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

Thursday - April 22, 2010

From: Waco, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Trees
Title: Best fertilizer for live oak trees in Central Texas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What is the best fertilizer for live oak trees in Central Texas?

ANSWER:

Our vote would be "none." One of the big reasons for using plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown is that those natives are already acclimated by millions of years to the soils, climate, temperatures and rainfall in their area. We always recommend that the soil be checked, especially in terms of drainage, as most trees do not do well with wet feet, and too much moisture without sufficient drainage can cause rots and fungi to move in. We do like to see compost or other organic matter worked into the soil in the area where a tree is going to be planted, and not just the hole. As those trees get bigger and the roots move farther out, good soil with the amendments will help them to continue to grow. There are experts who recommend no amendments to the soil at all, because when the roots of the new tree begin to get out beyond their original hole, the real world, or the dirt thereof, could be a terrible shock. This is personal choice, but we like to give little trees a boost, partucularly in the alkaline clay soils of Central Texas.

Here is another take on that from a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

"A standard fertilizer should be fine. One landscaper I interviewed advised an 8-2-4 compost-based fertilizer, meaning 8% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, and 4% potassium. Others weren't so specific as to proportions, saying only "standard" or "regular."

All my informants said that if the tree is a naturally occurring specimen that has survived on its own without human intervention and still looks good, nothing may be needed. However, if the tree is now surrounded by new construction that may have damaged its roots, a fertilizer with significant phosphorus for root growth will help it adjust. Significant phosphorus will also be needed if your tree is a newly planted purchase that you want to encourage to spread its roots beyond its root ball.

All said that surface applications are best. Spread the fertilizer from near, but not on, the trunk, to a foot past the extent of the leaves.

A couple of friends of mine have maintained beautiful live oaks for two decades with little more than compost applied two or three inches thick from near the base of the tree to just past the dripline.

A deep, slow, soaking watering just after you fertilize will insure that the nutrients get to the roots. Doing it just before a good rain is even better.

Whatever you use should be applied once or twice a year. The most important time to fertilize is in early spring, just before new foliage appears, to help fuel the new growth. Though considered evergreen, live oaks (Quercus fusiformis, Quercus virginiana, or hybrids between the two) actually lose all their leaves in early to mid-spring, but the new growth appears about the same time that the old leaves drop, so most trees never look bare.

A second application in early summer can help fortify the tree during the harsh Central Texas heat."

So, take your pick; the point in both of these answers is that Nature is already doing a good job, you can give Her a little boost if you wish. 

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Companion plants for Douglas fir in Federal Way, WA
May 11, 2009 - What are good companion plants for large Douglas Fir trees? we have 5 large trees in our cul-de-sac "island" and would like to plant something colorful around the trees. It's very dry, shady, and c...
view the full question and answer

Possible webbing bark lice on oak tree
August 08, 2008 - We live near the Center and have a large live oak tree in our yard. Recently the lower trunk has been covered with thin, white weblike material (not sure if spider web). What could this be and is it d...
view the full question and answer

Loss of leaves from globe willows in Utah
July 26, 2008 - I have four globe willows that have been in my back yard for the past 6 years. For the past month they have been losing their leaves from the bottom up. We had aphids in some of our other trees and ...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Colorado blue spruce in Indiana
August 16, 2005 - I live in Indiana. I have a Colorado blue spruce that I would like to transplant to a different part of my yard. What is the best time of year to transplant it? It is only about two foot tall.
view the full question and answer

Bark problems with Monterrey oak from Austin
September 15, 2012 - I planted a 65 gallon Monterrey Oak (White Oak) in my front yard in February of this year. I water it once a week. All of the leaves and branches appear very healthy and there is no discoloration....
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