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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - July 30, 2011

From: Evanston, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Planting annuals around young oak in Evanston IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

is it OK to plant annuals (i.e. salvias, impatiens or dusty millers) around the base of a young oak tree (2-3 years old)?

ANSWER:

Sure, it's okay, but you need to remember that the health of your oak tree is your first consideration, as it is much more valuable than annual plants. First of all, don't do your planting too close to the trunk of the tree-a couple feet out in all directions would be about right. We assume you are planning to put in bedding plants; be careful digging them in because you don't want to destroy any tree roots. You might want to mulch the plants to help hold moisture in and, as it decomposes, it will add organic matter to the soil. Do not get the mulch up against the tree trunk, this will encourage insects and fungi.

We gave you the good news, here is the bad news. Oaks are not happy to have competition in their territory. Your annuals will probably be all right for a while, because oaks develop this dislike for competition as they get older and larger. Just about everyone knows you can't plant anything under a black walnut tree, because the tree emits juglones, which are substances that damage other plants around the tree. Oak trees don't do juglones, but they are capable of allelopathy, and the substance they emit can be in the soil, the roots, the bark or the fallen leaves. If the plants you put in refuse to prosper, we would recommend planting somewhere else. If you continue to fight the tree's animosity for competition, you will just be wasting resources, and could even damage the tree in the process.

And, of course, as the tree grows larger, you need to consider the shade. Very few blooming plants will bloom well in shade. The bigger the tree, the more shade.

 

More Trees Questions

Trees for pool area in San Ramon, California
April 24, 2010 - We live in San Ramon. We are remodeling our pool and are looking for a tree that will be 15 feet from a pool. We just removed a pine tree. We have now lost our privacy and see the neighbor's back f...
view the full question and answer

Caterpillars on Mountain Laurel from Austin
July 25, 2013 - My 1-yr old mountain laurel has been decimated by small yellow and black catepillars. It recovered a bit and pushed out some fresh new growth, and more came and decimated that too. Are these caterpi...
view the full question and answer

Trees for privacy screen in California
May 31, 2013 - Hi Mr. Smartypants, We are first-time home-buyers of a cute little house and a relatively large lot in Pacific Grove, CA. Unfortunately the neighbors to the north have built a second story with a nic...
view the full question and answer

Soapberry tree problems in North Richland Hills, TX
September 01, 2010 - We have a small grove of soapberry trees. The city recently reconstructed the street and added a side walk which now sets as close at 1 foot from the nearest tree. Everything seemed fine until they ...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping plant for Austin
September 01, 2011 - Great site! Have gotten lots of ideas. We're about to start construction on a fairly major landscaping project: raised beds/privacy screen. We're at the top of a hill in the Hill Country just wes...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center