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

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

Tree removal from Austin
November 18, 2013 - Unfortunately we need to cut down a Spanish oak (11" diameter, over 50 feet tall) that is leaning against our upper story deck (if it falls, the roof, deck, and steel supports may be crushed). A lim...
view the full question and answer

Planting of Habiturf from Smithville TX
March 25, 2012 - Are Habiturf and Thunderturf the same? and, how late in the year can I plant Habiturf?
view the full question and answer

Can a prickly pear cutting from Harker Heights, TX find happiness in Long Island, NY.
November 03, 2012 - Took a cutting of a prickly pear cactus from my daughters garden in Harker Heights, Tx. Her plants are 5'ht.& wt. Set it into a 10" pot with garden mix soil. Early July 2012, brought it home to Long...
view the full question and answer

Need replacements for old arborvitaes destroyed by snow and ice in Reisterstown, MD.
February 07, 2011 - Our big old arborvitaes have been destroyed by snow and ice. Rather than a fence we would like to use plants/bushes for privacy. We live in zip 21136. This would extend all across the back property l...
view the full question and answer

Will Sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri thrive in caliche soil?
December 02, 2014 - I live on a high hill in the Hamilton Pool area outside of Austin. I am looking to plant a Dasylirion wheeleri that I grew from seed collected in New Mexico aria East Of Soccoro. I am wondering if the...
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