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
1 rating

Wednesday - May 13, 2009

From: Burbank, CA
Region: California
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native trees for shade in Burbank, CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I need a few ideas for a non-deciduous (or nearly non-deciduous)tree that grows fast and will provide shade. Shade need not be total. Chinese Elms come to mind but I'm not sure of the growth rate. Camphor Laurel is too messy I'm told. I'm trying to provide at least dappled shade to a patio year round (can be denser shade during summer months). I live in Los Angeles so certain "deciduous" trees may not lose their leaves. I also need it to be frost resistant as my particular area of LA gets frost at least 30 days a year.

ANSWER:

Please don't plant either Ulmus crassifolia (Chinese or Siberian elm) or Cinnamomum camphora (Camphor laurel). Chinese elm is native to, well, China, as well as Japan and other parts of temperate and tropical Asia. Camphor Laurel is native to the same areas, is invasive and will take over natural habitats in disturbed areas, and is spread by berries eaten by birds. In Australia, it not only has become incredibly invasive, but toxins in the tree are apparently causing some species of birds to nearly disappear. Living in Southern California, you should know that California soils and living conditions are so attractive to plants that non-native invasives have taken over and nearly destroyed many natural areas that cannot be replaced. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the care, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. These two trees are classic reasons for that practice. A plant already adapted by thousand of years in your area will require less fertilizer, water and maintenance and not threaten other plants, because they have all been co-existing for a long time.

So, we will go to our Recommended Species section, click on Southern California on the map, and select on trees. If our native plant database has information on the speed with which a tree grows, we will pass it on to you, but we really don't recommend choosing a tree for its speed of growth. Fast-growing trees usually have weak wood, break down easily, are susceptible to pests and diseases and are short-lived. And we will also let you know if the tree on our list is considered deciduous, realizing that it may not be in Southern California. You can use the same procedure to search for trees on your own, or even shrubs that might fill the bill. Follow each plant link to the webpage on that individual plant, read about its characteristics and, for more information, go to the bottom of that page and click on the link to Google.

Trees for Southern California

Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) - deciduous, 10 to 20 ft. tall, blooms pink, purple March and April, medium water use, sun or part shade

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) - deciduous, willow-like (though not a true willow), 15 to 30 ft. tall, blooms white, pink, purple April to September, low water use, sun

Fraxinus velutina (velvet ash) - deciduous, to 40 ft. tall, water use low, sun

Quercus agrifolia (California live oak) - evergreen, 20 to 50 ft. tall, medium water use, sun, part shade

Umbellularia californica (California laurel) - slow grower to 40 ft., evergreen, high water use, part shade


Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Chilopsis linearis

Fraxinus velutina

Quercus agrifolia

Umbellularia californica

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Seed source for Carex texensis from Louisville KY
May 02, 2012 - Your reply to my question re a grass for my Kentucky home with cistern only water available was much appreciated, Carex texensis was recommended. I am unable to find this product for sale other than ...
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant plants for Pittsburgh PA
January 30, 2012 - What shrubs can I plant on a wet slope that gets partial sun that will help control erosion? They need to be something the deer won't eat! We have lots of deer.
view the full question and answer

Shade ground cover in San Antonio
May 18, 2008 - I would like to find plants, spreading ground or flowers, to go under my red tips. These plants would be in a lot shade and not a great deal of water.
view the full question and answer

Plants for shaded area in East Texas
July 23, 2013 - I live in East Texas and have an area that is shaded most of the day - it only gets sun in the middle of the day but it is direct. What would be best? I would prefer something that won't freeze, bu...
view the full question and answer

Recovering neglected garden space from Grapevine TX
March 22, 2014 - I live in Grapevine TX (Dallas). I just moved into a house where almost the entire large backyard is covered by oak trees that shed tons of leaves throughout our mild falls/winters. The yard has not...
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