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
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

Colony of bees nesting in sycamore
July 06, 2010 - I have a very large, old sycamore tree that has recently become home to a colony of honey bees. They have taken up dwelling in a hollow limb of the tree about 25 feet off the ground. While this is gre...
view the full question and answer

Difference between liveoaks (Quercus fusiformis and Q. virginiana)
March 17, 2008 - I am a little confused on the identification differences between Quercus fusiformis and Quercus virginiana. How can you properly identify between the two?
view the full question and answer

Oak roots damaged by ax from Austin
July 03, 2013 - Hello. I am attempting to create my own tiny copy of the Wildflower Center within my yard. I'm using all native, drought tolerant plants. My front yard is full of live oaks. I used a sod cutter la...
view the full question and answer

Thinning out of maple tree following heavy winds
July 26, 2008 - A 15 yr old red maple lost significant fruit in spring from heavy winds, in summer the tree seems thinned out. Is this the reason? Tree is otherwise very healthy and has always had thick foliage in ...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of Magnolia grandiflora in Las Vegas NV
January 17, 2011 - I live in Las Vegas, NV and have several Magnolia Grandiflora trees. They were doing well until 2 years ago when they started losing their leaves. The leaves turn brown or very dark on the edges. One ...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center