8 Best Trees for Parking Lots in Austin, TX and How to Choose

On a hot sunny day when you pull into a parking lot, what do you look for first?

Sure, it’s great if there happens to be an ice cream truck there.

OK, what’s the second thing you look for?

A tree, right?

Some nice cool shade means your car won’t be so hot when you return.

Everybody loves to see trees in parking lots. But not just any tree will thrive there.

What are the best trees for commercial parking lots in Austin?

Here’s a look.commercial-landscape-shopping center-parking lot-plants-trees

Trees in Parking Lots Have it Tough

We’re sure your parking lot is perfectly nice, but it isn’t exactly the greatest place for trees.

  • It’s hot and sunny, especially here in Austin, Texas.
  • Car exhaust adds an extra layer of damaging heat.
  • Trees need water, and parking lots don’t have easy access to irrigation.
  • Tiny parking lot islands have little room for tree roots to stretch out, and the soil underneath is compacted and lacking nutrients.

Not every tree can survive in a parking lot.

How to Choose the Best Trees for Parking Lots

The best trees for commercial parking lots shouldn’t drop debris or have low-hanging branches that would snag pedestrians, scratch vehicles, or obstruct views.

They should be sturdy, drought tolerant, and shouldn’t need frequent pruning or spraying for pests or diseases.

Trees in parking lots shouldn’t have invasive root systems — there isn’t much room on tiny parking lot islands for roots to spread out.

Do such superstar trees exist? They do. Here are a few of our favorite trees for parking lot landscaping:

1. Bur Oak

Happy in a variety of soil conditions and fairly drought tolerant, this oak does great in urban settings, including sunny parking lots.

It tolerates pollution and heat stress, and offers dense shade, keeping cars and customers cool on hot days.Burr Oak

2. Cedar Elm

A lovely tree that offers nice shade, the cedar elm is also a sturdy, dependable tree.

It’s happy in wet or dry soil, and is often used as a street tree in urban settings.

Cedar Elm Tree

One word of warning: this tough beauty is facing a difficult battle with Dutch elm disease.

3. Mexican Sycamore

This fast grower offers a nice canopy of shade but it does need more water than some other good parking lot trees.

Its attractive mottled gray and white bark and pretty autumn color are nice bonuses.Mexican Sycamore Leaf

4. Red Oak

This handsome, adaptable tree thrives in nearly any setting. It’s known for its deep root system, which makes it useful for planting near urban streets and sidewalks.Red Oak

5. Live Oak

Ever wonder why it’s called “live” oak? This evergreen oak stays green and "live" throughout winter, when other oaks are dormant and leafless.

This iconic southern tree grows fast when young and may live to be centuries old. It adapts to almost any soil, including compacted soil, and has decent drought tolerance.Live Oak

6. Monterrey Oak

In a hurry? This attractive oak grows as much as 4 feet per year.

When mature, the tree has a nice broad canopy, great for shade in a hot and sunny parking.

It’s extremely drought tolerant, even in Texas summers.

Monterrey Oak

Bonus: it holds onto its leaves until late winter or early spring. It’s only leafless for just 2 to 8 weeks.

7. Chinese Pistache

A great small shade tree for your parking lot, its normally dark green foliage changes to a dramatic profusion of orange and red leaves in the fall. It also tolerates many soil types and is drought tolerant.Chinese Pistache

8. Lacebark Elm

Graceful and shady, with a beautiful bark pattern, this elm is much less susceptible to Dutch Elm disease and other pests than other elms. It can also tolerate the often compacted soil of parking lots, and the trampling feet of customers.

Lacebark Elm Tree

The Best Trees for Parking Lots in Austin, Tx: Choose Wisely

Choose the wrong trees for your parking lot and you could face some real headaches.

The wrong parking lot trees could drop messy berries or debris. Suddenly your lot is filled with tree litter and your customers’ cars are a mess.

Trees with weak branches could topple in a wind storm and damage cars or hurt pedestrians.

The wrong parking lot trees could add a lot of unnecessary maintenance expense, too, if they need frequent pruning, lots of water, or are prone to pest and disease problems.

The Best Trees for Commercial Parking Lots? Trust North by Northwest

Picky parking lot? No problem.

We know the trees that can stand up to the tough conditions. While we’re at it, we can also suggest some sturdy native plants for these challenging spots, too.

Have some pesky parking lot drainage issues? Guess what — we can tackle those, too.

Are you ready for stress-free landscaping? Schedule a time to meet with one of our experts today. We’ll gather the details, create a customized plan just for you, and you can stop stressing as we improve and beautify your landscaping.

Request a Consultation

Image Source: Bur Oak, Cedar Elm, Mexican Sycamore, Red Oak, Live Oak, Moneterrey Oak, Chinese Pistache, Lacebark Elm