En Español

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?


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
2 ratings

Sunday - February 20, 2011

From: Eldorado Hills, CA
Region: California
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Fast-growing, evergreen, non-invasive root tree for El Dorado CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We need to plant a FAST-growing, non-deciduous TREE with a non-invasive root system. Where can we buy one?


It's not so much a question of where you can buy one, as whether such a tree even exists. A fast-growing tree is often short-lived and susceptible to breakage and disease. There are not nearly as many evergreen trees as there are deciduous, and every tree is going to have a root system at least as far-reaching as its crown and usually much more. Since we don't know what kind of soil you have, whether you are planning on providing shade or privacy or what with your tree, that makes our recommendations even more difficult. You would have more luck controlling the invasiveness of the roots if you chose a shrub instead of a tree. There are shrubs that will grow fairly quickly but not get as big as a standard tree. You wouldn't get much shade from that, but you would get some amount of privacy. And there is no such thing as a truly evergreen shrub or tree-all plants will shed some leaves, twigs, seeds and so forth throughout the year.

Next we need to determine what plant native to North America and California will come closest to satisfying your requirements. El Dorado County appears to be in USDA Hardiness Zone 6b, with narrow bands of warmer climate to the west of your area. We are going to go to our Recommended Species section and click on Northern California on the map. On the sidebar on the right side of the Recommended Species for Northern California page we will select "Tree" under General Appearance, and click on Narrow Your Search. You can repeat this search indicating your soil moisture and the amount of sun available in the area where you wish to plant, as well as to try "Shrub" in the General Appearance selection. From the resulting lists, follow each plant link to our page on that plant to determine its expected size, speed of growth and whether it is deciduous or evergreen. We will look at a few samples of each, check to see if our selections are native in your area, and you can take it from there.

Trees for El Dorado County, CA:

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (Birch-leaf mountain-mahogany) - semi-evergreen, 8 to 20 ft.

Cercis orbiculata (California redbud) - deciduous, 10-20 ft.

Shrubs for El Dorado County, CA:

Arctostaphylos patula (Greenleaf manzanita) - evergreen, 3-6 ft.

Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) - evergreen, 10-20 ft.

When you have located some trees and/or shrubs that most closely fit what you are looking for, go to our National Suppliers Directory, type your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and landscape consultants in your general area. All have contact information so you can check on availability and growing requirements.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber

Cercis orbiculata

Arctostaphylos patula

Heteromeles arbutifolia





More Seed and Plant Sources Questions

Source for purchase of native Salvia texana
February 23, 2007 - Good morning, Do you or do you know someone who carries Salvia texana? It has been impossible for me to obtain this beautiful Native Texan. Please respond at your earliest convenience with infor...
view the full question and answer

Source for Brasil tree, Condalia hookeri
February 23, 2005 - I have been searching for this tree everywhere, but cannot locate a dealer/retailer/nursey that sells this tree. Its name is Brasil tree (Condalia hookeri) and it is native to the southern US, ...
view the full question and answer

Resources on advisability of using native plants in landscaping
February 13, 2004 - I'm a member of the Williamson County NPSOT. It came to our attention recently that the city of Georgetown is considering trying to be "friendlier" to native and natural landscaping. At this point ...
view the full question and answer

Milkweed Seedlings Source for Austin, Texas
March 18, 2013 - Where can I find seedlings or four inch pots of common milkweed? I have a backyard garden that is mostly filtered sunlight and space for them.
view the full question and answer

Sources of Hypericum anagalloides (tinkekrs penny)
March 23, 2007 - I am currently in search of any place where I may be able to purchase some of the Tinker's Penny. Could you please assist with this in any way possible? Greatly appreciated.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center