Taylor Murphy's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Trees for Southern California.
Pearl Acacia - Acacia podalyriifolia
The most showy of all the Acacias: silver foliage with yellow blooms starting in fall thru winter. Bloom is very fragrant, and smooth gray bark. Fast grower to 20 feet. Great landscape tree. Drought tolerant, full sun and hardy to 25F.
Peppermint Tree - Agonis flexuosa
I planted this tree in my back yard in 1971. It provides shade all year, evergreen, and tiny, insignificant white flowers. The bark is heavily textured with fine slender leaves, and a willowy effect that makes it look dainty against the strong textured bark. Very fast growing and no root invasion. Great rounded crown shape. Good branch structure. Leaves when crushed smell of peppermint.
Gold Medalian Tree - Cassia leptophylla
Great tropical looking flowering tree. Large bracts of bright yellow blooms. Relative of the Rainbow Tree that grows well in Hawaii, it is a great replacement for that type of look. Fast grower and evergreen. I like placing it in back yards rather than front for color and shade. Plant in background due to bloom drop.
Desert Museum Palo Verde - Cercidium x 'Desert Museum'
Another great Southwest themed tree, the Palo Verde is from Mexico & SW United States. Deciduous tree that blooms yellow in spring, covering it's light, lime green branches. The 'leaves' are tiny twigs, that shed. Use this tree as a front yard specimen which has color al year long, even in winter when it's bright green branches are seen. Extremely fast grower to 20 feet tall in 2 to 3 years. Best choice: 'Desert Museum'.
Dragon Tree - Dracaena draco
For pure drama, and a showpiece, and it's extreme Southwest look, there is nothing like this tree. In my opinion, it is The King of the Dracaenaceae family. Plant from a large specimen as it is a slow grower, but well worth the wait. There is an excellent specimen along Park Boulevard in Balboa Park you can view. Extremely drought tolerant and frost tolerant.
African Tulip Tree - Spathodea campanulata
Here is another showy blooming, tropical tree. Huge red-orange blooms cover this tree summer thru fall. The blooms are spectacular. Only drawback, is that this tree cannot tolerate frost, so I would not recommend planting in our foothill areas of San Diego county. Moderate grower to 30 feet tall. There are several nice specimens along Clairmont Mesa Boulevard in Tierrasanta just past Santos Road on the North side.