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

Need a shade tree in a limited space in Louisville, GA
October 29, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Pants, Hello! What kind of tree would be good to shade, in a limited space, and having a taproot? This is in middle Ga. One side of yard has main water pipe coming in off the road and ...
view the full question and answer

Replacing mature Arizona Ash trees in Austin
August 26, 2011 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I have 2 very large, very old Arizona Ash trees in my yard. I want to remove them and replace them with something like Cedar Elm or Chinquapin Oak. The problem is that they are t...
view the full question and answer

Shade tolerant plant for Rodeo, California
November 02, 2008 - I live in Rodeo, California and I need to know what is a good green plant I can get to place in a shady area
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for shady area in north Texas
July 29, 2013 - I'm looking for a ground cover for a mostly shady area where St. Augustine won't grow. I don't want the ground cover to overtake my established St. Augustine in the rest of the yard. The area is un...
view the full question and answer

Low maintenance grass for shade in Conroe, TX
September 15, 2012 - What is the best low maintenance grass to plant in front lawn shaded, no traffic area?
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