Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Native wild plum trees for Johnson County, Texas
December 24, 2012 - What native wild plums will grow in southern Johnson County? And where can I find the trees locally? Thank you
view the full question and answer

Need trees to screen view of parking garage in Houston, TX.
December 29, 2011 - We live in Houston, TX with a beautiful lot except a 4 story parking garage has been built behind us. How can we screen this and the lights out of site. It looks terrible from the second story espec...
view the full question and answer

Propagating Magnolia grandiflora from Murfreesboro TN
August 03, 2011 - There are several Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia) that have been planted in my neighborhood in middle Tennessee by a landscaping company, and now that they all appear to be producing seeds, ...
view the full question and answer

Possible transplant shock in Red Oak in Albany, TX
October 20, 2015 - We planted a new tree last spring which we were told was a Texas Red Oak. The soil where it was planted is hard clay. We have had a watering bag on it and have watered an average of 2x per week throug...
view the full question and answer

Relocating native oak trees in compacted soil
September 14, 2008 - Can you replant and relocate small oak trees in compacted soil and will they grow or go into shock?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.