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

Control of Paulownia tomentosa from Westminster MD
October 28, 2011 - I have heard that there is a type of herbicide that is to be applied to slashes made in the outer layer of invasive trees such as Paulownia. This type of application is reputed to prevent the little ...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Seedling Texas Mountain Laurels
April 15, 2013 - I have two mountain laurels that I grew from seed. They are in pots, but the roots have grown through the bottom and into my flower bed. The trees are about 6 feet tall. They have already bloomed. So ...
view the full question and answer

Plants under an oak tree from Corpus Christi TX
June 30, 2012 - My project: To grow white turk's cap under an old oak tree I first planted St. Augustine sod this spring because we had many oak suckers around the tree. We mixed new soil and compost, and laid the ...
view the full question and answer

Tree with no invasive roots for Los Angeles
July 24, 2011 - I have a large in ground planter sharing the outside wall (on south/east corner) of my house in east LA 90032. I would like to find a tree that grows quite tall (2 story building), but grows roots ver...
view the full question and answer

Tree protection during construction
February 18, 2008 - What measures can/should be taken to ensure the health, future of live oaks while building a new home? There are many small to medium oaks on this property, some very close to the house site and the o...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center