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
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

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 Planting Questions

Vine Choices Scarce in Beaverton Oregon
June 08, 2012 - Hi, I am looking for a hearty vine that we could use to cling to and cover a cement wall that is about 8 feet tall and 30 feet long. It is on the south side of our house but never gets direct sunli...
view the full question and answer

Oak roots damaged by ax from Austin
July 03, 2013 - Hello. I am attempting to create my own tiny copy of the Wildflower Center within my yard. I'm using all native, drought tolerant plants. My front yard is full of live oaks. I used a sod cutter la...
view the full question and answer

Selecting a tree for a backyard in San Antonio, TX
May 11, 2013 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants, I recently moved into a home in West San Antonio right outside Loop 1604..my treeless backyard is fairly small at about 55 ft long and 15 ft wide. I am torn because I can't ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for 100 gal. pot by pool from Ft. Worth TX
June 23, 2012 - What North Texas evergreen — or combination of evergreen plants, bushes or trees — could thrive in a huge, 100-gallon clay pot (immovable!) that is situated in full sun year round in an exposed area n...
view the full question and answer

Suggestions for street trees for Texarkana TX
July 23, 2013 - Texarkana, TX, is going to replace a few and add some new street trees downtown. The engineers specified crape myrtle. When I asked if they would consider native trees instead, I was told they thought...
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