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6 Trees That Thrive in the South Shore’s Summer Heat

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Here on the South Shore of Massachusetts, we may not have the extreme summers experienced in some parts of the country. However, it’s hot and dry enough (and predicted to get hotter) in summer that trees can be stressed by heat and drought, and many tree species will not grow well. Planting heat and drought-tolerant trees makes it easier to keep your trees healthy and your yard looking its best.

We also have the added challenge of salt spray damage and salty soil in towns on or near the shoreline, both of which further reduce the variety of trees that grow well here.

In this article, we recommend six trees that handle summer stress better than others, including tolerance for both high temperatures and lack of moisture. There are even three salt-tolerant options for residents along the shore!

Key Takeaways

  • White oaks have decent heat and drought tolerance, although they need plenty of room to grow. Just watch out for signs of anthracnose or activity from oak shothole leafminers.
  • London plane trees are a hybrid that can withstand heat and drought but are prone to cracks and anthracnose infection.
  • The ‘Franksred’ cultivar of red maples provides beautiful fall colors and can easily handle our summer temperatures.
  • Ginkgos are some of the oldest known trees that still exist. They’re naturally resistant to a lot of pests and diseases, and are easy to care for.
  • Eastern redcedars and mugo pines are excellent choices for evergreens on the South Shore, and both can withstand heat and drought.

Summer Climate Conditions on the South Shore

Federal climate reports suggest that summers on the South Shore will get hotter and drier in coming years.

In recent years, Norfolk and Plymouth counties have seen hot summers. 2022 was especially rough, as Plymouth County recorded a maximum temperature of 85.7 degrees Fahrenheit in August, and parts of the county dealt with either “severe” or “extreme drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Things were even worse in Norfolk County, with a maximum temperature in August of 87.4 degrees Fahrenheit and almost the entire county dealing with “extreme drought” throughout the month.

With projections predicting even worse summer conditions, planting trees with heat and drought tolerance is more important than ever.

Add to that the destructive effect of salt spray on plants growing close to the shore (salt spray can drift up to ¼ mile inland!), and it can be difficult to know which trees to plant in your South Shore yard.

6 Trees That Thrive in the South Shore’s Summer Heat

Some trees are more heat and drought-tolerant than others. To help you choose the best tree for your property, we’ve picked out six we’ve seen thrive in our area all year round. All trees on our list fall within the recommended USDA Hardiness Zones for the South Shore area. These zones give an idea of what trees can grow in a particular region. For residents of Norfolk and Plymouth counties, coastal residents will likely be in zone 7a, and more inland residents within 6b.

WARNING: No tree is completely resistant to intense heat and drought. We recommend giving trees supplemental water during drought conditions and checking for signs of heat-related stress such as leaf wilting, scorched leaf edges, premature leaf drop, and lack of growth.

A white oak tree.

Photo courtesy of Richard Webb,

1. White Oak (Quercus alba)

The white oak is native to the eastern United States, including the South Shore of Massachusetts. These long-lived, large shade trees are perfect for sizable yards from Rockland to Norwell.

The white oak grows 100 feet wide and averages 50 to 80 feet tall at full maturity. Although it is somewhat tolerant of shade, it’s best to plant this tree where it can receive full sunlight. Thanks to their deep and expansive root systems, white oaks tolerate most soil conditions (though they prefer well-drained soil) and have adequate drought tolerance. White oaks have some of the best heat tolerance of all northern oak species.

Like many shade trees, white oaks attract small mammals like chipmunks and squirrels by providing food and shelter.

Despite thriving in the summer heat, there are several concerns to be aware of. White oaks have very large root systems, so you’ll need to give the trees plenty of room to grow or the roots could damage your sidewalks and foundations. Oaks are also susceptible to diseases like anthracnose and pests like the oak shothole leafminer.

White Oak Fast Facts

  • Mature Height: 50 – 80 feet
  • Mature Width: 100 feet
  • Light Exposure: Full sun (6 hours of direct sunlight)
  • Soil Preferences: Well-drained soil
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: Zones 3 – 9
The London plane tree.

Photo courtesy of Tom DeGomez, University of Arizona,

2. London Plane Tree (Platanus x acerifolia)

The London plane tree is a non-native hybrid combining the oriental plane (Platanus orientalis) and the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). It is also known as the hybrid plane or the London plane.

Like oaks, the London plane tree is massive, reaching 100 feet at full maturity. We recommend planting this tree in a yard with plenty of space. If you can find the room, the London plane tree is durable and has good heat and drought tolerance.

Concerns for the London plane tree include a lack of shade tolerance and susceptibility to diseases such as anthracnose and leaf spots. Pests such as aphids and scale insects are also prone to attack these trees. You can limit the risk of anthracnose (a non-fatal disease that harms the tree’s aesthetics) by planting a resistant cultivar like ‘Morton Circle’ or “Morton Euclid.’ These trees are also susceptible to stress cracks.

 London Plane Tree Fast Facts

  • Mature Height: 70 – 100 feet
  • Mature Width: 65 – 80 feet
  • Light Exposure: Full sun or partial shade (4-6 hours daily)
  • Soil Preferences: Moist, well-drained soil, though it tolerates alkaline and clay soils
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: Zones 5 – 8
A red maple tree.

Photo courtesy of Steven Katovich,

3. Red Sunset® Maple (Acer rubrum ‘Franksred’)

Red maples are native to the eastern United States and provide unbelievable fall color (and we know everyone on the South Shore loves fall foliage). Once established, some cultivars of the red maple, specifically the Red Sunset cultivar, have excellent heat tolerance.

Red Sunset grows about 40 to 50 feet high and 25 to 35 feet wide. The red maple can be a perfect compromise if you don’t have space for other popular large Massachusetts shade trees. These trees are also quite tolerant of various soil types.

Red maples are generally seen as “bleeders” (trees that produce lots of sap that make pruning messy). Prune these trees in the late spring or summer when sap flow is at a minimum. Maples are also susceptible to verticillium wilt, so watch for typical signs like leaf scorch or wilting and branch dieback.

Red Sunset Maple Fast Facts

  • Mature Height: 40 – 50 feet
  • Mature Width: 25 – 35 feet
  • Light Exposure: Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil Preferences: Acid, moist, or well-drained soil
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: Zones 3 – 9
A ginkgo tree.

Photo by Jan Samanek, Phytosanitary Administration,

4. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgos are some of the oldest living trees in the world (fossils resembling Ginkgo trees date back 170 million years ago) and some of the easiest to care for. Though not native to the United States, they thrive in the South Shore area of Massachusetts. Ginkgo trees have the added benefit of being resistant to salt spray damage, making them an excellent choice for coastal properties, such as in Cohasset or Hingham.

Ginkgo trees have a unique look and a pyramid shape that make them attractive and a fun centerpiece in your yard. At full maturity, they are large trees, so give them plenty of space to grow. Ginkgos are highly tolerant of heat and drought.

Though quite durable, ginkgos do not do as well in wet soil. Additionally, plant male trees instead of female ones to avoid the unpleasant smell of springtime flowers and the messy seeds.

Ginkgo Fast Facts

  • Mature Height: 50 – 80 feet
  • Mature Width: Varies greatly depending on cultivar, but some grow to a maximum of 40 feet
  • Light Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Preferences: Moist and well-drained soil
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Hardiness zones: Zones 4 – 9
The evergreen mugo pine.

Photo courtesy of Vanessa Richins Myers,,

5. Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo)

Mugo pines are perfect for adding an evergreen flair to your landscape. Originally from Europe, these trees can withstand the extreme temperatures we occasionally see on the South Shore.

While five-needled pines are not tolerant of salt spray, two-needled pines like the mugo pine thrive in coastal locations like Scituate or Duxbury.

Most pines do not tolerate shade, but the mugo pine can survive in partial shade. However, we recommend keeping it in full sun for best success. This species is relatively easy to transplant, so moving it to a location with more sun shouldn’t be an issue. Incorporating evergreen trees into your landscape gives your yard appeal in all four seasons.

Mugo pines will have to deal with scale insects and pine sawflies, but other than these pests, they are quite hardy.

Mugo Pine Fast Facts

  • Mature Height: Medium shrub (5 – 8 feet) to compact tree (10 -15 feet)
  • Mature Width: Larger cultivars can reach 6 feet wide
  • Light Exposure: Full sun or partial shade
  • Soil Preferences: Moist and well-drained soil
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Foliage: Coniferous
  • Hardiness zones: Zones 3 – 7
An eastern redcedar tree.

Photo courtesy of Howard F. Shwartz, Colorado State University,

6. Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Another evergreen tree to give your yard appeal year-round, the eastern redcedar is one of the most durable coniferous trees in America. Its native range stretches across most of the East Coast and Midwest.

Eastern redcedars tolerate adverse environmental conditions such as high heat and drought. It is also highly salt-tolerant, making it ideal for seaside gardens. You can also find cultivars for whatever size you need, with some eastern redcedars growing to be small shrubs and others to large trees. Eastern redcedars provide food and shelter that encourages birds and small mammals to visit your yard.

We recommend planting these trees where there’s plenty of sunlight. Additionally, watch out for cedar-apple rust and bagworms, as both are typical problems for the tree.

Eastern Redcedar Fast Facts

  • Mature Height: 40 – 50 feet
  • Mature Width: 8 – 20 feet
  • Light Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Preferences: Alkaline, dry, or moist soil
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Foliage: Coniferous
  • Hardiness zones: Zones 3 – 9

Heat and Drought-Resistant Trees Are Not Invincible; Call Top Notch Tree for Help

Picking the right tree for your yard depends on many factors, from the weather the region will face in the future to soil composition, how much sunlight the tree will receive, exposure to salt spray, and the amount of available space for the tree to grow.

Of course, even the heat and drought-tolerant trees we recommend will need regular maintenance to remain healthy and looking their best. From professional pruning to tree health issues, the team at Top Notch Tree can help. Call us at 781-871-8008 or request an estimate online to schedule an appointment with one of our arborists.

Jeff Van Meter

Jeff has been in the green industry since working at his father’s landscaping industry as a kid. Jeff uses his many years of experience to guide his customers and to help them find the best solutions for their tree and landscape needs. More about Jeff >>>

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