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

Wednesday - March 18, 2009

From: Portland, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Shade tree for Portland, OR
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Looking for shade tree for Portland, Oregon, with non-invasive root system. House will be 20 ft away, with basement.

ANSWER:

We wish we knew how to explain to a tree that it should not invade foundations, buckle sidewalks or pop roots up in the garden, but that's just the way trees are. Most of their roots are within 6 to 12 inches from the soil surface, and they are relentless in their search for water, oxygen and nutrients. The following is an extract from a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question:

"As to the exact distance either should be planted from foundations or sidewalks, that becomes a matter of personal judgment. Soil subsidence around foundations is more often the result of the soil becoming too dry. It is true that tree roots will range out from their trunk as much as twice the diameter of the tree crown in search of moisture but this is usually not a prime factor in foundation damage. 

In general terms regarding the planting of trees near structures, the ground area at the outside edge of the canopy, referred to as the dripline, is especially important. The tree obtains most of its surface water here, and conducts an important exchange of air and other gases. The most critical area lies within 6 to 10 feet of the trunk. Paving should be kept out of the dripline and no closer than 15 feet from the tree trunk."

With that in mind, we are going to look at Recommended Species in our Native Plant Database, and find smaller trees that will result in less extensive roots but still give some nice shade to the area. Also be aware, as noted above, of the damage roots can do to sidewalks and drives in their area. These trees will all be native not only to North America but to Oregon. Native plants grown in their natural habitat will require less water, food and maintenance.

TREES FOR OREGON

Juniperus scopulorum (Rocky Mountain juniper)

Pinus contorta (lodgepole pine)

Prunus virginiana (chokecherry)

Umbellularia californica (California laurel)


Juniperus scopulorum

Pinus contorta

Prunus virginiana

Umbellularia californica

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Plants for erosion of shaded slope in Bethesda MD
April 07, 2010 - I have an eastern facing heavily shaded slope in Bethesda, Md. that needs a few good native plants to keep it from eroding. Ferns are not doing well on it. They do much better in the flats. So, anythi...
view the full question and answer

Vine to cover fence from Haverhill MA
April 17, 2014 - Hello, I'm looking for a fast growing vine to cover a chain link fence. The area is sunny half of the day. I have 2 small children so I don't want something that attracts bees or could be dangerous ...
view the full question and answer

Native Plants for Shaded North Slope in Ohio
January 03, 2013 - I have a shaded north hillside which needs erosion control plants. Mostly moss and very thin grass grows there now. Please help!
view the full question and answer

Will Thunder Turf do well in shade from Iola TX
June 23, 2010 - Will the Thunder Turf do well in shady areas or is there a better blend of native grasses that would thrive better?
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for rock garden under large oak
October 02, 2012 - I am planning a small rock garden under a large oak tree. I would like a spreading evergreen ground cover that will grow in the shade. Drought-tolerant would be preferred as I live in the high plains...
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