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Saturday - April 30, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Transplants, Watering, Drought Tolerant, Trees
Title: Drought tolerant Plants and moving Wax myrtles in Austin
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson


Mr. Smarty Plants, What are the most fire resistant and drought tolerant plants for caliche soil in Austin area? I am considering relocating or removing my wax myrtle shrubs because they are within 10' of my garage. Got a good guess on the likelihood they would survive given the drought? They are over 10' tall and about 6' wide. How much would I have to trim them down to make the relocation more survivable?


   Mr Smarty Plants appreciates your economy.   Two questions for the entry of one! No matter, both questions are very topical for these drought-ridden times.  I’m going to answer them separately though.

  Your local native plants are well situated to be your choices for fire-resistant and drought tolerant plants.  After all, they have developed to thrive in the native state in the weather we get, and this isn’t the first nor the hardest drought that has developed.  So, for a really broad choice, use the Wildflower Center’s “Recommended Species” page and check out the “By Texas Ecoregion” selection in the “Just for Texans” box.  This way you can differentiate the difference between the Edwards Plateau eco-region [to the Northwest side of Austin] versus the Blacklands Prairie region [to the southeast]. 

  Of course, there are other resources where you don’t have to do quite as much choosing.  In a previous answer, it was pointed out that US Fish & Wildlife Service has a  website with recommendations. I also found two commercial websites with good discussions of drought-tolerant plants.  One is on Gardeners.com and the other on the Gardenweb forum.

  Now on to question number 2!   Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) is a Texas native, but is generally found in the counties farther to the east, so it prefers a somewhat moister climate.  It was listed in our data as 6-12 ft. in height, occasionally to 20 feet.  This indicates that your Wax myrtles are pretty mature.  My recommendation is to leave them there; they are about as big as they will get and inasmuch as they are 10 feet from the garage, this is a good distance.

  Relocation would be very traumatic for the Wax myrtles and their chance of surviving in this time of drought is not good, especially for ones as mature as these.  If you really want to move them, the best time is the winter when the tree is as dormant as it will get.  Wax myrtle is an evergreen, so it doesn’t have a clear dormancy like deciduous trees but the winter will be less stressful.  Moving mature trees is a process where you need to be much more careful than for smaller plants.   Here are a collection of three websites that address this process.

How to relocate a tree:

SavATree.com on mature tree transplants

The Homeknowitall.com on mature tree transplants

and Landscaping.com on transplanting.


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