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 - May 12, 2009

From: Arlington, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources, Transplants
Title: Height of tree to block sun on deck in Arlington MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am trying to figure out how tall a tree I should buy in order to make sure to block out the sun on my deck

ANSWER:

Since this might require some mathematical work, at which Mr. Smarty Plants does not excel, we will have to point you at some information and let you take it from there.

First, the tree you buy and transplant into your yard is not going to be big enough to shade your deck this week, because you want to transplant a young tree that can hope to survive being transplanted. You will need to look at possible selections, find out what their estimated mature size, both in height and circumference of the foliage, will be and about how long it will take to get to that size. If you're going to live there 15 years, you'll probably have nice shade before you move. If you want shade for your birthday party in July, we suggest you investigate awnings. And, please, don't be taken in by the "shade in one year" ads or "fast-growing tree, instant shade." Any plant that grows too fast will have weak wood, not be long-lived and break down easily. And stick with trees native not only to North America, but to the area in which you live. They will be adapted to your climate, rainfall and soil, while the non-natives can either die because your weather is too harsh for them, or become invasive because it's too perfect for them.

Second, you are going to have to study the hardscape around your yard, and make sure the tree roots, as the tree matures, are not going to interfere with foundations, sidewalks, driveways, etc. That will also help determine how tall the tree needs to be, because you are going to have to plant your little tree far enough from the deck to keep deck and tree from damaging each other. Roots of trees generally extend at least as far out as the shadow of the canopy of the tree and sometimes twice that far.

And, finally, which way does your deck face? Do you want it shaded in the morning or the afternoon? That will also be a determinant on where or how far your tree is planted. The sunlight will be coming from a slightly different direction in the summer than it does in the winter, so that will require some adjustments. 

Now, because we don't know how much space you have, where paving, deck, and foundations will be in relation to the planned tree, we will have to let you do the calculations. We are going to go to our Recommended Species list,  click on Massachusetts on the map, and Narrow Your Search to trees. We will make a few suggestions, but it's up to you to follow up, investigate their prospective heights and canopy widths, and what size tree you can reasonably put in the ground this season. You can use the same search technique to see if there are other trees or even tall shrubs that you would rather use. Remember, these are just examples - there are many other trees native to Massachusetts that you could choose.

Trees for Massachusetts

Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam) - 35 to 50 ft. tall, deciduous, medium water use

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud) - 15 to 30 ft., deciduous, blooms pink March to May, low water use

Ilex opaca (American holly) - 25 to 60 ft., evergreen, blooms white, green March to June, medium water use

Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree) - to 150 ft. tall, deciduous, medium water use


Carpinus caroliniana

Cercis canadensis

Ilex opaca

Liriodendron tulipifera

 

 

 

 

More Seed and Plant Sources Questions

Source for Dioscorea floribunda or D. villosa
June 21, 2009 - Can you furnish me with a source for growing my own Dioscorea floribunda, or , Dioscorea villosa?? Many thanks.
view the full question and answer

Mediun-sized tree for southern California, possibly Monterey cypress
September 07, 2009 - Hello, I live in Glendora CA 91741, I am looking for a CA native non -deciduous medium size tree to provide shade in the front yard. I was thinking of monterey cypress; any suggestions and place to ...
view the full question and answer

Sources of native plants for Marin County, CA
June 30, 2005 - Where in Marin County, California can I get native area plants?
view the full question and answer

Need source for seeds or plants of Pinus remota in Johnson City, TX..
October 18, 2011 - I cannot seem to find a source for Pinus remota or papershell pinyon pine. Who Grows this? I understand it is rare and would love to try it here in Johnson City. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Source for Escarpment Black Cherry trees in Austin
January 04, 2010 - I live in Central Texas and I am looking for a tree farm or nursery that has Escarpment Black Cherry trees. They seem to be quite hard to find. Are you aware of any local nurseries that might carry t...
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