conditions, requiring minimal watering.
  • Supports local wildlife, serving as a habitat and food source for birds, squirrels, and other animals.
  • Ornamental value, with its beautiful lobed leaves and distinctive acorn clusters.

Douglas Fir

  • An iconic evergreen of the Pacific Northwest, symbolizing strength and resilience.
  • Adaptable to diverse moisture levels, thriving in both well-drained and moist soils.
  • Provides a habitat for wildlife, including birds, squirrels, and other small mammals.
  • Highly valued for its timber and use in construction and landscaping.

Western Red Cedar

  • Majestic and stately evergreen, adding elegance and sophistication to any landscape.
  • Thrives in partial shade, tolerating dry summer conditions with grace.
  • Known for its durability and resistance to decay, making it ideal for outdoor structures and decks.
  • Pleasant aromatic foliage releases a refreshing scent when crushed or brushed against.

Oregon White Oak

  • Medium-sized native oak, offering cooling shade and a canopy of green leaves.
  • Adaptable to various soil types and moisture levels, but prefers well-drained soils.
  • Produces acorns, which are a valuable food source for wildlife.
  • Stunning autumn foliage, with leaves turning vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red.

Fruitful Friends

For those yearning for both beauty and bounty, a careful selection of trees can transform your landscape into a harmonious blend of aesthetics and practicality.

Cornelian Cherry

  • This early bloomer is a sight to behold in the spring, boasting a profusion of tiny yellow flowers that illuminate the landscape.
  • As the seasons change, these flowers give way to clusters of edible red fruits, rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.
  • The Cornelian Cherry tree is not only visually appealing but also a valuable addition to your edible garden.

Desert Almond

  • The Desert Almond tree is a testament to the beauty of resilience.
  • In early spring, it bursts into bloom, covering itself in fragrant pink blossoms, a welcome herald of the changing seasons.
  • Once the flowers fade, the tree dons drought-resistant foliage, showcasing its ability to thrive in arid conditions.
  • With its delicate blooms and sturdy nature, the Desert Almond tree adds a touch of both grace and resilience to your landscape.


  • The Persimmon tree is a true testament to the bounty of nature.
  • Known for its delicious fall fruits, the Persimmon tree is a favorite among fruit enthusiasts.
  • The fruits, when fully ripe, turn a vibrant orange color and develop a unique sweet and slightly astringent flavor.
  • The Persimmon tree is not only a source of tasty fruits but also a symbol of resilience, enduring drought conditions, and harsh winters with grace.

Colorful Contenders

Add a splash of color to your drought-tolerant garden:

  • Amur Maple (Acer ginnala): Adaptable and vibrant, this tree dazzles with its autumnal display.
  • Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida): Celebrated for its spring spectacle, this smaller tree flourishes in well-drained conditions.
  • Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia): A beacon of summer color, the Crepe Myrtle thrives through dry seasons.
  • Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus): Unique seed pods and tolerance to varying moisture levels make this tree a standout choice.

Choosing the Right Tree

Selecting the ideal drought-tolerant tree involves more than just picking a species. Here are some key factors to consider and actions to take:

Match Tree to Site

  • Assess your garden’s space, light conditions, and soil type. Some trees thrive in full sun, while others prefer partial shade. Soil drainage is also crucial, as drought-tolerant trees don’t like soggy roots.

Seek Expert Advice

  • Local nurseries or arborists can provide personalized recommendations based on your specific garden conditions. They can also suggest drought-tolerant tree species that are well-suited to your region’s climate.

Proper Planting & Care

  • Proper planting is essential for a strong start. Dig a hole that’s twice as wide as the root ball and the same depth. Place the tree in the hole, backfill it with soil, and tamp it down gently. Water thoroughly and regularly for the first few weeks or months, especially during dry spells.

Mulching Magic

  • Mulching around the base of your tree is a simple yet effective way to conserve moisture, enrich the soil, and ward off weeds. A layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or compost, will help your tree thrive.

Additional Considerations

  • Root depth: Some trees have deep roots that can access groundwater during droughts, while others have shallow roots that need more frequent watering.
  • Size: Consider the mature size of the tree when making your selection. You don’t want a tree that will outgrow your space.
  • Aesthetics: Choose a tree that complements your garden’s overall aesthetic. Drought-tolerant trees come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

With careful planning and proper care, you can select and grow a beautiful and resilient drought-tolerant tree that will thrive in your garden for years to come.

For those ready to embark on their water-wise gardening journey, Nasim Landscaping’s expertise in drought-resistant gardens offers a wealth of knowledge and services to transform your outdoor space into a thriving, sustainable haven.

Transform your garden into a drought-resistant paradise with the right tree choices. With Nasim Landscaping, discover how easy it is to cultivate a lush, water-wise landscape that contributes to a greener, more resilient Washington.


Embracing drought-tolerant trees is a step towards a sustainable, vibrant garden in Washington. These resilient species not only withstand the challenges of a changing climate but also enhance the ecological balance, supporting local wildlife and reducing water use.

Ryan Seeberger

Ryan Seeberger

At Nasim Landscape, Senior Analyst Ryan Seeberger harnesses the power of data to foster sustainable and aesthetically pleasing environments. His blog serves as a resource for those looking to blend functionality with ecology.