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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - November 11, 2010

From: Sherman Oaks, CA
Region: California
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Evergreen tree for planter in Sherman Oaks CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a large cinder block planter, 6ftx6ftx6ft,in the back of our building and would love to find a good evergreen accent tree (but not pine like). Planter is near a building so preferable it should not be a huge and very wide tree. Also, the planter is just next to parking spaces and the building so we need a tree that would not be messy and/or bear fruit or have invasive roots. We like the red plum tree (the color would be great with the building) but as far as we know it would lose its leaves and look very sad in the winter. We also looked at Swan Hill fruitless olive..but we are not sure how it would do in a large planter. We have installed sprinklers and it would get the sun all morning till 4 in the afternoon. We would really appreciate your advise. Thank you in advance!

ANSWER:

While that is a good-sized planter, we are going to recommend something in an evergreen shrub rather than a tree. Many shrubs will grow up to small tree size, but not have as wide a spread of roots underground to interfere with other structures, including paving and cinder blocks. However, finding a plant, tree or shrub, that is not going to bear fruit is a whole other thing. Every living organism is required to reproduce itself. Woody plants do this by producing first flowers and then fruits, that is, the seeds of the plant.  After you have read the information on the plants we are suggesting, you will have to make your own decision about whether the amount of material this plant sheds will constitute "messy" for your purposes.

We recommend that, before you plant anything, you augment the soil in your planter with compost or other organic material. This will not only make nutrients in the soil more accessible to the plant roots, but also help in drainage. Few plants can survive long with water standing on their roots.

We believe the red plum tree you suggested is Prunus salicina, which is native to China and deciduous. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown, which puts this plant out of our area of expertise.

We will go to our Recommended Species section, select on Southern California on the map, and then look for shrubs that are evergreen and native to your area in the San Fernando Valley. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant for information on size, water and sunlight needs and soil preferred.

Evergreen shrubs for planter in Southern California:

Adenostoma fasciculatum (Chamise) - 6 to 10 ft.,  pictures

 Arctostaphylos manzanita (Whiteleaf manzanita)- 6 to 12 ft. pictures

Cercocarpus ledifolius (Curl-leaf mountain mahogany) - 10 to 20 ft. pictures

Comarostaphylis diversifolia (Summer holly) - to 20 ft.

Garrya elliptica (Wavyleaf silktassel) - 10 ft. pictures

Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) - 6 to 15 ft.

Morella californica (California wax myrtle) - 1- to 25 ft.

Quercus dumosa (Coastal sage scrub oak) - to 15 ft. pictures

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Comarostaphylis diversifolia


Heteromeles arbutifolia


Quercus dumosa

 

 

 

 

 

 

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