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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - July 08, 2011

From: irvine, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: Evergreen trees for a Southern California yard
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Hello I live in Irvine, CA and I am looking for a tree for our front yard. We recently planted oaks but they did not survive the clay soil. Our landscaper wants to replace them with oaks or with carrot woods. I am afraid that new oaks would face the same problems. The carrot woods seem invasive and not native to the area. Our landscape has a mediterranean style which look we would like to maintain with the trees. Our hope is for low maintenance trees that are evergreen and won't negatively impact the surrounding plants. Your recommendations would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

Choosing a satisfactory native tree for you area can be tricky for Mr. Smarty Plants. Many communities in Southern California have blended the dry, hot, local climate with the green lawns and flower beds of other regions.  Finding suitable native trees for this mixed setting is not straightforward.  Many of the trees that your neighbors have are not natives.  Some characteristics of these are shown in the indicated website.  But there are native possibilities.  Oaks, for example.  I'm not clear what kind of oak failed to thrive in your setting, but I expect it was a species adapted to dry hillsides.  Perhaps Quercus engelmannii (Engelmann oak), which is an attractive tree in the right spot.  A related oak that is adapted to moist canyons is Quercus chrysolepis (Canyon live oak).  It might prosper in the clay soil of your garden, which I presume is irrigated.  Among other native tree species that you might consider are Lyonothamnus floribundus (Catalina ironwood), Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone), Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow), and Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey cypress). Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia), although not native to your area, does well in a moist environment if the soil is somewhat acidic.  Click on each species name to find its good and not so good attributes.

My long distance recommendations may not be entirely trustworthy for your particular microenvironment.  If any of these tree species seems desirable to you, you should contact local nurserymen for their thoughts or look around your community to see if the species is being used. Its absence would suggest that it may not be a good choice after all.

 

More Trees Questions

Chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergeii) weeping sap
October 14, 2010 - Help, help! Our Chinkapin Oak is weeping sap along the trunk. There is no sign of damage. What can we do?
view the full question and answer

Cover oak roots with a pond from Round Rock TX
December 22, 2012 - Hello! I have looked for this answer. We have 2 huge old beautiful live oaks. One is very close to the patio and house, and the other is about 20 feet of the house. Thus, part of their root systems ar...
view the full question and answer

Damage to native elm in Texas
August 20, 2008 - We had a major landscape renovation done over the winter. One of the trees, an elm about 10 yrs old, remained in the bed although plants around it were removed. The tree has suddenly started turning...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of maple tree in Canada
July 08, 2008 - I have a gorgeous maple tree in my front lawn and I want to plant more like it. The tree gives off very few keys a year so I want to make sure this works. How do I go about planting a maple key?
view the full question and answer

Final size of a Texas mountain laurel
August 11, 2014 - I have purchased a Texas Mountain Laurel. The plant tag says it will grow 25 to 35 feet. LBWF plant data base says 10 to 15 feet. Which data should I go with? It's either plant close but not close to...
view the full question and answer

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