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?


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

Monday - September 21, 2009

From: Taylor, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Trees
Title: Thornless honeylocust trees for Taylor TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in Taylor, Williamson County, in central Texas and I am interested in selecting trees for my backyard. I can't really explain (it may be my Midwestern roots), but I would like to plant three thornless honeylocust trees, at least 15 to 20 feet apart. I keep reading that the thornless honeylocust (like the Skyline variety), Gleditsia triacanthos, is found in Texas, can tolerate drought conditions, does well in limestone soils, loves direct sun, provides a dappled shade effect..all good things. Yet I can't find any information about the tree's suitability for central Texas on any Travis or Williamson county websites, and I can't locate any Texas nurseries that grow this tree. My question is: is this tree an inappropriate choice for my home?


Gleditsia triacanthos (honeylocust) is native to Texas, its native habitat being moist woods; bottomlands; stream banks; drier, upland sites, such as you would find in East Texas. Growing conditions from our Native Plant Database for this tree are:

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist, deep, well-drained soil. Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: Honey locust is fast-growing and long-lived. It suffers from mites, Mimosa webworm invaders, a number of cankers, and other pests. Exhibits drought-, heat-, high pH-, and salt-tolerance. Its filtered shade makes underplanting easy. This tree has the ability to spread quickly and can become a weed problem in some pasture areas. Mowing or cutting increases sprouts. 

Ordinarily, one of the problems in growing a tree native to East Texas is that our soil is more alkaline in Central Texas; however, this particular tree is apparently able to tolerate the alkalinity. It does, however, need excellent drainage, and the Central Texas soils are probably going to need to be enriched with compost or other organic materials to permit this tree to flourish. 

The thornless version of this plant is a selection from wild trees that sometimes appear without thorns.  Whether it is suitable for your home, with its tendency to disease and unwanted spreading, is your choice. You should wait until about November to plant any tree in this area, in cooler temperatures and, hopefully, after we get some rain.

You can go to our Native Plant Suppliers section. type in the name of your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape consultants in your general area. They all have contact information so you can get in touch with them and see if they will stock this tree or can perhaps order it for you. Don't let yourself be talked into buying one already in the nursery, unless you check the roots out of the pot and make sure the tree has not become rootbound. And don't buy the tree until you are ready to plant it, even having the hole, already amended with compost, dug and prepared. After that, unless you are having consistent rains, you need to stick a hose down deep in the dirt around the tree and let it slowly dribble for a while, once or twice a week. If the water stands on the soil for more than a half hour, the drainage is still not good enough for the tree. 

Gleditsia triacanthos

Gleditsia triacanthos





More Compost and Mulch Questions

Amending soil for butterfly garden in Houston
April 01, 2013 - My girl scout troop will be planting a butterfly garden at a middle school in Houston. In researching plants to use, we have come across some such as echinacea, rose vervain, galliarda and Texas gay...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native Cleyera and Red-tip photinia
June 01, 2008 - I planted a row of Cleyera in a bed that receives sunlight for about 3 hours during the middle of the day. My problem is that a number of the plants are dying. It begins with the leaves on one small...
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of lantanas in San Antonio
July 22, 2010 - Mr. Smarty Plants, We have lantanas in our front yard. This summer the leaves have turned white and they die to a brown color all the while the leaves are "crispy". At the beginning of the season...
view the full question and answer

Plants for red clay in Hattiesburg, MS
May 16, 2011 - Looking for plants and flowers to plant in red clay?
view the full question and answer

Native plants for a bioswale in Baltimore
July 22, 2009 - What native plants would suit a bioswale in an urban part of Baltimore City? The clay soil gets waterlogged and the site has part shade.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center