The 10 Most Popular Trees in San Diego and Which Ones Are Native?

Trees add a natural beauty to any home. In the North County San Diego area, trees are also part of the ecological system, addressing pollution and soil erosion. Still, not every tree that has made its way into the San Diego area is a native. Let’s find out what the 10 most popular trees are, and which ones are native to California. You might be surprised by what you learn!


While palms are often associated with trees, they are actually closer in relation to bamboo and grass. There are also other aspects of palms that differ from trees, arborists often refer to them as palm trees. The California fan palm is a native of San Diego, but rarely seen. More frequently seen is the Mexican fan palm, which is a transplant to the area. Not all palms shed their fronds, but they do need regular maintenance to address their seed pods.

Jacaranda Tree

The Jacaranda tree is known for its lavender flowers and create an amazing pastel beauty for one month. However, this popular ornamental tree is not a native of San Diego but is actually a tropical and subtropical tree with roots in the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Once their purple display is over in mid-summer, they drop their purple flower, along with long stems throughout the year. It is a fast-growing tree, making it a popular choice for private and city landscaping. While they are considered to be a drought-tolerant species, however, they need to be watered more frequently during the dry months.

Eucalyptus Tree

The eucalyptus tree is a native of Australia, as well as the tropical rainforest of New Guinea and Asia. These trees immigrated to California during the 1800s and the Gold Rush. The trees are a common sight and are resilient in the drier San Diego weather.

It is also one of the lowest maintenance trees, meaning that you can enjoy their beauty as part of your landscaping without worrying about supplemental water. Drive to any of the canyons and you will quickly see how they thrive with just a few inches of rain. However, they can easily become fire hazards, so it is important to clean around them regularly and check their branches for signs of failure.

Carrotwood Tree

The Carrotwood Tree is a unique because once you peel away its bark, you uncover the orange inner layer of wood that gave the tree its name. Originating in Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia, it immigrated to California sometime after the mid-1950s.

They are a medium-sized and drought-tolerant tree, as well as easy to maintain. However, it also drops a large amount of little orange fruit, which attract birds but are inedible for humans. However, their roots tend to be the biggest issue for arborists, meaning that if you want one on your property, then you need to put them between 10 and 15 feet from your foundation or pavement to avoid any damage.

Ficus Tree

The Ficus tree is not always found outdoors. Instead, it can be found inside under the guise of being a houseplant. It originates in Australia and Asia, so the ficus is also an immigrant to California. Still, it fits in well, because the ficus also requires little water, making it a drought-tolerant due to its deep and wide roots. The tree provides great shade and can grow up to 60 feet in height.

With that in mind, you need to plant it at least 30 feet away from foundation or pavement, along with the use of a root barrier. Annual trimmings are also key to keeping your ficus healthy.

Torrey Pine Tree

One species of pine tree, the Torrey Pine, is the only native of California on our list. It is so rare that it only grew in San Diego and Santa Rosa Island until recently. The Torrey Pine does well even with minimal water and native to Mediterranean climates.

To maintain your pine tree, you need to have it trimmed every 2 to 4 years. The ideal time is when temperatures are consistently 70 degrees or below but never during summer, as the sap could flow freely, and the tree could essentially bleed to death.

Tipuana Tree

The Tipuana tree produces yellow blooms and provides shade and ornamentation. They grow fast, but their roots are not destructive like many other trees on our list. It originated in South America before being transplanted to San Diego.

The tree is made to tolerate desert conditions, making it ideal for the hot and dry weather of Southern California. It is important to have it trimmed regularly to avoid branch failure and to shape its growth.

Liquid Amber Tree

This unique tree provides an autumn like experience with its yellow, orange, and red-colored leaves. In fact, it even sheds its leaves in the fall. The Liquid Amber tree originated in Mexico, Eastern America, and Central America. It became a popular landscaping tree in the 1900s in California. While they require little water maintenance, their destructive roots and spiky seed pods can make them less than ideal for urban areas.

Pepper Tree

The California Pepper Tree is another tree with a long history in San Diego. It is an evergreen that originated in Peru. They are also a great shade tree, but have an invasive nature, particularly with their roots. They require a professional tree trimming every 2 to 3 years. While it requires little water once established, it can destroy the development of plant life around them.

Podocarpus Tree

Known as a fern pine, the Podocarpus tree has narrow evergreen foliage, making it an ideal urban shade tree. Native to East Africa, seed pods were brought back by President Theodore Roosevelt.

It does well in drought conditions and does well even in heat. Tree trimmers find them easy to maintain and they are friendly to sidewalks and foundations.

Clearly, there are many different options for trees to plant your North County San Diego landscape. Contact Tree Barber for help in choosing the right trees for your landscaping needs.

Recognized as a top tree care company, Tree Barber Enterprises serves thousands of residential customers in North County San Diego. Our Certified Arborist is highly skilled and extensively trained in the latest arboriculture techniques, which enables us to perform our tasks quickly, safely and economically.