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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - June 24, 2011

From: Grand Rapids , MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Can a madrone be used as a house plant from Grand Rapids MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can a madrone tree be used as a house plant in Michigan? It is about 10" tall in a gal pot. Can a couple of trees be planted together to become one larger house plant? it's currently in a clay mix.

ANSWER:

Actually we have no idea, because we can find no record of it being tried. Let us tell you what we know from our Native Plant Database about the 3 species of the Arbutus genus found in that database.

Beginning with Arbutus xalapensis (Texas madrone), which is native to New Mexico and Texas. This tree grows to 20 to 30 ft, requires full sun to part shade. From our webpage on this tree, here are the Conditions Comments:

"Conditions Comments: One of the most interesting and beautiful native trees of Texas, but temperamental to propagate or grow. Propagation requirements are complex, and it is very difficult to transplant successfully from the wild. In the landscape, it grows best in well-drained areas."

Then, there is Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone), native to California, Oregon and Washington. Needs sun or part shade. It grows 50 to 100 ft., with a spread of 15' to 75'. Here are its Condition Comments:

"Conditions Comments: A. menziesii has been shown to have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi enable the madrone to take up nutrients in the soil. Arbutus spp. benefit from wind protection and may need to be trained early to central leaders to offset their tendency toward shrubbiness. A messy tree, A. menziesii is best planted away from well-used areas."

Arbutus arizonica (Arizona madrone) is native to Arizona and New Mexico; its native habitat is high altitude and oak woodlands. It requires full sun and sandy, acid well-drained soils. Pictures

So. if you already have a plant you want to experiment with, now you know what conditions are needed. Clay soil does not drain well, getting sufficient sunlight to a house plant would be a challenge, and disturbing the roots is going to cause problems, like sudden death.

Now you can conduct your own experimental laboratory in this matter, and let us know what happens.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas madrone
Arbutus xalapensis

Texas madrone
Arbutus xalapensis

Texas madrone
Arbutus xalapensis

Texas madrone
Arbutus xalapensis

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