En Español

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?


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

Monday - September 21, 2009

From: Fairfax, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: Small native flowering tree for Virginia
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Could you recommend a small flowering tree (8-10' mature size) to plant in front garden next to the house. Full sun. Something that doesn't have invasive roots that would damage the house. Thanks Sheila


Mr. Smarty Plants recommends that you go to our Recommended Species page and choose Virginia from the map or pulldown menu.  This will give you a list of native plants that are commercially available and are recommended for landscaping in Virginia.  You can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to add your preferences for General Appearance, Light Requirement, Soil Moisture, etc.  Here are a few from that list that would meet your criteria pretty well:

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle)

Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark)

Robinia hispida (bristly locust)

Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)

Viburnum dentatum (southern arrowwood)

Here are a few that are a little taller than your stated preference:

Amelanchier canadensis (Canadian serviceberry)

Asimina triloba (pawpaw)

Prunus americana (American plum)

Ptelea trifoliata (common hoptree)

Sorbus americana (American mountain ash)

It will matter how close your tree is planted to your house as to whether or not the roots will harm your foundation.  You can read the recommendations from Iowa State University Extension Service for Sidewalks and Trees which bases the distance trees should be planted near pavement on the mature height of the tree. Their recommendations are:

1. trees with a mature height of less than 30 feet, 3-4 feet from pavement,
2. trees with a mature height of 30 to 50 feet, 5-6 feet from pavement,
3. trees with a mature height of greater than 50 feet, at least 8 feet from pavement.

You could consider installing some sort of root barrier between the tree and the foundation.  Here is more information about root barriers.

Morella cerifera

Elymus canadensis

Robinia hispida

Rhus glabra

Viburnum dentatum

Amelanchier canadensis

Asimina triloba

Prunus americana

Ptelea trifoliata

Sorbus americana



More Trees Questions

Non-branching mimosa tree
June 26, 2008 - I have a Mimosa Tree, just about 2 years old, grown from seed. The problem with it is that it has not branched out, it looks like one long branch growing out of the ground, about 5 feet if stood strai...
view the full question and answer

Tree planting in OH
June 12, 2011 - When transplanting a tree (a maple in Spring in my case now), I understand that one should leave a surrounding doughnut like ridge around the root base to hold in the water from rains and irrigation. ...
view the full question and answer

Should I top my scraggly magnolia tree? No
January 27, 2010 - Mr.Smarty Plants, I live in Crockett,Tx. My husband and I just bought this house. In the front yard I have a very tall,scraggly magnolia tree due to trees growing up around it. We have cut some of tho...
view the full question and answer

Bacterial wetwood disease in ash tree
November 11, 2004 - I have an Ash tree in my front yard. It's about 25 - 30 years old. About 2 months ago, it began to ooze sap from a point where a limb had been pruned, I'd say, about 15 - 20 years ago. So this cut ...
view the full question and answer

Protecting a new patio from oak roots
September 01, 2008 - Hello, I have just formed up for a new patio. I have a Live Oak tree about 2' away from the patio. It has a trunk diameter of about 10", I believe 20-25 years old. Problem: I have 2 large roots in ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center