Explore Plants

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
    
 

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

Monday - September 05, 2011

From: Charlottesville, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: A tree for fall color in VA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I need a small to medium-sized tree for enclosure/privacy screening. I'm looking for a fast-growing, deciduous tap-rooted tree for a lawn area about 30-40' away from an existing mature Linden, and about 10' away from the end of an existing perennial border on the other side. I know Hickory, Oak and Tulip Poplars are possibilities, but I'm hoping to find one with exceptional fall color. Sweetgum is magnificent, but too messy for this space (and I'm not sure whether it has a taproot). Any other ideas?

ANSWER:

I know that you are thinking that a fast growing tap-rooted tree is just the thing to fill an empty space (or hide something you don't want to see) in your garden without impacting and competing with the existing tree and perennial garden.  However, fast growing deciduous trees are usually pioneer species which means that they are generally weak wooded and short lived in order to make way for more durable species.  Also, all trees that are known to be tap rooted when young (which makes them more difficult to transplant than more fibrous rooted species) still have feeder roots that extend well beyond their drip lines when mature.

For those reasons, I would recommend you consider a smaller (12-36 ft) ornamental tree with good fall color.  You are right that Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweetgum) can have amazing fall color, but it will get much too large and there are only so many "prickle balls" a crafty person can glue into a pine cone wreath.

Here are some trees in that size range (native to your area) for you to consider.

Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny service-berry) (here are some fall color images)

Asimina triloba (Pawpaw)

Cornus florida (Flowering dogwood)

Crataegus marshallii (Parsley hawthorn)

Cyrilla racemiflora (Swamp titi)

Nyssa sylvatica (Blackgum)

Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood)

Sassafras albidum (Sassafras)

Sorbus americana (American mountain ash) (more images)

These have been selected based on potential fall color and size only.  You will have to determine if your conditions will meet their cultural needs.  Because there is much color variation within a species, you will want to wait until the trees in the nurseries have started their autumn display to select the "best" one. Even then, your tree may color differently once it is planted in your garden.

 

From the Image Gallery


Allegheny serviceberry
Amelanchier laevis

Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

Parsley hawthorn
Crataegus marshallii

American mountain ash
Sorbus americana

More Trees Questions

Galls on live oak trees in Austin, TX
April 14, 2005 - I am a resident of a condominium complex in Austin that has numerous Live Oak trees. Can you explain what the gall type things are hanging from the trees at this time of year and all over the grounds?...
view the full question and answer

Desert willows not doing well in Navarro County, TX
May 16, 2009 - Planted 3 new desert willows , 3-4 ft.in February. Live in East Navarro County and soil is clay with slight slope to Richland Chambers lake area. Had a wet spring. These plantings appear not doing we...
view the full question and answer

Yellowing leaves on Mexican Plum in Salado, TX.
July 24, 2013 - I do live in Cental Texas (Salado) and I have the same problem with my Mexican Plum as the lady in Bellaire, TX. Mine was planted in June in a raised bed and receives sun all day long. Within the la...
view the full question and answer

Trees for cutout in driveway in Houston
November 12, 2010 - I live in central Houston. I have a new driveway with a cutout of 4' x 8'. I would like to plant a shade tree that will not break up the concrete. What do you recommend?
view the full question and answer

Desert Willow tree for Plano, TX
March 03, 2013 - I live near Dallas, Texas. I have a small Desert Willow tree that I would like to plant. What is the root system of this tree like? Would I be able to plant it near our patio? How far from the house'...
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.