Which trees thrive in a Spanish garden? A greenery guide for any climate

VALENCIA PROPERTY NEWS - Fuente: Thinkspain - 13th Feb 2021
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OFFERING privacy, shade in the summer heat, greenery and colour, and of course, oxygen – whilst drinking up carbon dioxide – trees are a must in any garden or ground-floor terrace that has the space, especially if you live near an area of heavy traffic. There's something indescribably serene, uplifting and relaxing about being around trees, hearing the wind rustle through them, or sitting under them on a bench with a good book, and they're great news for the health of the planet, too.
Oranges, a classical Mediterranean fruit - this picture shows a commercial grove in Pego, northern Alicante province

Which ones to plant in your Spanish garden, though? Naturally, if you live on the Mediterranean, the south coast or in the Canary Islands, palm trees spring to mind, but plenty of others will flourish given the right conditions.
Magnolia trees offer a stunning springtime floral display

And these depend upon where you live. A home near the coast at ground level is very different to one inland, in a mountainous area, or at an altitude; also, Spain has so many microclimates that trees, plants and bushes that do well in its warmer provinces and those which thrive in more northerly parts will differ widely.

Northern and north-central Spain tend to have much colder winters, meaning trees that stay healthy in climates such as those of the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia and other countries on a similar latitude will also do well here, but others are more suited to year-round sunshine and very infrequent rainfall, albeit standing up well to the rare but very dramatic downpours seen in the Mediterranean basin.


Ideal in a warm climate and with a good, deep subsoil, stunning pinky-white floral displays are practically guaranteed in springtime if you tend to them carefully and manage to get them growing strong and healthy. But you'll need plenty of space – they can reach up to 30 metres in height.
Apple trees suit cooler climates better (photo: YouTube)

You'll also need patience, since the magnolia tree is slow-growing and can take many years before your efforts are rewarded.


Coming with fruit as a bonus, apple trees need plenty of sun for several hours a day, but if you live a long way inland or towards the north of Spain, you'll find they thrive better than in the warmth and humidity of the south and east coasts.
Olive trees can live for thousands of years, like this one in Simat de la Valldigna (southern Valencia province) outside the iconic late 13th-century Santa María monastery

Apple trees, being a hardy species, cope very well with frost and below-freezing temperatures, so they're ideal if you live in a part of the country with very cold winters. In fact, they prefer climates with cold winters, chilly autumns and fairly cool springs, as long as they're planted somewhere they get lots of natural light.


Farmers grow their olive groves up in the mountains – you may have seen the giant steps, which look a bit like the exotic rice platforms of south-east Asia without the water – and typically inland, although even just a few kilometres from the coast you'll find them in abundance.

Another hardy species and ideal for giving your garden a 'rustic' look, olive trees can actually survive for centuries, even millennia.

They like the sun, but can cope with most climates, and are relatively easy to care for, making them the ideal type of tree for those with limited knowledge or experience of gardening.


Another tree farmed inland and at altitudes, almond trees also work well at sea-level, as long as they're very exposed – they need loads of natural light and warm sun.
The northern Alicante province 'almond route’ - here, in Alcalalí

They are also perfect for gardens and patios where space is an issue, because they're relatively small: Even at their maximum, they never really grow beyond four metres (13 feet) in height.

These trees are some of the most decorative, too. The early part of the year, January or February, sees them come out in bloom and, if you live near enough to an almond grove to be able to visit, make sure you have lots of memory-card space on your phone: The photos will be spectacular, with a veritable sea of white-with-a-hint-of-pink against a clear blue sky giving you an explosion of colour that will lift the lowest of spirits.

Do remember that what blooms also shrivels and drops, though – once the blossoming season is over, your garden will be liberally coated with 'pink snow', which will, eventually, need sweeping or raking up.
Lemon trees in plant pots; handy if you're short of space (photo: Amazon.es)

Oranges and lemons

Let the bells of St Clement's ring out in your Mediterranean or Andalucía garden – if it's stereotypical Spain you want, you can't be without a citrus tree or several. And if you water them well, you'll have your own on-tap supply of juice.

Orange and lemon trees – likewise grapefruit and lime – only grow in warm climates, so they're not an ideal choice if, for example, you live in the heart of Castilla y León. Also, bear in mind that the fruit is ready for harvest in late autumn through to early spring – they may be hot-weather trees, but citrus are not summer fruits. It's the summer sun that ripens them and the autumn and spring rain that fleshes them out, and their best flavour is between approximately November and February. (If you buy yours from the market, greengrocer's or supermarket, you'll notice that they're at their cheapest and best quality during this time; early autumn and late spring, their price rockets, but they don't taste as good).

Citrus trees are not keen on cold climates, and need plenty of water, so a 'drip' irrigation system is recommended.

They're also a very small species – so small, in fact, that you can even grow them in pots.

Cypress in pots on sale at Plantasmallorca.com

Evergreen, hardy, elegant and very dense, these are a garden classic wherever you live, are easy to maintain and consistent in appearance year-round.

Like any conifer, the cypress is a good choice as a 'garden wall' – plant them alongside your fence, and within a few years you'll have a thick, green, hedge-like boundary that guarantees you won't be overlooked.

They also grow in pots, making them ideal for 'cordoning off' a small area of patio or terrace in a neat, attractive and colourful fashion.

Walnut and elm

Two garden classics, but very different in terms of their preferred climates – walnut trees, contrary to popular (or unpopular) proverb, should not be beaten, just kept away from very cold parts.
Walnut trees grow in most temperatures and a variety of soil types, but do not cope well with winter frosts (photo: George Chernilevsky/Wikimedia Commons)

They do not cope well in frosts, so would not suit an area that suffers harsh winters, although they are fairly flexible about temperatures and soil types, growing well in a variety of both.

Elm trees, by contrast, need plenty of sun, making them a sound option for the south coast, Canary Islands or the Mediterranean.

But they also require lots of water – in all these parts of Spain, you'll have to keep wetting them constantly in summer when the soil tends to dry to dust within a matter of hours, or set up an irrigation system if you're going to be away from your property, even just for a weekend.

Japanese maple

If it's colour and autumnal shades of leaves you're seeking, these are a great addition to your garden.
A Japanese maple colour explosion

Exotic but rustic, elegant, and gradually sliding through the full pH-scale from racing green to deepest red via vibrant yellow-gold, you're guaranteed a complete traffic-light palette throughout the year.

Remember they are a deciduous species, though, so in the dullest part of the winter, they'll have shed their leaves and you might need to do some regular sweeping and raking, but their foliage starts to sprout again long before it's warm enough to sit outside all day admiring them.

Suitable for all climates in Spain, as long as they're looked after properly, Japanese maple trees can grow to quite a height and outlive most of us – it's not uncommon for them to reach around 10 metres high.