En Español

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

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

Apache Pine for Dripping Springs, TX.
July 02, 2014 - Is the Apache Pine tree a good choice for planting in alkaline soil with excellent drainage?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Texas Madrone
July 24, 2005 - Hello, where can one acquire the Texas Madrone for planting? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Will Mountain Laurels be harmed by juglones from my pecan tree?
May 06, 2009 - Hi. I just bought a house. It has a big pecan tree at the edge of the front lawn next to the street. I guess it's about 25 feet from the front of the house. I was thinking of planting mountain la...
view the full question and answer

Sticky film on oak tree leaves from Whitney TX
September 04, 2012 - What is the sticky film that is coating leaves on our oak trees?
view the full question and answer

Trees for a privacy barrier
October 06, 2007 - What would you suggest to plant for a privacy barrier along a back fence in Austin Texas? They need to be hardy and atleast 10 to 12 feet tall to block my neighbor's second story view of my yard.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center