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

Salt tolerant plants for shade on tidal inlet in NY
August 11, 2013 - Are there any salt water tolerant grasses or forbs with deep roots that grow in shade? I live on a tidal inlet/canal on Long Island NY. The southern bank has cedars and oaks but the soil is eroding ...
view the full question and answer

Competition between Horseherb and Chickweed
July 04, 2014 - Ok, sorry I did it wrong the 1st time!? I live in Houston, and I have chickens! I also have mass amounts of Horseherb, and I want to buy some chickweed seeds and plant it for my chickens! My question ...
view the full question and answer

Flowering plants for shady garden in Bastrop
July 02, 2010 - We live in Bastrop, 8 miles west of the Historical district. We have a small flower garden in a shady spot around 25 feet from the back patio of our home. We'd like to find out what native plants, f...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen drought-tolerant screening plant for shade
May 13, 2010 - I am renting my place and looking for a screening, green all year, native plant or shrub. I plan to grow it in large planters along my street and to create privacy in my back yard. It has to be a non...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover to control erosion in Montgomery County, Texas
February 24, 2014 - I am looking for some kind of ground cover to control erosion on a north facing slope in Montgomery County, Texas. The area gets very little direct sunlight. I need something that will establish quick...
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