Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Groundcover to reduce erosion for shady area in New York
May 05, 2009 - We live on a lake with gravelly and clay soils, lots of wind and little sun. I am looking for a native ground cover that will help reduce erosion over some of the steep slopes facing south (under shad...
view the full question and answer

Vines for shade in North-Central Georgia
August 07, 2009 - I am looking for something to hide a 6' wood fence that will grow in almost full shade. I have an area approx 2 feet wide to plant in. Since the fence and planting areas are stepped -- about 8 feet f...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control for steep shady hillside in Massachusetts
September 02, 2010 - What would be a good plant for erosion control on a steep, very shady hillside in Massachusetts?
view the full question and answer

Shade, Heat, Drought and Acidic Soil Tolerant Perennials for Las Vegas?
November 28, 2015 - What can I grow under my pine trees that is shade and heat (and acidity) tolerant? I live in Las Vegas, NV and would like perennials to plant under my pine trees.
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for shade under oaks in San Antonio
May 04, 2013 - I have been modifying my landscape to reduce grass and the need for frequent watering. Have turned half the backyard into native plants garden with hardscape and sitting areas. Have 2 mature Monterey ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.