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Gardens in the region will be lucky this year to get much more than half their annual rainfall so it makes sense to choose trees that are drought resistant for Canberra gardens.  Lack of water is the number one stress for trees. In fact we can’t remember a year where we have been watering trees so early in the season.  You will save money on garden maintenance if you choose trees that can cope with low rainfall.

TreeWorks recommends you water your trees for the first 12-18 months so they can establish a good root system.  If you water the soil right out to the tip of the widest branch you will encourage a wider root surface area. This will help them to tolerate dry periods.

Unless you have a particular need to use a hardy shrub like a viburnum tinus that provides a screen we generally recommend you select a tree that gives flowers in spring or summer, shade in summer, provides beautiful autumn colour and then loses its leaves to let the sun through in winter. Always check the size the tree will reach and the preferred conditions to save the heartache of having to remove a tree that’s not suited to the site.

Here’s a list of some of our favourite drought tolerant trees for Canberra gardens.  This doesn’t mean you don’t ever need to water them it just means they can stand up to a lack of water better than others.  Always water your trees wide and deep rather than for short bursts around the trunk.  We’ve also included a few trees to avoid if water is an issue in your garden.

Manchurian pears are a favourite with Canberra gardeners for their spring flowers and brilliant autumn foliage. The bees love them too.

Drought tolerant deciduous trees 

  • Ornamental pear / Pyrus calleryana Aristocrat / 11mh x 7mw
  • Chinese Pistacio /  Pistacia chinensis / 12mh x 8mw
  • Honey Locust /  Gleditsia triacanthos / 11mh x 8mw
  • Crab apple / Malus John Downie / 5mh x 5mw
  • Golden Ash / Fraxinus excelsior Aurea / 7mh x 7mw
  • Crepe Myrtle /  Lagerstoemia spp. / 8mh x 6mw
  • Japanese Elm / Zelkova serrata/ 18mh x 13mw
  • Laurustinus / Viburnum tinus / 3mh x 3mw
  • Manchurian Pear / Pyrus ussuriensis / 14mh x 12mw
  • Olives / Olea species / 8mh x 8mw
  • Persian Silk Tree / Albizia Julibrissin / 5mh x 4mw

Crepe myrtle is another favourite for their flowers throughout summer, autumn colour and spectacular bark.

Trees that prefer moist soil

  • Silver birch / Betulus pendula
  • Alder / Alnus glutinosa
  • River birch / Betula nigra
  • Poplar / Populus tremula
  • Weeping willow / Salix alba Tristis

Favourite tree nurseries

Below are two of our favourite nurseries we recommend for Canberra gardens because they have a great selection of healthy stock, they have knowledgeable staff who are keen to help and offer suggestions for the best tree species for your garden.  Their websites are full of information on how to care for your trees.

Find out more about looking after trees in drought.