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

Smarty Plants on dogwoods
August 05, 2005 - I am interested in the worldwide distribution of the dogwood family/cornus. Specifically, I am interested in whether or not there are indiginous species on the Indian Subcontinent. Is there a resour...
view the full question and answer

Viability of Texas Mountain Laurel in Louisiana
March 19, 2008 - I just returned from a visit to Austin and I saw the Texas Mountain Laurel everywhere. I live in the Baton Rouge, LA area and would like to know if performing some soil amendments would allow me to gr...
view the full question and answer

Tree for area around patio in East Texas
December 31, 2008 - What is the best type of tree to plant around my patio which faces the southeast
view the full question and answer

Spots on persimmon tree leaves from Dripping Springs TX
July 10, 2013 - We are in rural Hays County Texas off Hamilton Pool Rd Texas. Large persimmon trees are turning yellow, blackish spots on underside of leaves. What do we do?
view the full question and answer

Ornamental tree recommendation for California
June 15, 2007 - We live in Pleasanton, California and wish to plant an ornamental tree in our front yard. The tree will receive full sun, and the climate can get quite hot in the summer. A Japanese Maple would be th...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center