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?

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
2 ratings

Thursday - April 27, 2006

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Fertilizer and application for live oak trees
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

What do I use to feed live oak trees? How do I apply the fertilzer?

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.
 

More Trees Questions

Control of live oak root sprouts, or suckers, under tree
September 19, 2007 - Have live oak trees in clusters with circular beds surrounding in frontyard. Have been invaded by some type weed that looks a bit like holly. Woody stem a few inches high with several serrated leave...
view the full question and answer

Carolina buckthorn and Neem Oil Spray Damage
April 27, 2015 - It's April, I have a Carolina buckthorn that seemed to be doing well, about 8 feet tall, about 2 years old in part shade. It was putting out new leaves about a month ago and seemed to have infestati...
view the full question and answer

Watering oaks in Houston, TX.
June 07, 2011 - Our yard (Real County, TX.) has many oak trees. We never water these trees, but I wonder if you recommend watering during this extreme drought. The trees look very stressed and are covered in ball m...
view the full question and answer

Looking for yellow bottlebrush (Callistemon sp.) and native substitutes
February 14, 2008 - I have been looking for years for a yellow bottle bush. It is identical to the red but is yellow. there are several varieties, but the one i want is just like the red one in appearance. I live in Flor...
view the full question and answer

Privacy Trees for Pleasanton, CA
April 30, 2014 - I was looking for some fast growing trees for my backyard that backs up to Valley Ave in Pleasanton, Ca. The city just cut down 4 Redwoods behind me and there is so much noise from the traffic now Ca...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center