Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Wednesday - August 17, 2011

From: Spring, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Seasonal Tasks, Watering, Trees
Title: Shade trees for Spring TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr.Pants, our west-facing backyard in Spring, Tx, is unbearable in this Summer's heat. Neither us nor the neighbors has any backyard trees established yet, as the subdivision is pretty new. Considering this year's drought and heat, when would be a good time to plant a fast-growing shade tree? What would be a good deciduous, drought tolerant tree, one that reaches 30 feet within 5 years? One that attracts birds would be great. Any ideas? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Mr. Plants, PLANTS, PLANTS, if you please!

Everybody's yard, front or back, new or old, is hurting from the drought. We have had pitiful requests for help from people who have gone out in the yard, said "Whew, it's hot, I'm going to plant some shade trees."  Then, they go out and spend a lot of time and money buying and then planting the tiny little saplings that are purchased from a nursery, in August, and then the trees die. It's as simple as that-woody plants, in fact few plants, even cacti, can survive if they are planted in August in Texas. Nurseries try to discourage people from buying trees right now, but you can still get them. Whether a tree will get to 30 ft. in 5 years is something we can't determine; that is dependent on soils, water, sunlight, etc. And, we will tell you that fast-growing trees tend to be weak trees, short-lived, often succumbing to insects and disease.

If you promise just to think about the trees, and plan spots in your garden to plant them, in January, we will give you a list of trees native to your area that are relatively fast growing. Before you do that, follow this link to our list of plants native to the Gulf Marshes and Prairies. Look at the color-keyed map at the top of that page and see if that is really where you live, we think it is. Still looking at the top of that page, read the description of the soils in the various areas of that ecosystem. This will give you a list of 296 plants.  Using the sidebar on the right side of that page, narrow your search by selecting on "trees" under General Appearance, "full sun" under Light Requirement and both "dry" and "moist" under Soil Moisture. Click on Narrow Your Search, and you will have a list of 27 trees that can do well in your area, properly planted and cared for. Follow the italicized plant links to our full page on each tree, which will give you expected height, rate of growth (sometimes), cultural and soil requirements. At the bottom of that page is a link to Google, which will take you to more information for that plant online.

While you are in your planning stage, which you can do in August, read our Step by Step Guide on How to Plant a Tree, and How-To Guide on Using Native Plants.

Here is our selection of a few possibilities from the list of trees.

Fraxinus americana (White ash)

Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)

Taxodium distichum (Bald cypress)

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Field horsetail
Equisetum arvense

American sycamore
Platanus occidentalis

Bald cypress
Taxodium distichum

More Watering Questions

Opuntia drooping in Austin, TX
September 02, 2015 - I planted an optunia spp. in March. It has nearly tripled in size. This week, I noticed the entire plant has started to droop. Temperatures have been very high with no rain for weeks. The cactus is...
view the full question and answer

Decline of indoor lemon cypress
June 25, 2008 - I received a lemon cypress as a gift. I have kept it indoors in bright light and tried to keep it moist. When I received the plant the foliage was soft and now it has become brittle and dry even tho...
view the full question and answer

Fungus gnats on house plant in Edwardsville IL
July 16, 2009 - I recently purchased a Trailing Perennial Plant, and I am seeing a lot of gnats flying in my house. Could this be the problem?
view the full question and answer

What fertlilizer for live oaks under drought conditions?
July 01, 2011 - In your June 7 answer about helping live oaks survive the drought, you state that additional fertilization may help as well. What kind of fertilizer to you recommend and how should it be applied? Th...
view the full question and answer

Berms to hold water around roots
December 05, 2008 - I planted new flower beds this November. There are currently dirt 'berms' around each plant - creating a well for water to seep into the immediate plant area. How can I keep these berms from erodi...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.