Best Hurricane-Resistant Trees to Plant in South Florida

Many trees are lost each year from hurricanes. You might think it’s safer to not replant a tree in its place, thinking that more damage would be preventable – but, in fact, the opposite is true.

Studies have shown that neighborhoods with the most tree cover tend to fare better in hurricanes and storms than those that have little or no tree cover. Trees that are healthy and properly pruned can protect your home from wind and flying debris.

The benefits of trees outweigh the risks, but certain types of trees do tend to sustain less damage than others during tropical storms and hurricanes.

2020 Atlantic hurricane season outlook

Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center are predicting an above-normal hurricane season.

We’ve put together some tips to help your trees grow to withstand heavy storms, and we’ve compiled a list of some of the most hurricane-resistant trees to plant here in the south Florida area.

Plan Before You Plant a Tree

Plant in the Right Location

  • Make sure any tree you plant will have enough room to grow. Roots can spread out three times further than the tree canopy, so don’t plant a tree too close to a building, sidewalk, or driveway, as the roots won’t have enough room to spread and stabilize the tree.
  • Trees that don’t have strong, grounded roots are easily uprooted in high winds and heavy rainfalls. Conversely, trees that have a deep, wide root system are more likely to withstand heavier rains and more powerful winds.
  • Plant larger trees farther away from your home, power lines, or other structures so if they do fall, they’re less likely to cause harm.

Choose the Right Trees

  • Some trees are more prone to serious damage during storms; it’s best to avoid planting those in areas where there’s a risk of damage to anything nearby. See the list at the end of this article for those to avoid.
  • For areas where you want screening, sun protection, or a green backdrop, plant trees that have been found to be most wind-resistant.
  • Consider choosing smaller trees as these tend to better resist wind damage due to their small profile.

Sometimes, even if a tree’s roots have room to grow, other things can prevent roots from stabilizing the tree during storm events. South Florida has relatively sandy soils, which means that roots cannot “grip” the soil as firmly as in soils with higher silt and clay content.

Plant Trees in Groups

  • Planting in groups of five or more has proven better than planting trees singly, at least when it comes to surviving hurricanes. Most trees that topple in a storm are standing alone.
  • Many trees can be planted fairly closely (within about 10 feet of each other, depending on mature size) to create a “grove.” Don’t plant them in a straight line as this leaves them more vulnerable to storm damage.
  • Try to mix up the types of trees and shrubs planted together. Some trees, like oaks, will actually wrap their roots together underground if they’re close enough, which makes them even more resistant to high winds.

The Importance of Pruning for Hurricane Resistance

Any kind of tree should be properly pruned and maintained long before hurricane season, as a healthy, well-pruned tree is a more stable tree. Don’t wait until the last minute to do “hurricane pruning”!

For details on what to do, check out our article on pruning to prevent hurricane damage.

What NOT to do to Prepare Your Trees for Storms

You may have seen others “topping” trees (cutting off the top to shorten all of the branches) before a storm, but this actually makes your tree weaker and less likely to survive future storms.

Overly thinning out the interior of your tree (sometimes called lion-tailing or cleaning out a tree) is another no-no. Removing foliage on the interior branches but not on the branch ends makes them more prone to being whipped around by wind, leading to broken branches and fallen trees more often than not.

Which are the Most Hurricane-Resistant Trees to Plant?

Scientists at the University of Florida studied which trees fared best in hurricane conditions. Overall, native trees tended to do better than non-native ones, and those with strong, deep root systems fared the best during hurricanes.

Keeping in mind the tips above, here are the results of their study:

Highest rated wind-resistant trees for our area

These trees are least likely to lose limbs, break apart, or fall over during hurricanes in south Florida.

  • Sand live oak (Quercus geminata)
  • American holly (Ilex opaca)
  • Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
  • Live oak (Quercus virginiana) – See our article on planting and growing live oak in South Florida
  • Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
  • Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
  • Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) – See our article on palm trimming to prevent hurricane damage

Medium-rated wind-resistant trees for our area

  • Japanese maple
  • River birch
  • Ironwood
  • Shumard oak
  • Sweet bay magnolia
  • Hickories

Lowest rated wind-resistant trees for our area

  • Pines, especially sand pine
  • Chinese elm
  • Water oak
  • Laurel oak
  • Pecan
  • Bradford pear
  • Leyland cypress
  • Lacebark elm
  • Red and silver maple
  • Green ash
  • Tulip poplar

Be Prepared

By planting hurricane-resistant trees, caring for the trees you do have, and ensuring that proper pruning techniques are adhered to, you can minimize future damage from whatever storms come our way.

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Whether you're looking for specific tree care services, such as palm trimming, tree removal, or disease treatments, or would like one of our Arborists to examine your trees to identify any issues and recommend options, we're always here for you! Just give us a call at 954-788-4000 to set up an appointment.

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