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Mr. Smarty Plants - Trees for shade east windows from sun in Abilene, TX

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Saturday - October 25, 2008

From: Abilene, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Trees for shade east windows from sun in Abilene, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We need a tree(s) to plant in front of four east windows (20 feet space) to shade our breakfast room from the early morning sun. We have shades but need a bit more protection. I do not wish to shade the ground area too much as I have sun loving native plants there. Would a desert willow (or several) be appropriate?

ANSWER:

We can certainly suggest some trees or shrubs that will shade those windows facing east. Before we do that, let us give you some things to consider. First, you say you don't want to shade out your native sun plants. That's going to be a problem-if it shades the windows, then, as the sun goes over, the shade is going to go the other way, probably shading your plants. Do your windows face due east? If they face to the northeast, you will get the most sun on the windows in the summer; facing to the southeast, they will have more sun in the winter. The sun, you remember, goes a little south for the winter, and comes up later besides, so there also is a consideration of what time of day you want those windows shaded.

Next question, were you planning to plant the trees/shrubs up near the windows, and also near the foundation? Most trees and, in fact, most shrubs, should not be planted too near a foundation or other hard surfaces. Tree roots are mostly in the upper 6 to 12 inches of soil, and they will be scrabbling for moisture and air. If they come up against foundation or sidewalk, something has to give. Foundations can be damaged by tree roots, which often extend twice the perimeter of the dripline of the tree. And concrete sidewalks or stepping stones can certainly be disrupted. Plus those roots will be in there competing with your native plants already in place.

Final thing to think about-we're assuming you're looking for a light, dappled shade that will permit you to see light and some of your garden outside, but not darken your room with too much shade. Most trees and shrubs, especially light, airy trees like that, are deciduous, and will have no leaves at all for 4 to 5 months in the winter. Not only that, but anything you can purchase that is small enough to safely transplant is going to be pretty short, and may take a number of years to reach an appropriate size to cast the shade on the windows. 

We are going to go to our Recommended Species  list and click on "High Plains" on the Texas map. Then, we will select first for trees and then for shrubs that might suit your purposes. We are going to add to those selections your suggestion of Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) and one we like at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center gardens,  Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood), both of which should do well in your environment. 

SHRUBS

Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita) - evergreen, can reach to 8 ft., pretty stickery and formidable

Rhus microphylla (littleleaf sumac) - deciduous, 4 to 16 ft. tall

TREES

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) - deciduous, gorgeous purple and white flowers

Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) - deciduous, 10 to 20 ft. in height

Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon) 12 to 36 ft., deciduous

Cercocarpus montanus var. argenteus (silver mountain mahogany) - evergreen, height and width to 15 ft. More information from Texas A&M Horticulture  Mountain Mahogany 

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (western soapberry) - 10 to 50 ft. tall, deciduous

Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood) - to 10 ft. tall, deciduous

As you can see, none of these choices exactly fill the bill for shade on your east windows. You might actually find that heavier shades or light curtains to pull over the shades could be more effective and safer for your foundation and for your native plants. If you decide to pursue the plant route, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type in your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape consultants in your general area.


Mahonia trifoliolata

Rhus microphylla

Chilopsis linearis

Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Cercocarpus montanus var. argenteus

Diospyros texana

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Eysenhardtia texana

 

 

 

 

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