Sometimes called Sonoran palo verde, the palo brea tree has a wide, open and spreading crown, making it a favorite shade tree in Tucson and Southern Arizona. This drought-tolerant, native tree is perfect for xeriscapes and low desert gardens, where its architectural uniqueness can be featured. The twisting, irregular character of its trunk is truly beautiful. In late spring, masses of yellow flowers in axillary clusters cover this tree. Flowers are followed by light-brown seed pods. The palo brea tree is native to Northern Mexico and the Sonoran desert, where it grows to about 25 feet tall with a 25 foot spread.
Plant palo brea tree in the fall, spring or summer in full sun locations. It grows best in deep, well-drained soil. Palo brea does not grow well in a lawn, because it does not like frequent, shallow watering. Water established palo brea trees deeply every two weeks in the summer; once a month in the winter. Pruning requirements are relatively high because of its wide spreading crown and irregular branching pattern. Prune to remove dead limbs or crossing branches in warm weather. Cold weather pruning encourages bacterial infections. Fertilize young palo brea trees annually in the spring with a slow-release or organic fertilizer. Established trees do not require any additional fertilizers. Flower and seed pod litter is generally low but may be a nuisance.