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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - July 26, 2011

From: 94803, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: Deciduous shade tree for Inland California dry hills
Answered by: Guy Thompson


What type of tree would work well in our back yard? We're looking for a deciduous tree that doesn't grow too tall, maybe 20'. We'd like it to have spreading branches to provide shade during the summer and it needs to tolerate wind. It's going to be near the house so we don't want anything known to cause problems with foundations. We get some fog in the summer, heat in the spring and fall and rain in the winter. We'd also like a tree that's not too messy. We're replacing an almost dead fast growing brittle tree that drops branches in the winter winds, flowers in the spring, seed pods in the summer and tiny gutter clogging leaves in the fall.


Mr. Smarty Plants feels that the best bet for deciduous trees native to your area would be Quercus kelloggii (California black oak), Quercus douglasii (Blue oak), Quercus lobata (Valley oak), or Acer macrophyllum (Bigleaf maple).  The oaks all grow rather slowly, so that it would take many years for them to surpass the 20 foot height you prefer.  You will see by clicking on the underlined names that the Valley oak ultimately grows much taller than the other two species.  The growth rate of the Bigtooth maple is  considerably greater than that of the oaks.The maple naturally grows in moist valleys, and you would need to provide it with more water than needed for the oaks.  I am assuming that your homestead is in a dry area typical of your part of California.

This web site provides information about the care of oaks.  They are generally free of disease and insect problems.  But Sudden Oak Death has been found to affect some California black oak trees.  The Bigleaf maple is relatively resistant to disease.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Image Gallery does not contain photos of these trees, but I incluce photos from the Internet of California black oak, Blue oak, Valley oak, and Bigleaf Maple.  Any of these trees should be available at one of your local plant nurseries.  Winter is the least stressful season for tree planting.


More Trees Questions

Mediterranean Pines indigenous to Verde Valley AZ
January 01, 2012 - Are the tall, thin Mediterranean/Pencil Pines growing in the Verde Valley in Arizona indigenous to the area? They are so plentiful, but are not identified as an indigenous evergreen. If not, how did...
view the full question and answer

Native, non-invasive plants for Canaan Valley, WV
April 23, 2006 - I recently purchased a home on an acre of land in the middle of Canaan Valley, WV. The front yard is flat and sunny, the back is on a ridge and is a little forest with a creek at the bottom. The tre...
view the full question and answer

Fertilizing a Mature Mountain Ash
May 10, 2013 - What kind of fertilizer should I use on a mountain ash tree that is 25 years old (or more)?
view the full question and answer

Non-native crape myrtle resistance to deer from Annapolis MD
April 06, 2013 - Is Crape Myrtle tree resistant to deers? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Privacy Screen Tree for Patio in NC
April 15, 2013 - What is a good tree to plant in front of a brick wall/fence to provide privacy and not compromise the structural integrity of the wall? The brick fence is my neighbors but I need privacy as they can s...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center