12 Fastest Growing Trees For Hot Desert Climates

Fastest growing desert trees - tree in the middle of hot and dry desert

There are many amazing plants that grow in hot desert climates, but trees may not be the first to come to mind. Trees, however, provide shade, habitat, and beauty to the landscape, and there are actually more options than you may think when it comes to selecting a tree for your desert landscape. 

When selecting trees for a desert landscape, consider the limitations of the land itself.

Drought and heat are the most limiting factors, but trees that are adapted to this sort of environment, such as varieties of mesquite, Palo Verde, eucalyptus, ash, and ironwood trees can thrive in hot, dry climates. 

When selecting a new tree in the harsh desert climate, a fast growth rate will deliver shade and interest the quickest, however, we always recommend checking in with a local arborist to find the perfect tree for your environment!

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What Types Of Trees Grow Well In Hot Deserts?

A joshua tree in front of a desert landscape at sunset

While heat is a major factor in desert-growing tree varieties, the most limiting factor in this environment is actually water.

While the weather is hot, trees cool themselves through a process called transpiration. In this process, much like the way humans sweat, trees lose water through small pores in their leaves. 

Trees can release hundreds of gallons of water this way, and in the desert, the tree can struggle to replace this water due to a lack of precipitation or groundwater. 

Some Adaptations For Desert-Hardy Trees

You may notice that desert-hardy trees often have much smaller, thinner leaves, or thick, leathery leaves.

Both of these adaptations work against drought-like conditions, with smaller leaves losing less water and thicker leaves storing more (kind of like a cactus).

The major types of trees that are adapted to these conditions are members of the pea family, such as palo verde trees and locusts, mesquite trees, and ironwood trees.

There are, however, many other species of tree that will do well in the desert. 

Which Drought-Tolerant Trees Will Grow Fastest In Hot Weather?

Now let’s get specific! While there are many other trees that will grow well in hot weather, an important aspect of planting trees for many gardeners is achieving a mature tree and the shade it brings quickly.

With this in mind, here is a list of the 12 fastest-growing hot-weather trees, and if you’re looking for a full list of trees that grow in the desert, make sure to head on over to our article for a list!

Fastest Growing Trees For Hot & Dry Climates: Complete Growth Chart

Here’s a quick summary chart of the top fast growing hot climate trees! Don’t worry, we’ll give a detailed breakdown below if you want more information on any specific variety.

Fastest Growing Trees For Hot Desert Climates

Desert Gum Eucalyptus6’ per year150 years40’9-11
Chilean Mesquite Tree36” per year200 years50’9-11
California Pepper Tree36” per year50-150 years40’9-11
Shoestring Acacia36” per year50 years30’8-11
Chitalpa Tree36” per year35 years50’6-11
Blue Palo Verde Tree24”-36” per year150 years25’7-10
Desert Willow24”-36” per year40-150 years30’5-9
Honey Locust24” per year120 years80’4-9
Silk Tree24” per year30 years50’9B-11
Arizona Ash13”-24” per year50-150 years40’6-11
Fig Tree12” per year200 years30’6-11
Desert Ironwood12” per year50-150 years30’9-11

1. Desert Ironwood Tree

  • Growth Rate: 12” per year
  • Full Height: 30’
  • Canopy Spread: 15’-30’ 
  • Drought Hardy: Yes
  • Cold Hardy: Up to 25°F
  • Planting Conditions: Plant in full sun in well draining soil. 
  • Lifespan: 50-150 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 9-11

Desert ironwoods are members of the pea family and although they are not the fastest-growing tree on this list, they are quite hardy in both hot and cold weather.

They produce delicate clusters of pinkish-white flowers, creating a beautiful early to late spring display of color. 

In addition to flowers, they produce blue-gray, thick leaves, and edible seed pods which attract all kinds of desert wildlife.

These trees are great shade trees and can be evergreen when watered, but they will shed leaves in periods of extreme drought to conserve water. 

Desert Ironwood is native to the Sonoran Desert in the Southwestern United States, where it was traditionally harvested for firewood and woodworking. 

2. Desert Willow Tree

  • Growth Rate: 24”-36” per year
  • Full Height: 30’
  • Canopy Spread: 30’ 
  • Drought Hardy: Yes
  • Cold Hardy: Yes
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun to partial shade in well-draining soils 
  • Lifespan: 40-150 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9

The desert willow, despite what its name suggests is not a true willow but is named for its resemblance to the original weeping willow with slender leaves and long, low weeping branches. 

The desert willow usually grows with multiple trunks and can be trained as either a tree or shrub depending on how you prune it.

Notably, the desert willow is a great urban tree because its roots will not cause damage when planted close to buildings or near sidewalks.

Probably the best feature of the desert willow is the fragrant pinkish-purple orchid-like flowers that attract wildlife such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinator species.

These blooms last throughout much of the summer months, bringing long-lasting color to the landscape. 

This tree is tolerant of many conditions and is especially drought-hardy, surviving off of rainwater in even the driest of desert climates, although regular watering will enhance its overall appearance. 

For more information on willows of all kinds, check out our article about willows, weeping willows and more!

3. Silk Tree

  • Growth Rate: 24” per year
  • Full Height: 35’-50’
  • Canopy Spread: 40’-55’ 
  • Drought Hardy: Yes
  • Cold Hardy: No
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun in well-draining soil 
  • Lifespan: 30 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 9B-11

The silk tree is named for the thin, silk-like floss that is produced by the large seed pods which can be up to eight inches in length.

This silk was historically used for textiles, and even to stuff pillows. The silk is not the only useful part of the tree though, with bark that comes off in thin strips that were once used to make rope. 

The silk tree is a great shade tree, with a wide-spreading canopy that is sometimes wider even than the tree is tall. Be careful around this tree, as the young branches have sharp spines. 

The trunk of the young tree is green and can often stay that way through maturity or otherwise will turn gray.

The silk tree is also endowed with pink and white clusters of small flowers that bloom late in the season, toward fall and even winter. 

When considering the silk tree, keep in mind that its roots can be shallow, and are prone to lifting sidewalks or becoming tripping hazards or interfering with the mower when planted in the yard. 

4. Arizona Ash Tree

  • Growth Rate: 13”-24” per year
  • Full Height: 40’
  • Canopy Spread: 40’
  • Drought Hardy: Moderate to yes, with a full canopy
  • Cold Hardy: Yes
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun in well-draining soil
  • Lifespan: 50-150 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 6-11

The Arizona ash, otherwise known as the Modesto ash tree, is a deciduous tree that is native to the Southwestern United States woodland areas but can be adaptable to a desert climate if properly cared for. 

This is a less drought-tolerant species and is prone to burning or trunkscald if the canopy is not robust. Because of this, it is recommended that gardeners keep up with regular watering to avoid damage. 

Despite this sensitivity to heat and light, the Arizona ash does require full sun to reach its potential.

Although it is stated to grow up to 40’ in urban conditions, the Arizona ash has actually been found to reach 70’ tall in California’s coastal range.

Being a deciduous tree, the Arizona ash will lose its leaves each fall and winter, but it is not particularly known for fall color – if you’re thinking about growing an ash tree, make sure to check out our article about how long ash trees take to grow!

5. Chitalpa Tree

Whitish-pink blooms of a chitalpa tree
  • Growth Rate: 36” per year
  • Full Height: 30’-50’
  • Canopy Spread: 30’-50’ 
  • Drought Hardy:  No
  • Cold Hardy: Yes
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun to partial shade in well-draining soil, avoid western facing exposure due to danger of trunk scald 
  • Lifespan: 35 years 
  • Hardiness Zone: 6-11

The chitalpa tree is a hybrid of the desert willow, and like its predecessor, features beautiful large, trumpet-shaped flowers. The flowers bloom in late spring and can persist even through early fall. 

This North American native tree is fast-growing but is not the hardiest of species on this list.

The chitalpa tree has a sparse canopy which can leave it prone to trunk scald and issues related to heat when exposed to too much sun. 

It is best planted in full sun to partial shade away from direct western sun exposure. Additionally, this tree may require supplemental watering throughout the dry summer months.

Well-draining soil is a must because of the chitalpa tree’s propensity for developing root rot and powdery mildew.  

6. Desert Gum Eucalyptus

  • Growth Rate: Up to 6’ per year
  • Full Height: 50’
  • Canopy Spread: 50’ 
  • Drought Hardy: Yes
  • Cold Hardy: Moderate
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun in well-draining soil
  • Lifespan: 150 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 9-11

The desert gum eucalyptus is without a doubt the fastest-growing tree on this list, growing as much as six feet per year in the right conditions.

It also features a strong upright shape and wide, full canopy, making the eucalyptus a great shade tree and windbreak in exposed landscapes. 

Native to Australia, this tree has rough, blue-gray bark and small ovate leaves and blooms in small clusters of whitish flowers, but is not particularly showy. 

Once a very popular landscape tree, the desert gum eucalyptus has fallen somewhat out of fashion, largely due to the fact that it is a messy tree, creating significant leaf, flower, and seed litter. 

7. Honey Locust

  • Growth Rate: 24” per year
  • Full Height: 70’-80’
  • Canopy Spread: 20’-40’
  • Drought Hardy: Moderate
  • Cold Hardy: Yes
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun, adaptable to most soils except particularly heavy soils 
  • Lifespan: 120 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9

The honey locust tree is sometimes described as having a delicate shape, with thin, spreading branches and delicate compound leaves.

In keeping with its shape, the honey locust is a bit more particular about its environment, prone to suffering from issues of heat, humidity, and poor soil. 

This tree does have thorns, so be careful when performing routine maintenance.

The honey locust puts out long seed pods that attract birds and other wildlife but can be messy as they fall to the ground. 

The honey locust is actually part of the legume family and is a nitrogen-fixer, so is a good choice in poor soils, where it will actually replenish much-needed nutrients as it grows. 

8. Fig Tree

  • Growth Rate: 12” per year
  • Full Height: 30’
  • Canopy Spread: 30’ 
  • Drought Hardy: Moderate
  • Cold Hardy: Yes
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun, tolerant of most soil conditions  
  • Lifespan: 200 years 
  • Hardiness Zone: 6-11

The fig tree is adaptable to many different environments and can do well in a hot desert climate as well as wetter, colder environments. It is a hardy tree, capable of growing in even poor soils. 

Possibly the most appealing feature of this tree is the fruit it puts out in late summer.

Figs are actually not technically a true fruit, but swollen stems containing seeds and flowers called inflorescence.

These trees do prefer regular watering but are tolerant of most other external conditions. Because the fig tree’s reproduction depends on new growth, all pruning and maintenance should be done during its winter dormancy. 

For a deeper look at why fig trees love the sun so much, check out our article on the five reasons to grow fig trees in full sun!

9. California Pepper Tree

Pepper tree fruits on the branch of a pepper tree with long, thin leaves
  • Growth Rate: 36” per year
  • Full Height: 40’
  • Canopy Spread: 40’ 
  • Drought Hardy: Moderate
  • Cold Hardy: Moderate
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun in well-draining soil
  • Lifespan: 50-150 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 9-11

The California pepper tree is another fast-growing tree that provides plenty of shade with its widespread canopy and sweeping, low-hanging branches (think weeping willow!) 

The California pepper tree is a fragrant tree, from its compound leaves to the yellow-green flowers and fall and winter fruit.

Each part of the tree is aromatic, making this a pleasant feature in the landscape or garden. 

These trees can be more high-maintenance, requiring regular pruning and staking when the tree is young to train the tree into an appealing shape.

You may want to invest in some tools, such as these THANOS A1101 Extendable Anvil Loppers Tree Trimmer to keep up with removing the suckers that tend to grow around the base of the trunk.

Avoid planting this tree in grass lawns or turf, because it is prone to yellowing foliage and other issues if inundated with water, prefer well-draining soils. 

10. Chilean Mesquite Tree

  • Growth Rate: 36” per year
  • Full Height: 50’
  • Canopy Spread: 100’ 
  • Drought Hardy: Yes
  • Cold Hardy: Moderate
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun in native desert soils
  • Lifespan: 200 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 9-11

The Chilean mesquite tree is an ideal shade tree for dry climates, growing tall and with an especially wide-spreading canopy. Its growth rate is water-dependent, so a well-watered sapling will readily exceed 3 feet of growth per year to reach its full height. 

It is actually not recommended that you continue to irrigate mature trees, and they will actually grow best relying on infrequent desert rains alone. 

Native to the desert, the Chilean mesquite actually grows best in unamended desert soil, and will not do as well in lawns or turf, where the abundance of water will lead to weaker wood.

Because of the tolerant and low-maintenance nature of this tree, the Chilean mesquite is a popular desert landscape tree, often used in parks as well as parking lots and landscapes. 

11. Palo Verde

Yellow flowers with red stamen cover the branches of a tree with small oval leaves
  • Growth Rate: 24”-36” per year
  • Full Height: 25’
  • Canopy Spread: 30’ 
  • Drought Hardy: Yes
  • Cold Hardy: Yes
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun, adapted to desert soils but tolerant of most soil types
  • Lifespan: 150 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 7-10

The blue palo verde is an iconic feature in the deserts of the Southwestern United States, with its trademark smooth, green bark and fine, spreading branches. This tree puts out a showy spring display of bright yellow flowers. 

While native to the desert and the poor soils that are native to the area, this tree can actually do well in lawns and turf, tolerant of wetter soils. 

Although the blue palo verde tree is deciduous, losing its leaves during the colder winter months, the green trunk and branches give this tree the appearance of being evergreen and they provide color all throughout the year. 

12. Shoestring Acacia

  • Growth Rate: 36” per year
  • Full Height: 30’
  • Canopy Spread: 10’-20’ 
  • Drought Hardy: Moderate
  • Cold Hardy: Moderate
  • Planting Conditions: Full sun in well-draining soil
  • Lifespan: 50 years
  • Hardiness Zone: 8-11

The shoestring acacia is named for its long, stringy leaves and stems that give the appearance of shoestrings hanging from the branches. The maroon bark and yellow flowers add a pop of color throughout the year.

These trees are favored by low-maintenance gardeners because they do not create much litter and are moderately drought and weather-hardy, requiring only supplemental watering to keep them happy and healthy. 

This is not a climbing tree, because although it lacks thorns, the branches can be weaker and prone to snapping. The shoestring acacia attracts birds and other wildlife.

How To Choose The Best Drought-Tolerant Tree For Your Yard

Although the trees in this list are adapted to desert conditions, you should still take care to provide them with basic care to ensure the healthiest and therefore most resilient tree possible.

First, assess your landscape and determine what kind of soil, light, and other factors that will be important for your tree’s growth.

Aside from those otherwise specified in this list, many trees require supplemental water as they become established, at about one inch of water per week during the spring and summer. 

Make Sure To Water The Roots Slowly And Deeply

Also important is watering the root area thoroughly, including the entirety of the canopy spread.

Tree roots usually grow about as far as the canopy is wide, providing a helpful guideline for how far out to water. 

Another helpful way to ensure your tree is retaining water is by adding a couple of inches of mulch such as this MIGHTY109 Espresso Brown Wood Chip Mulch around the root zone of your tree.

Mulch is a useful tool to help prevent excess water evaporation in the hot desert climate as well as helping to suppress weeds or encroaching turf grass. 

Do Not Over-fertilize

You should never over-fertilize desert trees! The danger of over-fertilizing in the desert is that excessive nutrients can cause overgrowth which will increase the need for water in an already drought-prone environment. 

Finally, it is important to consider when you are actually planting your tree.

Fall is the best time to plant a new tree. The reason for this is that the soil is still warm from the summer months and can retain moisture before winter freezing. 

When the weather is too hot, the tree can become stressed and prone to dehydration, and in the winter, the frozen soils and temperatures can put the tree into shock.

Fall is the sweet spot when the tree can focus its energy on establishing its roots and growing stronger before any extreme weather. 

That’s A Wrap!

Planting in the desert creates a particular set of limitations including the extreme heat, poor soils, and the availability of water.

It is important, then, to select trees that are adapted to growing under these conditions. 

There are many different choices of trees that will thrive in even the harshest of desert climates, and many steps you can take to give them a good chance at success. 

Make sure to select a tree that is right for the unique conditions of your yard and gardening style, and you are sure to have a beautiful tree that will add depth, color, shade, and interest to your landscape for generations to come. 


  1. Rahman, M.A., Armson, D. & Ennos, A.R. (2015) A comparison of the growth and cooling effectiveness of five commonly planted urban tree species. Urban Ecosystem. 18, 371–389.
  2. Wang, Z.H., Zhao, X., Yang J., Song, J. (2016) Cooling and energy saving potentials of shade trees and urban lawns in a desert city. Applied Energy. 161, 437-444.
  3. Venhari A.A., Tenpierik M., Taleghani, M. (2019) The role of sky view factor and urban street greenery in human thermal comfort and heat stress in a desert climate. Journal of Arid Environments. 166, 68-76.
  4. González-Rebeles G., Méndez-Alonzo, R., Paz, H., Terrazas, T., Tinoco-Ojanguren, C. (2022) Leaf habit determines the hydraulic and resource-use strategies in tree saplings from the Sonoran Desert. Tree Physiology.
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  1. Please add the Latin scientific names, as for example various eucalyptus are called “Desert Gum Eucalyptus”. Which one is it?

    1. Hey there, apologies for that. I’ll put this on the list for a future update to get those added. The Desert Gum Eucalyptus in this case is referring to “Eucalyptus regnans”, which can grow at quite a wild rate!

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