En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - July 26, 2014

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning Post Oaks
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I live in Houston and have two post oaks. One is right by my house. I'd like to trim them but was told they are sensitive and might die if I trim them. Is this true? What is the right course of action?

ANSWER:

Post oaks, botanically known as Quercus stellata are the most common oak in Texas and like to grow in sandy or gravel soils. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database has the following information about the post oak:

Post oak is the most common oak throughout Texas. The typical places to see it are sites with sandy or gravelly soils. Its acorns are an important food source for deer, squirrels, wild turkeys and other wildlife. Larval host for several butterfly species. This plant is common in the central and southern forest regions, where it is a medium-sized tree. This is the ultimate drought resistant tree, but also grows in soggy, flatwoods soils. In dry portions of the western part of its range it is smaller. Its roots are extremely sensitive to disturbance. Not often used in landscape situations. Slow-growing and long-lived.

White oaks (the group to which post oak belong), are resistant to the oak wilt fungus and rarely die from this disease. Pruning, through the creation of open wounds, is a factor in the spread of the disease. Perhaps this is why you were told that trimming your tree would be harmful. Even though this tree is not hugely susceptible to oak wilt, it is a good idea to follow the same protocols to prevent new infections. Do not prune from February through June and paint all wounds and pruning cuts immediately.

One good resource about these trees is the article, The Care and Feeding of Post Oaks in Denton County by John Cooper, Denton County Extension Horticulturist. While it doesn't specifically address pruning, it has a lot of great information about keeping these trees healthy including feeding and steps to preserve the roots.

The USDA had an excellent factsheet on the post oak and does discuss pruning with the following statements: "needs little pruning to develop a strong structure" and the branches "droop as the tree grows, and will require pruning for vehicular or pedestrian clearance beneath the canopy; showy trunk; should be grown with a single leader."

 

From the Image Gallery


Post oak
Quercus stellata

Post oak
Quercus stellata

Post oak
Quercus stellata

Post oak
Quercus stellata

More Trees Questions

Seed germination for sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
December 15, 2007 - How can I germinate sugar maple?(step by step, please) I have some seeds but can't make them grow directly outside, so could you recommend a method which takes place inside?! I've heard something ab...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen oak in Washington
February 17, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in the Pacific Northwest and noticed an oak tree growing near the road that was evergreen (unusual for here). I was so curious that that last time that I passed the tree,...
view the full question and answer

Premature browning of bald cypress needles in summer
July 15, 2011 - I have several 10m high taxodium distichum trees in the lawn, with drip irrigation twice a week, and same soil content, and on just one of them, several leaves have started turning brown, it seems to ...
view the full question and answer

Lightning protection of smooth bark cypress
October 05, 2008 - I have been told that the smooth bark cypress stores a large amount of water at its base and if lightning strikes, it will explode and extinguish the flames. Could you tell me if this is a myth? I'...
view the full question and answer

Would like fast growing evergreen trees in Austin, TX.
October 31, 2012 - Hi, We're moving to Southwest Austin and would like to plant a cluster of pines (or cypress trees?) or other fast growing, large and tall evergreen trees. Any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center