Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

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

Friday - March 19, 2010

From: Surprise, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Evergreen low litter tree for Surprise AZ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Looking for a shade tree about 10-15 ft max with low litter and green all year round/full sun.

ANSWER:

"Designer" trees are always a tough call for Mr. Smarty Plants. We can fulfill some but not all requirements most of the time, seldom finding the perfect tree. Any tree, even an evergreen, is going to have litter. For instance, the needles of Pinus edulis (twoneedle pinyon) will still drop needles and cones, trees deemed "live" oaks generally drop all their leaves in March but promptly put on new little leaflets. Plants must all bloom in order to set seed, and both the blooms and the seeds, whether they be nuts, or tiny grains, will still fall to the ground. The size can also be a problem; you can purchase a lovely evergreen that is about 6 ft. tall at the nursery, put it in the ground and then discover that it will mature to 100 ft, or more. We are going to look in our Native Plant Database for both shrubs that might stay more in your size range, but can be trimmed up into tree form, and trees that ordinarily stay fairly small. Because Maricopa County is in USDA Hardiness Zones 9a to 9b, with apparently higher elevations and lower temperature zones to the north and east of you, we are going to choose not just plants native to Arizona, but plants native to your area of Arizona and evergreen. A plant native to northeastern Arizona would fry in your situation in southwestern Arizona. Follow each plant link to get more information about that plant. You may find that you will have to sacrifice the evergreen qualifier or the size restrictions to get a suitable tree. 

From our Native Plant Database: 

Cercocarpus montanus (alderleaf mountain mahogany) - semi-evergreen, 8 to 20 ft., shrub or small tree, low water use

Pinus edulis (twoneedle pinyon) - 10 to 30 ft,, edible seeds. More information - USDA Forest Service Mexican Pinyon

Quercus turbinella (Sonoran scrub oak) - 6 to 12 ft. More information and photos

As you can see, the options are not very numerous. We are going to suggest you contact the Arizona Cooperative Extension Office for Maricopa County, Urban Horticulture,  to give you closer to home help. Our personal choice out of these is Pinus edulis (twoneedle pinyon), but you may be at too low an elevation for it because this USDA Plant Profile does not show it growing in Maricopa County and it shows in our database as requiring "Part Shade." 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Cercocarpus montanus

Cercocarpus montanus

Pinus edulis

Pinus edulis

 

 

 

 

 


 

More Trees Questions

A good Amelanchier (Serviceberry) for Brooklyn, NY.
November 03, 2015 - I am looking to purchase an Amelanchier to plant in Brooklyn this month. Would you know which variety works best in a small garden and also is it too late to plant. Mainly, I am looking for someone wh...
view the full question and answer

Trees and wildflowers for Matagorda County, Texas
January 06, 2012 - My family has a fish farm in Palacios, Matagorda county. I would like to plant trees and wild flowers on the property. Can you suggest the appropriate kind that can withstand the salt water around an...
view the full question and answer

Need help with my 25 yr old Mountain Ash in Clinton Township, MI.
July 11, 2011 - For the first time our 25yr old mountain ash tree has dying branches, we removed one branch and it seems to have spread to other branches? What should we do?
view the full question and answer

Native maples for the Austin, TX area
May 21, 2005 - I am new to the state of Texas. I lived in Canada all of my life and miss my maple trees. Are maple trees (green or red leafed varieties) able to thrive in Austin?
view the full question and answer

Brown leaves on Burr Oak from Dripping Springs TX
October 05, 2013 - We have recently planted a 15 gal. burr oak in an correct hole with great soil and plenty of watering in. We have noticed some brown leaves. Should we be worried?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.