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
4 ratings

Monday - October 19, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: About Live Oak trees in Austin, Texas
Answered by: Janice Kvale


Hello, I planted a couple texas live oak two years ago in South Austin. They're about 5 feet tall. How long will it take for them to mature? Thanks


The short answer to your question is that the Quercus virginiana (live oak) trees mature in about 50 years, more or less. They are actually one of the faster growing trees when in an ideal environment, growing about three feet a year when young.  As they get larger, the growth rate tapers off. What follows may be more than you want to know, but I just can't stop myself. Mr. Smarty Plants likes native Texas trees!

The happiest live oaks are planted in soil, sand, clay, or loam that is acid and kept well watered, especially when young. That said, the live oak is a relatively hardy tree and adapts readily to drought and alkaline soil though it may be harmed by freezing temperatures further north. Thought to be evergreen, Quercus virginiana (live oak) and its cousin, Quercus fusiformis (plateau oak) actually replace about half of their glossy, waxy leaves annually in early spring.

Many like to shape the young oaks through pruning. Oak wilt is endemic in central Texas and can be spread through injudicious pruning as the Nitiludid beetle invades the new cuts. Pruning must be done only in the coldest or hottest months in central Texas when the beetle is less active. Learn more about how to correctly prune at our Wildflower Center site and more about preventing oak wilt through the Texas Oak Wilt website

Texans love their live oaks with good reason. A popular shade tree in Central Texas, the live oak can grow to between 30-80 feet in height. It is often wider than it is high with wonderful sturdy branches that spread horizontally before reaching for the sky, perfect for climbing or maybe a tree house. (One needs to consider the space needed for the mature tree before planting!) Austin is well known for the 500-year old Treaty Oak, still hanging on after several assaults. It is located downtown on Baylor between 5th and 6th Streets.  An excellent history and a photo of Treaty Oak is on the Wikipedia website. A stunning live oak located behind the Hampton Branch of Austin Public Library in Oak Hill at 5125 Convict Hill Road was named Austin's Tree of the Year in 2007. An outdoor classroom created by local Rotarians is located under its broad branches.

Quercus fusiformis

Quercus virginiana

Quercus virginiana

Quercus virginiana


More Trees Questions

Mail order source for Guaiacum angustifolium from Ft. Worth TX
April 16, 2014 - Do you have a mail order source for the seeds of Guaiacum angustifolium? I have looked extensively and cannot find one. Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Why are my potted Prunus caroliniana plants shedding leaves in LA, CA?
May 02, 2011 - I bought Prunus caroliniana in pots to use as privacy fence on my balcony. Have had them for about 6 weeks and they are shedding a lot of leaves. Some leave are drying out and others have what ...
view the full question and answer

Watering a Chinquapin Oak in Austin, TX
June 22, 2014 - I have a question about watering. I planted a Chinquapin Oak about 7 months ago and it's about 8 feet tall and doing well. I water it weekly on a slow drip for about an hour. I expect that my job is ...
view the full question and answer

PVC pipes for irrigation in ground in Austin
August 19, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Plants,What are your thoughts on installing PVC pipes into the ground around trees and shrubby trees? A classmate's grandmother had a pipe pushed or pounded into the ground near her speci...
view the full question and answer

Red maple with burnt leaves in Buda TX
October 27, 2009 - I planted a red maple last fall. Planted in full sun here in Buda Texas. The leaves are yellowing and then they dry out completely almost looks burnt. Problem starts in middle of leaf and then works i...
view the full question and answer

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