Arizona Oak Tree: Which Species Thrive in the Climate

Oak trees are incredibly strong, but do they have enough power to withstand Arizona heat?

Can Oak Trees Survive in Arizona?

Arizona Oak Tree

Since Arizona has a hot desert climate, many assume oak trees cannot survive there. However, oak trees are very hardy plants and can handle the extreme temperatures and dry soil Arizona provides.

Some oak tree species are even commonly grown in the Southwestern United States. These types of oak trees grow vast roots that run deep into the soil. As long as you water it well, your oak tree will thrive in Arizona.

Native Arizona Oak Trees

Arizona Oak Tree

Oak trees are resilient in hot environments, and some species in the oak family are even native to Arizona. Arizona is home to at least eight different species of oak trees.

Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular oak tree varieties for Arizona gardeners.

Emory Oak

Emory oak is a prominent oak tree in Arizona, characterized by its long, shiny, and dark green colored leaves. This tree’s outermost layer of bark is a deep brown, almost black shade.

This oak species is native to the Southwestern regions of Arizona, Texas, and Northern Mexico. It grows quite tall — at times, between 40 and 50 feet. The Emory oak is an excellent choice to plant at lower desert elevations.

Arizona White Oak

The Arizona White Oak grows large light green leaves. This tree’s bark is brown with a whitish tint, hence its name. You can purchase and raise this particular species as a bush or a tree.

When the Arizona White Oak matures, it reaches over 40 feet tall, providing cool shade to areas in your yard. During dry spells, this tree sheds its leaves, making it drought-deciduous.

Escarpment Live Oak

Arizona Oak Tree

The Escarpment Live Oak looks similar to the Southern Live Oak tree. The main difference is that they reside in different areas of Arizona and the greater Southwestern United States.

This species is an evergreen oak with thick green leaves. Each fall, the leaves turn brown, and new leaves sprout in the spring. It survives well in both Arizona summer heat and winter chills.

Gambel Oak

Of all Southwestern oak trees, the Gambel oak has the most distinct look. Grey bark covers the trunk, and it sprouts a traditional-looking oak leaf. You can grow this plant as a shrub or a tree, letting it reach over 40 feet tall.

Some people call the Gambel oak the Rocky Mountain White Oak because it grows most commonly near the Rocky Mountains. Its leaves turn beautiful shades of orange and red in the fall.

Texas Oak

The Texas Oak tree grows dark green leaves with several small tips at the end. Reams of low-hanging branches create a unique look. This tree grows an impressive 30 to 35 feet tall and is about 45 feet wide at full maturity.

The Texas Oak makes a stunning addition to Arizona gardens and lawns, especially in the fall. During this time, its leaves and acorns turn bright red.

Desert Scrub Oak

The Desert Scrub Oak, also called the Shrub Live Oak, looks similar to other native white oaks but has sharp leaf edges. It is a short tree, growing only 10 feet tall maximum. Because of its height, some people mistake it for a bush or shrub.

This oak tree handles Arizona heat and drought well, making it a strong choice for gardens and backyards.

Canyon Live Oak

Similar to the oak trees of California, the Canyon Live Oak has a short trunk and grows as a shrub up to 15 feet in height or as a tree up to 80 feet in height. This oak has oblong-shaped medium green leaves, and the Canyon Live Oak tree can survive in cold temperatures and rocky environments, such as steep canyon walls. 

Palmer Oak

Also known as the Dunn Oak, this small oak tree can grow up to 40 feet tall. With small, thick, and brittle leaves, the Palmer Oak blooms in canyons and on slopes in March, April, and May.

Final Thoughts

While oak trees are lower maintenance, they still require proper care to ensure their health, but oak trees make an excellent landscape tree for yards. They can be bought as a small seedling or grown from seed. Since oaks native to Arizona naturally lose their leaves every fall, pruning is rarely necessary, and they don’t require frequent watering.