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
3 ratings

Tuesday - March 29, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Choice of shade trees from the City of Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a choice of three shade trees from the city of Austin. They are Live Oak, Elm, Cedar. Although I am happy to have a free tree, I think the choices are not the best for my home. I have a small area in the front yard about 12 feet by 14 feet. But, due to pipes, etc the place they chose to plant the tree is about 8 feet from my door, 1 foot from the driveway, 1 foot from a fence, and 5 feet from the street. Wouldn't these type of trees end up causing foundation problems? And also problems with the driveway and fence? I'm thinking I shouldn't accept any of these trees. But, then what type of tree can I plant in that small area?

ANSWER:

We are surprised the city would recommend planting a tree that close to other structures. Those are all good native trees and will do well in Central Texas. However, as you pointed out, you have a very small space with underlying pipes. You have to be aware that the root system of a tree is usually two to three times the circumference of the top of the tree, or "shade line." A small tree could probably be fitted in there, but all three are going to grow and grow. Before long, you could have branches against your front door, or out in the street, sidewalks buckling and a fence being pushed down.

Unfortunately, as good an idea for the environment as the "free tree" is, it would soon be costing you maintenannce money and/or would have to be taken out because of the root interference. In the meantime, you would have spent resources such as time, fertilizer and especially water on a plant that isn't going to last. Small herbaceous plants, native ornamental grasses and perhaps some very small shrubs will still absorb carbon dioxide from the air and emit oxygen in the same manner as a large tree, without disturbing the infrastructure of your property.

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

South Austin Groundcovers for Oak Shade
March 29, 2013 - Hi! I live in S. Austin now but used to work at the Wildflower Center! My backyard is shady with several oak mots. Do you have any suggestions as to what if any ground cover will grow in all that sha...
view the full question and answer

Plants for shady area in Brenham, TX
February 19, 2008 - I have an area which receives shade all day, but gets a lot of sun just before sunset. What sorts of plants would do well?
view the full question and answer

Planting shade plants in 100+ weather
June 25, 2009 - I was planning on planting some columbines in a barrel and Turk's Cap and Coralberry in my yard, but hadn't counted on the extreme heat this early in the summer. Is it okay to plant these things as...
view the full question and answer

Growing non-vascular moss as a lawn from Seattle WA
July 27, 2013 - I have lots of moss in my back yard. How can I encourage it to grow over the whole yard?
view the full question and answer

Native plants for moist and shady yard in Rowlett, TX
February 21, 2005 - I have an area of my yard that has drainage issues. It stays quite moist most of the time and is shady a large part of the day. I would like to plant some native plants in that area. Maybe something t...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center