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

Is Douglas maple (Acer glabrum var. douglassii) native
June 02, 2008 - Could you give me some information about Douglas maple? Moslty, I'm trying to find out if this plant is native or introduced to Idaho and/or U.S. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Twig girdlers attacking an Elm tree in Wimberly, TX.
October 27, 2009 - I was looking at my small 6' cedar elm and noticed that four (4) 1/2" limbs have circle cuts a 1/8" wide completely around them and they are dead. Is this some insect or maybe a bigger critter? I h...
view the full question and answer

Location of pine trees for a wedding site in Grapevine TX
April 30, 2014 - Okay, I know this is a long shot. My daughter is getting married in Grapevine, October 18 at sunrise. She REALLY wants to have the ceremony near pine trees. Any suggestions for locations in Grapevine ...
view the full question and answer

Texas wild olive tree
April 05, 2012 - I live in the Phoenix area. My Texas wild olive (Cordia boissieri) is about 5 years old, about 12 feet tall and has beautiful blossoms all year long. However, this past year (through all seasons...
view the full question and answer

Effects of patio under large tree
July 17, 2008 - I would like to put in a patio under a fairly large tree. I understand a tree needs some open ground around it for air and water. Can I use flagstone leaving 6-10 inches of space between the stones?...
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