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

Tuesday - April 28, 2009

From: Rogue River, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Planting, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Shallow topsoil on rocky substrate in SW Oregon
Answered by: Jackie OKeefe

QUESTION:

I want to plants some shrubs and trees. Trouble is I can't plant very deep. I have mostly rock within 5 inches. Please help.

ANSWER:

Thank you for sending your question to us at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Since our mission is to inform about and promote the use of our native plants, we will point you to some resources and ideas that help you find native, well-adapted plants for your soils, topography and climate.

Okay, so you don't have a lot of topsoil. There are native species which have adapted to thrive on stony, thin-clad ground. And there are other considerations. Some are physical parameters – light, slope, moisture, exposure, wind. Others are choices – height, form, plant features like flowers, berries or thorns. Are you trying to create a screen? Do you want winter foliage or light penetration? What kinds of wildlife might find cover or forage in your landscape? Since shrubs and trees are long-term additions to the landscape, think about the long-term size and characteristics of your choices and remember the acorn thing (mighty oak trees...some things get really big).

A partial "fix" for your soil depth issue, especially if you are on a slope, is to raise and level the ground by creating small terraces. The raised end of the terrace allows you to increase soil depth, and prevents unchecked erosion. As the shrubs and trees grow more extensive root systems, they become part of the stabilizing mechanism. (When adding a new soil horizon, it is important to cultivate and mix the existing soil with the added layer so the plants roots transition into the lower soil layer.)

To search for appropriate plants, go to our Native Plants Database, select Oregon, and run a couple of searches on shrubs and trees, narrowing to your light and moisture requirements. The search results will give you a list of possible plant choices, and the individual plant descriptions should help further narrow your list. Additionally, by clicking the USDA plant symbol just below the plant name and taxonomic description, you will be taken to the USDA database, where, by clicking on Oregon on the Distribution map, you will reach a county-level map of the plant's known distribution. There are also local organizations in your area that can give you good advice on selecting specific species for your particular site. Here are some web links:

Some native plant nurseries for Oregon

Some native plant activities in your area w/The Nature Conservancy

Native Plant List of local wholesale grower Althouse Nursery

 

Running a search on trees and shrubs for Oregon, here are a few possible choices:

Ceanothus velutinus (snowbrush ceanothus)

Quercus garryana (Oregon white oak)

Prunus virginiana (chokecherry)

Spiraea splendens var. splendens (rose meadowsweet)

Vaccinium ovatum (California huckleberry)

Juniperus communis var. saxatilis (common juniper)

 

 

 


Ceanothus velutinus

 

 


Prunus virginiana

 


Spiraea splendens var. splendens

 


 

 

More Trees Questions

Problem with crapemyrtle shoots in Victoria, TX
May 13, 2009 - I have a problem with crepe myrtle shoots coming up in my flowerbed. I had to remove a large crepe myrtle tree (18" diameter stump) and digging out the stump was not possible. I killed the stump wi...
view the full question and answer

Thornless honeylocust trees for Taylor TX
September 21, 2009 - I live in Taylor, Williamson County, in central Texas and I am interested in selecting trees for my backyard. I can't really explain (it may be my Midwestern roots), but I would like to plant three t...
view the full question and answer

Growing non-native avocado outside from Austin
December 27, 2012 - My son has a very large avocado tree that he rooted from a pit that is currently growing in a large container. However, it has gotten too big to winter inside. Can it be planted in the ground in Aust...
view the full question and answer

Identity of Hercules Club from Lathrup Village MI
October 12, 2009 - Thought the shrub was Hercules Club but when looked at photo on line, totally different leaf. Mine has palmate leaf rounded at the tips, spines that are short but substantial. Branches arch somewhat a...
view the full question and answer

Cultivar of Cercis Canadensis from Haskell OK
May 16, 2012 - We have a Hearts of Gold Redbud that first had dark edges to many of its leaves (about 2 weeks after planting). It now has multiple leaves w/ medium-dark brown spots on them. Are we looking at some ...
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