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12 trees for the Bay Area that your clients will love

As a Landscape Pro, your customers turn to you to recommend trees for the Bay Area that will make their landscapes beautiful, green, and sustainable.

And with so many choices, it can sometimes be hard to choose the right tree to meet the unique requirements of your project.

To help you with the challenge of selecting the right trees for the Bay Area, we have assembled a great group of beautiful specimens that many residents have fallen in love with. Our list includes trees with these attributes:

  1. | Do well in Bay Area microclimates
  2. | Grow well in specific conditions or location

A tree-friendly environment like no other

The Bay Area has a unique, highly-desirable Mediterranean climate that includes many micro-climates. This diverse environment presents an opportunity to plant a wide variety of trees that are both familiar and less common which will tolerate a wide range of conditions.

It’s important to recognize all factors that can affect a tree in the location that you’re considering including:

  • | Space | Between other trees + structures
  • | Competition | Proximity to other trees reaching for air + light
  • | Grade | Slope of landscape affecting drainage + access to nutrients
  • | Soil | Composition compatible for growth
  • | Wind | Potential stress for development
  • | Sun | Right exposure for health + disease prevention
  • | Water | Volume + frequency
  • | Care | Sustained maintenance, fertilizing + pruning for long-life

It’s always better to choose a tree that aligns with the requirements of the location as it matures. Relying on excessive pruning to force-fit a tree into a challenging location can be a disaster.

Trees for the Bay Area that clients love

With the help of some experienced and talented Bay Area Landscape Pros, we’ve assembled a group of a dozen trees with unique qualities that their clients fall in love with. We recommend that these trees for the Bay Area be considered as "standards" | single trunk specimens.
Metrosideros excelsus
Common name | New Zealand Christmas Tree
Metrosideros excelsus has become a favorite treeshrub for us. ‎It works well in salt air along the coast and on the Peninsula as well. We use it as both a shrub and a standard specimen tree. As a multi, with a little thinning out, it looks incredible at night with low-voltage lighting. And as a privacy shrub, it grows very quickly, has beautiful flowers, and is relatively deer-proof and drought resistant. It flowers in winter with a peak in mid to late December.

The flowers attract hummingbirds and bees which clients love in their gardens. ‎The opaque colored grayish leaves make the surrounding foliage of the other plants really pop. It can reach 82′ high with a spreading, dome-like form and is able to thrive in poor rocky soil and steep grades. We really like that it’s available in both a ‘standard’ and multi-trunked spreading tree form.
"As a multi with a little thinning out, Metrosideros excelsus looks incredible at night with low-voltage lighting."
Michael Moore | Masterpiece Gardens
Arbutus Marina
Common name | Marina Strawberry Tree
Arbutus Marina is one of our favorite medium-sized, evergreen trees for the Bay Area. It grows to 50′ tall with a broad dense crown. Growth causes the older bark to peel away from the trunk and branches revealing the beautiful shiny red new bark underneath. The pendulous clusters of urn-shaped white-blushed-pink flowers are produced year-round along the coast with peaks in spring and fall.

The flowers are followed by red gritty fruit that is edible but not very tasty. Plant in full to part day sun. It’s drought tolerant but looks best with occasional summer watering. It will be challenged in compacted soils such as DG. It can also be a bit messy as flowers, fruit, spent inflorescences, twigs, and bark drop year-round. Consider installing with easy access for cleaning up debris. If you’re looking for great trees for the Bay Area, this is one of the best.
"Arbutus marina is one of our favorite medium-sized, evergreen trees for the Bay Area."
Eric Rosen | Arborist Now
Hymenosporum flavum
Common name | Sweet Shade
Hymenosporum flavum is a slender evergreen tree that grows to 40′ with light gray bark and shiny green leaves that form clusters at the ends of the branches. The fragrant flowers bloom spring into early summer.

Plant it in full sun to light shade with deep, infrequent watering. As a native from New South Wales in Australia, it’s appropriate for areas where a narrow upright tree is needed. It can also easily be maintained and pruned to have a tidy form.
Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’
CA Native Common name | California Lilac
Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman, originally selected as Ceanothus ‘Blue Sky’, is one of my favorite evergreen specimens for coastal installations. I planted one in my garden over five years ago and it has bloomed almost continuously since it was installed. The blue flowers are lightly fragrant, great honey bee attractors, and really sparkle against the dark green abundant foliage. It can require staking and maintenance to support it until it’s well established. Thinning in the autumn helps to prevent winter wind damage.

With its naturally twisted trunk and branching habits, it makes a great specimen for night lighting—especially downlighting over a path. It’s also very drought tolerant and fairly pest-free. As a CA native, it can grow to 15′ and does well in heavy soils or sand with an upright form. It can also be trained as a single trunk standard or low branched to work as a very effective hedge.
"The striking blue flowers of Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman are great honey bee attractors and really sparkle against the dark green foliage."
Ken Coverdell | Blue Sky Designs
Pittosporum undulatum
Common name | Victorian Box or Mock Orange
Pittosporum undulatum is an evergreen tree and grows to about 50′ tall with wavy leaf edges. It features orange, woody fruit for several months after fragrant flowering in spring or early summer. Sometimes also known as Sweet Pittosporum, Victorian Box or Mock Orange, it’s a fast-grower that has a handsome profile in Bay Area gardens.
Tristania laurina
Common name | Water Gum
As a native to Australia, Tristania laurina performs well near the coast and along the banks of streams. Often, its trunks and branches tend to be shaped in the direction of a water current. It’s a slow grower and usually reaches between 15—30′ tall. It is often multi-branched and can be pruned to maintain a compact shape.

Flowers are bright yellow and have a distinctive scent that is attractive to bees. It usually blooms in the late spring or early summer. This beauty is an excellent choice for a medium-scale evergreen tree.
Parrotia persica
Common name | Persian pear
Parrotia persica is a deciduous tree that we use on the coast when we want beautiful light green leaves in the spring, the widest possible range of autumn leaf color, interesting branching habit in the winter, and fairly wind resistant dark green textural foliage in the summer. We do not put them in gardens right on the ocean or indirect winds. We use standards in some installations but prefer multi-trunked specimens for accents in the garden.

The Persian pear is somewhat dry tolerant, but it does need seasonal watering. This is a fairly pest-free tree. Autumn leaves are spectacular, even on the coast. It can grow to 40′ and as it matures, the bark exfoliates to patches of green, tan, and white. This beauty prefers full sun and likes acidic soil that’s moist and well-drained.
"Parrotia persica is a somewhat dry tolerant tree that we use on the coast when we want beautiful light green leaves in the spring and spectacular autumn leaf color."
Ken Coverdell | Blue Sky Designs
Ginkgo biloba
Common name | Maidenhair Tree

As one of our favorite trees for the California coast, Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest trees in existence. This eye-catching tree features parallel venation in the leaves along with a unique spur attachment point for the leaves. In the fall, the iconic leaves turn a brilliant, stunning yellow, and leaf drop is almost instant and in unison. The result is an easy cleanup. Since the tree is dioecious, it’s important to choose an improved cultivar such as ‘Princeton Sentry’ or ‘Autumn Gold’ that doesn’t have the smelly fruit of the female tree.

This tree can be found often in urban landscapes and on many campuses because it has virtually no insect or disease weaknesses. As a tall, hardy tree native to eastern China, it grows to 66-110′ in full to partial sun. It will also thrive in most well-drained soils but grows best in acid to neutral soil that’s evenly moist and fertile.

"In the fall, the iconic leaves of Ginkgo biloba turn a brilliant, stunning yellow and leaf drop is almost instant."
Mark Morgan | Davey Tree
Acer rubrum ‘Armstrong’
Common name | Columnar Red Maple
Acer rubrum ‘Armstrong’ is my new favorite City tree. Its distinctive conical shape is optimized to fit tight urban spaces and small back yards while still attaining reasonable height. As a deciduous tree, it grows quickly to 45′ with moderate to regular water. It prefers full sun and will tolerate heavy soil.

The classic, maple green, palmate leaves turn vivid orange-red in the fall. And for our Bay Area clients from the east coast, this beauty reminds them of the deciduous fall colors of the season.

"The distinctive conical shape of Acer rubrum ‘Armstrong’ is optimized to fit tight urban spaces and small back yards."
Remy Hummer | Arbor Upcycle

Laurus nobilis ‘Saratoga’
Common name | Sweet Bay
Laurus nobillis ‘Saratoga’ is a favorite evergreen tree for coastal installations. It’s extremely wind-tolerant with waxy, leathery, foliage that’s useful for cooking. It is also very drought tolerant when established and offers dense foliage for screening or as a wind barrier.

This hard-working tree has interesting golden blooms and seed pods, yet it’s not very messy. It retains its foliage well, tolerates plantings in its root zone and it adds interest to Bay Area gardens with a well-structured form.
"Laurus nobilis Saratoga can provide year-round interest as an evergreen tree that stays relatively small. It features a generous display of small, pale yellow flowers in late winter and early spring and it’s an excellent choice for screening or as a wind barrier."
Ken Coverdell | Blue Sky Designs
Melaleuca quinquenervia
Common name | Paper Bark Tea Tree
Melaleuca quinquenervia is a small to medium-sized tree that grows to 30–50′ high. Young growth is hairy with long and short, soft hair. The leaves are arranged alternately and are flat, leathery, lance-shaped in dull grey-green color. The flowers are arranged in spikes on the ends of branches which continue to grow after flowering.

It blooms from spring to early autumn and is followed by fruit which is woody, cylindrical capsules. What is especially interesting about this tree is the unusual, light-colored bark that splits and spreads with growth revealing the new bark beneath peeling layers of older bark.
"If space permits, Melaleuca quinquenervia is one of my first choices for a beautiful tree to plant."
Jean Claude Rochat | Arborist Now
Lagunaria pattersonii
Common name | Primrose Tree
My go-to tree lately has been Lagunaria pattersonii. As a fast-growing, evergreen tree to 30′ tall, it bears beautiful, star-shaped, pinkish-white flowers that bloom in the summer and last thru fall.

It can thrive in a variety of soils and requires little to no water once established. It performs best in full sun but tolerates part-day sun as well. Originally from the Australia area, it is suited to coastal conditions and is a stalwart to consider.
"My go-to tree lately has been Lagunaria pattersonii with beautiful, star-shaped, pinkish-white flowers that bloom from summer into fall."
Paul Spencer | I can Dig it Landscape

Helping Landscape Pros with trees for the Bay Area since 1869

If you’re looking for some great, tree solutions for your next project, we’ve got you covered.

As both a grower and a plant broker, we’re ready to work with you to provide just the right trees and native, water-wise plants that will make your project a success.

It’s one of the many qualities that has made us different from just an ordinary nursery for over 150 years.

To get a plant material Estimate or to place an Order, just click on over to use our ONLINE ESTIMATE | ORDER FORM.

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We look forward to hearing from you.

As President of Pacific Nurseries, Don Baldocchi gets satisfaction knowing the Bay Area is greener and more beautiful by helping landscape professionals succeed. Email Don or give him a call at 650.755.2330.

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