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Orange tree removal/replacement project

Orange tree removal/replacement project

The Ornamental Orange trees along the walls on R.H. Johnson Blvd. are being removed and replaced with Southern Live Oaks.

The total number of trees affected is 354.

Current orange trees require routine maintenance, including trimming, cleanup and painting of the trunks.

                                 Southern Live Oaks

  • Grow at a moderate rate
  • Evergreen year-round – dense dark color
  • Extremely drought tolerant
  • Once established they require low water
  • Very low maintenance – no special care needed
  • Likes full sun
  • Long life span
  • Project start date June 4, 2018
  • Estimated completion date June 29, 2018

Southern Live Oak

  1. I know it’s already been approved and done (taking out citrus and replacing with southern live oaks) but why did we have to replace the citrus with anything? I think it looks just fine with the palms in every other “cubby hole” of the wall. I just don’t see the need for a tree in each spot. Actually starts to look like too much along R.H. Johnson. But that’s just my opinion. maybe when it’s time for the palms to come out, they’ll be replaced with nothing? Seems it would conserve water and money to be used somewhere else.

  2. A waste of money, the little orange trees did no harm and looked nice. Poor judgement…

    • Multimedia says:

      We’re sorry you feel that way Marion. The orange trees were very high maintenance and the Prides have been asking for them to be removed for years as they are the ones who took care of them. Thank you for your thoughts.

  3. This will be beautiful! Great job. Thank you.

  4. The Southern Live Oaks will be an interesting change for a number of years, but eventually will be another problem. Something far more pressing currently is the leaning Saguaro, which if we get too much rain could topple and kill someone while driving. Can this be propped up or replanted elsewhere?

    • Multimedia says:

      Hi Juliet, can you supply an exact location of the leaning saguaro you’re referring to?

    • Multimedia says:

      Hi Juliet, I did talk to Todd Patty about this question and if it’s the one in the R.H. Johnson median, that belongs to the County. Todd believes the Prides have already talked to them about it. Thanks for your comments.

  5. Multimedia says:

    Thanks to everyone for your input on the tree project! We wanted to mention that the Prides took care of the orange trees, and will do the same for the new trees. Because it was so much work keeping up with maintenance, they have been asking that the orange trees be taken out for years. Be sure to give our Sun City West Prides a nice wave when you see them working on Saturday mornings!

  6. It’s great that you’re replacing the old orange trees, but hearing that the Oak Trees will have to be topped at a certain height seems like a bad idea. Topping trees can cause them to look ugly, as well as lead to poor health of the tree. A landscape architect isn’t a tree health expert or an arborist.

    • Multimedia says:

      Thank you for your comments Carly. I’m sorry, I used the wrong terminology in saying “topping” – the trees will not be topped, only selectively pruned, and it will likely be years from now when they need it.

  7. John H Kasten says:

    Looks like some of the comments I would make have been made by others. Couple of additional points: 1) While the budget is a complex document, meaning I may have missed it, I was not able to find a line item for this expense. Even at bargain prices, 354 new trees and the cost of removing the existing trees will have to cost more than $100,000. 2) How is the ground to branch height going to be managed so that we can still use the sidewalks after the crown reaches a width where it will cover them? 3) Why is it so important to undo everything that Del Webb designed for our community? 4) Will the existing irrigation system do the job, considering the very different roots structures? And many more.

    • RCSCW PR says:

      Hi Mr. Kasten. Thank you for your questions. The project is a holdover from last year’s budget, so you wouldn’t see it in the current one. It will cost about $84,000. The ground to branch height will not be an issue as the trees we plant will be small and will take many years to grow to any height that would be an issue, at which time they will be selectively pruned to keep them off the street and sidewalk. The existing irrigation infrastructure is in great shape and will be used for the new trees. As for your comment that we are undoing everything Del Webb designed for our community – times change. We are 40 years old. Del Webb – now a division of Pulte – is not using the same materials in their new developments and homes that they used 40 years ago. No one would buy a home in their new communities if they used the same styles and products that were popular 40 years ago. We are responsible for maintaining this community into the distant future. To do that, we must ensure new people want to move here, while continuing to live up to our current residents’ expectations. To do that, we must periodically modernize, update and change styles. It’s kind of like the old ad campaign, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” Different generations enjoy different styles. Aside from that, we learn more about landscaping, products and materials that cause us to change them over time, perhaps because of maintenance, quality, environmental friendliness, etc.

      • I’m 50 and love “my father’s Oldsmobile.” Part of the charm for me to pursue buying (not living) a home in SCW was the smell of the orange blossoms the first time I visited years ago. Each time I return and smell those blooms brings back a wave of good memories. I’m sorry to hear they are coming out, but you will never please everyone.

        • Multimedia says:

          Hi Deb. The good news is there is SO much citrus around Sun City West, the smell of their blooms fills the air each Spring! The little orange trees never really had a chance to bloom anyway with the way the Prides kept them pruned. Have a great day!

  8. Carol Gray says:

    In one response you say deep and infrequent watering and then say deep watering twice a week. That is a lot of water. Even orange trees don’t need water twice a week and if they shed as some people say that is a lot of maintenance. Some more thought needed.

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Carol. The trees will be deep watered twice a week this summer due to the heat so that they can establish, then we will back off. They will use no more water than the orange trees did, probably less.

  9. Cookie Wilkison says:

    We have experienced the Southern Live Oak Trees from our years in Florida. Granted the climate is extremely different and therefore the tree growth will be also. However, a word of caution……in the, hopefully long life of these trees, they become quite broad and reach out over15-20 feet in breadth. Therefore, they will be spreading out into the walkways and streets as well as the residential properties within the walls of R.H. Johnson and wherever else you plant them. They are also a deciduous tree and they DO SHED LEAVES SEASONALLY!!!!! Clean-up? Additionally, this tree is native to the Southeastern United States which is very warm AND HUMID!!! I’m sure you don’t intend to replace them again in another 15-20 years. Hmmmm. Sounds lovely the first 10 years, but then………? I like the idea of moving into the present with our community visual appearance, but PLEASE spend THOROUGH TIME investigating your options before decisions are made. This one seems a bit out of tune with the cleanliness and neatness of our community design which we love.
    Thank you for your time in reading these comments……..

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Cookie. A lot of research was done before making this decision, along with obtaining a recommendation from a landscape architect that has done work in the community. We already have a number of these trees that have been in the ground for up to 10-15 years and found that while they do drop some leaves, they don’t shed very much here. One of the key reasons for this change, other than aesthetics was to cut down on maintenance. The orange trees took a lot of upkeep and the Southern Live Oaks will not. The orange trees used a lot of water, plus needed pruning and trunk painting. Deep water twice a week and occasional selective pruning (years from now) will be all that is required for the oaks. Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. It is our understanding that whoever lives by a wall is responsible for that wall. How can we be assured that these new tree roots will not damage the walls and if they do, who will be responsible for fixing the walls?

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Larry, we have experience with Southern Live Oaks elsewhere in the community and this is not an issue, even with those planted close to sidewalks and curbs. Some have been here for more than 10-15 years. They are deep-watered twice a week to encourage the roots to go deep. On the off chance that one were to damage a resident’s wall, it would be our responsibility to fix that.

  11. Joyce Krahenbuhl says:

    Please read the article, “The Myth of Tree Topping”, on It is not recommended by arborists. Topping increases tree health problems. It is not practiced by certified arborists.

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Joyce. We prefer not to top trees and do try to avoid it. We intend to manage the growth of these trees via water, with topping a last resort if they get out of hand. Thanks for your comments.

      • Multimedia says:

        My mistake on giving out the information given to me. “Topped” is not the proper terminology and I believe I used it several times in these comments. These trees may have to be trimmed (sometime in the future, probably not for years), but they will not be topped. Sorry for the confusion everyone!

  12. It’s a great idea to remove these trees. Prides asked for consideration for years.

    Not familiar with replacement choices. Sounds good.

  13. Linda Johnson says:

    We were just talking about how much we enjoy the unobstructed view of the sky from our porch as we read about plans for Stardust. How much will the trees affect that? We would be sad to lose that wide open feeling. Love that you are modernizing and being eco-conscious and appreciate the planning.

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Linda. Thank you for your comments. The Stardust part of this project isn’t in the pipeline yet, but the trees should not hamper your peaceful views of the sky.

  14. Janet Chicvara says:

    Why not use your heads and put in cactus which require NO WATER????? After all, we are in the desert. It seems you never think about saving us money, just spending it!

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Janet. Yes, we are in a desert, but we are also a lifestyle community and as such, we need to keep the community attractive. On the topic of budget, we hope you were able to attend one of the Association’s recent budget forums to ask any questions you may have had. The budget process is a long one, and there are many meetings and workshops to discuss all aspects of it before approval. We invite you to attend some of those open meetings, including Budget & Finance in the fall.

      • Plant Native trees or brush or succulents. I have a fab succulent – i break pieces, shove in ground and they grow tall or spread on the ground, and green all year round.

        Southern live oaks are majestic trees that are emblems of the South. When given enough room to grow, their sweeping limbs plunge toward the ground before shooting upward, creating an impressive array of branches. Crowns of the largest southern live oaks reach diameters of 150 feet (45.7 meters)—nearly large enough to encompass half of a football field. On average, though, the crown spread is 80 feet (24 meters) and the height is 50 feet (15 meters). Branches usually stem from a single trunk, which can grow to five or six feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters) in diameter.

        Unlike most oak trees, which are deciduous, southern live oaks are nearly evergreen. They replace their leaves over a short period of several weeks in the spring. Sweet, tapered acorns produced by the trees are eaten by birds and mammals, including sapsuckers, mallards, wild turkeys, squirrels, black bears, and deer. The threatened Florida scrub jay relies on the scrub form of the southern live oak for nesting. Other birds make use of the moss that frequently hangs from the tree branches to construct nests.


        As their scientific name (Quercus virginiana) suggests, southern live oaks are found in Virginia, and continue south to Florida and west to Texas and Oklahoma. Southern live oaks grow well in salty soils and in shade, which makes them great competitors against other, less tolerant trees. But Southern live oaks are confined to warm parts of the country because of their inability to survive freezing temperatures. These trees grow in the wild, but they’re also popular ornamental plants with many southerners.

        Life History

        Flowers of the southern live oak aren’t bright and showy like those of some other trees. They are small, brown, and pollinated by wind in the spring. Acorns fall in autumn and serve as a food source for many animals.

        Southern live oaks are fast-growing trees, but their growth rate slows with age. They may reach close to their maximum trunk diameter within 70 years. The oldest live oaks in the country are estimated to be between several hundred to more than a thousand years old.


        Despite their incredibly strong wood, southern live oaks aren’t used much for timber anymore, though they were once the preferred tree for ship-building. Their biggest threats are several pests and diseases, including wilt disease, which is most prevalent in Texas. They are also susceptible to freezing temperatures and acid rain.

  15. Linda L Bunce says:

    Is root spread a concern with the southern live oak?

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Linda, roots should not be a problem with the walls or sidewalks. Deep and infrequent watering will eliminate surface roots.

  16. Kattididt says:

    Long overdue project. Removing the citrus trees will certainly add to the visual beauty and safety of our community and cost of upkeep.

    Are you giving a hint to homeowners to consider removing citrus from the neighborhood landscape? Citrus trees are a nuisance with their upkeep and a negative is their fruit attracting rodents and roof rats etc with their fruit. The fruit produced are not necessarily the best of taste and quality and end up bagged and dropped off randomly on benches to rot. Let’s be realistic: who eats grapefruit?

    Every neighborhood suffers from the seasonal resident not making arrangements for landscapers to clean up the dropped citrus leaving the rotting fruit as a neighborhood eyesore and rodent attraction. Your suggestion of Southern Live Oaks will be taken under advisement.

    • The fruit from our citrus trees is delicious, healthy and economical, and there are still health conscious people who eat grapefruit. The organic, juicy, sweet tasting lemons, oranges and key limes, are the best I have ever enjoyed. Eating fresh fruit vs. a bag of chips to snack on – we’ll the proof is in the dress size!

  17. YEA!!!!!!!!!!!! ‘Bout time!! Great decision!!!

  18. Removing the Ornamental Orange trees because of routine maintenance, including trimming, cleanup and painting of the trunks for Southern Live Oaks is only moving the burden from one problem to another. When the Southern Live Oaks start maturing the root system, which is more robust than the Ornamental Orange trees, will start undermining the walls, possibly cracking it and could damage the sidewalks. Since this is the desert why not put in desert plants.

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Jim, as mentioned in response to Dudley, growth of the live Oak trees can be controlled by how much or how little water you give them. Roots should not be a problem with the walls or sidewalks. Deep and infrequent watering will eliminate surface roots. Oak trees can also be trimmed selectively when they reach the desired height. Also, the community has many, many desert plantings throughout, but we can’t make everything desert as we have a responsibility to keep Sun City West the attractive, lifestyle community it is.

      • Think Jim has a point about the roots. Secondly, having lived in a city that had many large trees topped, that is VERY unattractive and unnatural. Southern live oaks can grow tall and wide, which has not been mentioned. Seems that may be a problem in years to come when tree limbs need to be pruned from growing over the street. This IS the desert; why not choose something more suitable to our climate and caliche soil in a smaller size?

        • Multimedia says:

          My mistake on giving out the information given to me. “Topped” is not the proper terminology and I believe I used it several times in these comments. These trees may have to be trimmed (sometime in the future, probably not for years), but they will not be topped. Sorry for the confusion everyone!

  19. Harry Thompson says:

    And who was the expert arborist who suggested that the high maintenance orange trees with their non edible fruit be placed along our avenues to begin with?

  20. Ruth Mayerhofer says:

    Great idea, keep life simple in SCW. Sounds like a nice addition to beautify our community.

  21. Linda Pimental says:

    What a GREAT undertaking for SCW!!!! Are there thoughts about doing the same for the trees along Stardust????

    • Multimedia says:

      Yes Linda, the trees along Stardust will be tackled in the future, it’s part of our long-range planning.

      • Jim Carlson says:

        Great to hear about removing the orange trees. The oaks will give the area a fresh look. Also glad you will be removing the trees on Stardust. Thanks for working so hard to make our community inviting to current and future residents.

  22. Carl Pimental says:

    Finally. Thank you. Maybe now we’ll look like 2018 instead of 1965

    Great decision!!!!

  23. Steve Simons says:

    I lived in Texas and had acres of southern live oaks. They do best along the coast in a humid, tropical climate. You’ll find very few of them west of the Balcones Escarpment. These trees are going to die in Arizona. Whoever told you that they’re drought tolerant and require little water was selling you a bill of goods.

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Steve. We do have experience with Southern Live Oaks here in Sun City West. We’ve had them in the Palm Ridge parking lot for 5 years now and they’re doing quite well – they have thus far required zero maintenance. We have also added about 25-30 of them at R.H. Johnson. They tend to thrive in parking lots and along roadways. Thanks for your input.

  24. Jim Petrell says:

    Why not replace the palm trees as well? Huge cost to trim at least twice a year. I had 6 in my yard and had every one cut down.

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Jim. We are slowly removing palm trees on our properties. Over the past two years, we took out 73 palms as part of the R.H. Johnson enhancement project. We’re working on it!

  25. Dona Lockyer says:

    This is a good landscaping move. Those lollipop shaped orange trees were not very attractive. Hope these new trees will be left to grow like Mother Nature intended and not butchered into balls. Is Stardust is in the future for tree replacement also?

  26. Susan Smith says:

    Excellent idea- those little trees just look silly!!!

  27. Dudley gibson says:

    Great idea, the popsicle oranges have required far too much maintenance. I wonder though, although the Southern Oak is slow growing, if it will eventually grow large enough to require trimming and if roots may effect integrity of the block walls and sidewalks?

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Dudley, growth of the live Oak trees can be controlled by how much or how little water you give them. Roots should not be a problem with the walls or sidewalks. Deep and infrequent watering will eliminate surface roots. Oak trees can also be pruned when they reach the desired height.

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