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
2 ratings

Wednesday - August 26, 2009

From: Denton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Distance apart to plant oaks in Denton TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How far apart should I plant Pin Oaks and Shumard Red Oaks in our yard? All around us are native oaks, but our backyard has none. I want to create a "forest" that looks like they are native, but not too close together to compete with each other.

ANSWER:

Was there some particular reason you chose those two oaks? Quercus palustris (pin oak) is not only not native to Denton County, it's not native to Texas, at all, but is more a southeastern tree. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we recommend only plants that are native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. Here are the Growing Conditons for pin oaks from our Native Plant Database:

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Heavy, poorly drained soils.
Conditions Comments: One of the faster growing oaks. Tolerates wet feet. Intolerant of alkaline soils. Susceptible to iron chlorosis which causes yellow coloration in the leaves through the summer months and can eventually kill the tree. Somewhat tolerant of city conditions.

It is a pretty adaptable tree, but you might consider an alternative native to your part of Texas. Two oak trees that we would suggest for your consideration and that grow in North Central Texas are Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak) and Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak)

Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak) is a red oak, one of the categories of oak most threatened by oak wilt. In this excerpt from a recent previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer, we discussed that problem:

"We urge you to consider carefully the species of Quercus (oak) you select. The spectre of oak wilt hangs over Texas, and it has been devastating in many areas. From the Texas Oak Wilt Information Partnership (in which the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a partner), please read this article on the disease. Live oaks and red oaks are most susceptible. These include live oaks Quercus fusiformis (plateau oak) and Quercus virginiana (live oak), as well as red oaks such as Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak)  and Quercus buckleyi (Buckley oak). "

To get back to your original question. Here is an article on planting oak trees from lovetoknow Garden Oak Tree Planting. They actually mention (or recommend) some of the very oaks we are trying to discourage you from using, but perhaps the writers of that article don't live where there is oak wilt. From that article, we excerpted this passage on the distance apart that oaks should be planted:

"Choose a spot for your oak tree that’s far enough away from the house, power lines, or outbuildings so that as the tree grows, its branches won’t get tangled in anything important and it won’t be in danger of falling onto a building. Remember that oaks can grow very large, so space it away from other trees as well, leaving at least twenty feet or more of space between the oak tree and its nearest neighbor." 

You didn't say how large your yard is, but as big as some of these oaks can get, one of them would be a forest on a small residential property.  And one more warning, (we know you're getting tired of being told what NOT to do), please read this previous answer on why plants would not grow in a grove of oaks in Houston. Depending on how much space you have, you might consider selecting some smaller, less disease-prone trees for your garden.

Since you shouldn't even think about planting or purchasing a tree while it is still so hot and dry in Texas, spend some time waiting for late Fall researching some other tree choices. Go to our Recommended Species section, click on North Central Texas on the map, and select "tree" under Habit, click on the "Narrow Your Search" box at the bottom of the column. You can follow the plant links of trees you are interested in and find out if they are deciduous, how big they get, what color and when they bloom and details on their uses.

By the way, in your part of Texas, we're betting at least some of the oaks around your neighborhood are  Quercus stellata (post oak). Post oak is the most common oak throughout Texas. The typical places to see it are sites with sandy or gravelly soils. Its acorns are an important food source for deer, squirrels, wild turkeys and other wildlife. Larval host for several butterfly species. This plant is common in the central and southern forest regions, where it is a medium-sized tree. This is the ultimate drought resistant tree, but also grows in soggy, flatwoods soils. In dry portions of the western part of its range it is smaller. Its roots are extremely sensitive to disturbance. Susceptible to oak wilt. Not often used in landscape situations. Slow-growing and long-lived. You virtually can't buy it from a nursery, because it is so difficult to transplant. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Quercus palustris

Quercus shumardii

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus muehlenbergii

 

 

More Trees Questions

Transplant time for small smoke tree from Battle Ground WA
June 01, 2014 - When do I transplant a smoke tree that is still young, about a foot high? It is too close to a fence, which I fear will be a problem as it gets big. I live in Battle Ground, WA which is zone 6.
view the full question and answer

Larvae infesting Mexican white oak
December 16, 2010 - What larvae/worm would dwell and eat the inside of a Mexican White Oak? I planted one last November and it was doing great. The bark started cracking towards the bottom but the top was very full & gre...
view the full question and answer

How can I control underground runners from from Pride of Houston Yaupons in Austin, TX?
July 16, 2010 - How can I control the underground runners from the Pride of Houston Yaupons?
view the full question and answer

Vehicle friendly oak trees for Austin
March 30, 2008 - Do Chinquapins, Shumards or Live Oaks produce lots of tree sap? I'm looking for a vehicle friendly Oak tree to be installed in parking areas in Austin, Texas.
view the full question and answer

Native plants both deer resistant and good for erosion from North Oaks MN
August 23, 2012 - We have several partially sunny areas on hills that are prone to both deer and erosion. Our goal is to reduce runoff in an effort to preserve the watershed that provides tap water to many citizens of ...
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