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

Friday - May 15, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native shade trees for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am building a new home that does not have any trees close by-- I want to have several shade trees to increase the efficiency of my home. What are your suggestions for an easy care, fast-growing, and low-water tree that is also native to the Austin area?

ANSWER:

Generally speaking, we don't recommend "fast-growing" trees, because they tend to have weak wood, break down easily and are short-lived. Since your house is being built now, we urge you to wait until cool weather to attempt to plant your trees.That also should be time enough for construction to be complete, as you certainly don't want to subject new young trees to construction material being piled above their roots, grading of the property, or the absence of a water source for the newly-planted tree.

The ground area at the outside edge of the canopy, referred to as the dripline, is especially important. The tree obtains most of its surface water here, and conducts an important exchange of air and other gases. Any change in the level of soil around a tree can have a negative impact. The most critical area lies within 6 to 10 feet of the trunk. Paving should be kept out of the dripline and no closer than 15 feet from the tree trunk. Placement involves considering foundations, sidewalks and driveways.

You can search for trees on your own by going to our Recommended Species section, clicking on Central Texas on the map, and then Narrow Your Search by selecting "trees" under habit. We will make some suggestions, but you can tailor your choices to your particular circumstances.

Trees for Central Texas

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

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) - deciduous, 15 to 30 ft. tall, blooms white, pink, purple April to September, low water use, sun

Cotinus obovatus (American smoketree) - deciduous, 15 to 30 ft. tall, blooms pink, yellow April and May, low water use, sun, part shade

Fraxinus texensis (Texas ash) - 30 to 45 ft. tall, low water use, part shade

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) - deciduous, 15 to 35 ft. tall, blooms white, pink February to April

Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak) - deciduous, 40 to 100 ft. tall, medium water use, sun, part shade, shade

Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) - deciduous, 50 to 75 ft. tall, medium water use, sun, part shade


Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Chilopsis linearis

Cotinus obovatus

Fraxinus texensis

Prunus mexicana

Quercus macrocarpa

Taxodium distichum

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

How to stabilize a slope under Red Oaks?
March 19, 2013 - A portion our front "yard" (20x40 feet) is a limestone hillside shaded by 3 large spanish oaks. The small amount of grass holding onto the hillside is now gone from the drought, and the hill has er...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for a dry slope in PA
May 23, 2013 - My side yard is a slope with rocky (a lot of small serpentine rocks) soil under white and black pine trees. I can grow lots of weeds :-) but would like to plant a low (0-3in) evergreen ground cover th...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover under Spruces from West Chester PA
December 06, 2012 - Trying to get a native groundcover (or any grass/wildflower/fern) planting established under a small stand of spruces. Established stand (30+ years old), so lots of needles on ground. Just about tot...
view the full question and answer

Low evergreen drought-resistant shrubs for area in partial shade
January 03, 2014 - I promised my mom to help her with some new plants for her house, so here goes. She lives near Waco on Blackland clay soil. The problem area is right in front of the house. It only receives a few hour...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for shade in Dallas
November 30, 2008 - What native grasses can be grown under large Live Oaks in the Dallas Area? The combination of shade and black gumbo soil seem to keep all plant life, except for poison ivy and ferns, out. I would lo...
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