Five of the Best Deciduous Trees for Santa Fe

On the whole, deciduous trees in Santa Fe require a bit of extra love and care in order to flourish in our sometimes harsh environment. One of the tree varieties most requested by our clients are aspen trees. Aspens require very specific conditions to thrive. They need to be planted in a protected location, receive regular feedings of compost, a steady stream of water, and vigilance by the homeowner or maintenance crew towards pest infestations. One of my personal favorite category of deciduous trees are fruit trees. Out of all of the Fruit trees, Apricot trees flourish particularly well in Santa Fe, often growing to 20′-30′ to become a stately shade tree. Fruit production for Apricot trees is, however, unreliable in Northern New Mexico, nevertheless care should be taken to site Apricot trees away from patios, as they have the potential to drop an abundance of soft fruit if conditions are right.

If you are looking for more trouble free deciduous trees for the Santa Fe area some of my favorites include Golden Rain Tree, Arizona Ash, Washington Hawthorn, Japanese Pagoda Tree and ‘Shademaster’ Honey Locust.

— Peggy Wright (Masters in Landscape Architecture)


Golden Rain Tree-fall sm

Golden Rain Tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, has a lot going for it…a delicate yellow flower that attracts bees, a paper “lantern” seed pod that hangs from the tree’s branches into the winter, and fantastic fall color. It has also proven itself to be a super hardy tree and is available as a single stem specimen or a multi stem tree.


Arizona Ash 1

Arizona Ash, Fraxinus velutina, is the only tree on my list that is native to the Southwest United States. It can grow to 25′-35′ tall, has excellent heat tolerance, and tolerates our alkaline New Mexico soils. My only word of caution is that the Arizona Ash should not be planted in the higher altitudes above Santa Fe and should be planted in a relatively protected location in town as it’s cold tolerance is only down to -10 degree F.


Washington hawthorne fall 2

Washington Hawthorn, Crateigus phaenopyrum, continues to amaze me with it’s hardiness and it’s ability to provide four seasons of interest. These compact multi-stem trees are covered with small white flowers in May which provided valuable foraging opportunities for bees in June, has a glossy dark green leaf through the summer, spectacular fall color, and a beautiful horizontal branching structure through the winter. Washington Hawthorns do have 1″-2″ thorns so they should be sited away from patios and paths, on the positive side, their spines provide birds with an ideal, protective nesting spot.


Japanese pagoda tree

Japanese Pagoda Tree, Sophia japonica, along with the Shademaster Honey Locust are the two largest shade tree on this list, reaching to 40′-50′ over time. Similar to both the Hawthorn and the Golden Rain Tree, the tree is an important forage for bees providing food during the middle of summer when most trees are done flowering. Japanese Pagoda Trees have a wonderful green bark and an interesting twisted branching structure.


honey locust-sm

Shademaster Honey Locust, Gleditisia triacanthos ‘Shademaster’, offers a dappled shade from a broad crown extending out to 30′ wide and 40′-50′ tall. In addition to being bred to be especially hardy, ‘Shade master’ Honey Locust is both seedless and thornless making it one of the least messy of the Locust trees. It also has a beautiful golden color in the fall and allows enough sunlight to penetrate through it’s leaves to allow grass or ground covers to grow at it’s base.


Call EcoScapes Landscaping today to plant any one of these truly awesome trees.