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
1 rating

Sunday - November 15, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Shrubs
Title: Wax myrtle or cherry laurel in Austin?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

For a very shady area under a large old oak tree with oak toxic soil, would a Wax Myrtle or a Cherry Laurel (caroliniana) be better? Looking for an evergreen screening tree up to 20ft, but it only gets about 2 hours of morning sun in the summer, and dappled sun during the winter. Thank you so much!

ANSWER:

We consider "full sun" to be 6 or more hours of sun daily, part shade 2 to 6 hours and shade, less than 2 hours, regardless of the season. So, let's look at the growing conditions of each:

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) - 6 to 12 ft., evergreen, high water use, sun or part shade

Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry) - 15 to 20 ft. tall, evergreen, medium water use, part shade

So, either of them would probably survive, if not prosper, in the situation you describe. In favor of the wax myrtle, it has fragrant leaves and attracts birds; against it, high water use. For the cherry laurel, it also attracts birds, and has only medium water use.  Some plants are not particularly affected by the allelopathy of oaks, but there are no definitive facts on which (or neither) of these plants could get along under the oak. From personal experience, we can tell you we have had cherry laurel grow very well under oaks. In this case, the oaks were native to the property, and the cherry laurel apparently planted by birds. The cherry laurel was pretty slow-growing, but didn't seem prone to disease or insects. 

You're really the only one that can make the choice, based on the conditions you have and what you are looking for in results.  According to this USDA Plant Profile, wax myrtle tends to grow natively more in East Texas, but some are definitely found in the area of Travis County. Then, this USDA Plant Profile for cherry laurel shows pretty much the same thing, but our personal experience was in North Central Texas so it should be okay in Central Texas.

From our Native Plant Profile:


Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

Prunus caroliniana

Prunus caroliniana

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Grasses for shady area with sandy soil
September 23, 2008 - We have very sandy soil, is there any type of grass that will grow well. Also, very shady.
view the full question and answer

Shade grasses for central Texas
November 16, 2014 - We are new to the area and bought a home this summer that has lots of shade in the very small backyard. The problem is that there was new sod laid in the backyard which now is 50% dead. We do not kno...
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade
August 19, 2008 - I live in hot, humid Houston and the tree coverage of my yard is nearly 100 percent (so, little sunlight reaches the ground). Can you suggest a plant or two that would thrive in these conditions?
view the full question and answer

Shade tree with no roots to interfere with patio in Lake City FL
April 24, 2011 - I have a 4x4 area surrounded by cement patio but would like a tree for shade that does not have roots that will mess up the slab.
view the full question and answer

Sedges or grasses for sun/shade in Georgetown, TX
March 24, 2008 - I have an area that is part shaded (under oak trees) and part in the sun. I would like cedar sedge in the shaded areas (some is already growing there)but I can not find where to buy it. Do you know w...
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