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
4 ratings

Tuesday - September 27, 2011

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Watering, Trees
Title: New growth on live oaks in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My 2 10yr. old live oaks are putting out new growth (branches?) although, here in Houston, TX we are having such a drought. For the last 3 months, I have conscientiously watered my entire yard via sprinkler system every day, faithfully, to insure a green yard. Although last few wks, of course, I've had to resort to water rationing only 2 days wkly. Even now, each area of yard is watered 30 min/2 times wkly. Are the lives oaks putting out new growth due to stress, or has my daily watering done any good?

ANSWER:

By coincidence, we just answered a question on over-watering. Although it involved a different plant, we suggest you read this previous question. If you have natives to your area, which is what the Wildflower Center is all about, you have been overwatering them. We are thinking in the Houston area you probably have Quercus virginiana (Coastal live oak); this USDA Plant Profile map backs up that belief.

Our answer to your question kind of depends on where the new growth is appearing. If you are getting sprouts from the ground, these are sprouts from the roots of the tree. This is a common habit of live oaks, and yes, it is often a sign of stress in the parent plant. As the tree is having difficulty supporting itself in heat and drought, it sends out sprouts from the roots, which are protected in the soil, and are the storehouse for nutrition and water for the whole tree. These sprouts are basically new "branches," creating new leaves, which are the factories for food for the tree. Then, if the upper part of the tree begins to die from the environmental factors (which can also include wounds to the tree by equipment) those tiny branches from the roots will help to sustain the tree and provide it with sustenance to regrow. These sprouts are not desirable, as some of them will survive and grow larger, forming a "motte" of small trees. This is often seen in the wild, but is too large for residential gardens. Worse, those multiple intertwining roots can be a conduit for the dreaded Oak Wilt from one tree to another.

If the branches you are asking about come from the existing upper branches and trunk of the tree, that is probably just what they are-new branches. They are usually light gray and thin. As the live oak grows it is good to pay careful attention to pruning to eliminate weak crotches in new branches to strengthen the whole tree. Remember no pruning except from about November 15 to January 15, when the Oak Wilt fungus-carrying nitiludid beetle is dormant. Pruning of any branch larger around than your thumb should be followed by painting with wound paint.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

More Watering Questions

Failure to thrive of Hamelia patens in Laredo
September 19, 2008 - I have a question regarding Hamelias patens(firebush)that I have been trying to grow for 2 years. I live in Laredo, Texas and this area should be an excellent climate for this plant. I planted 12 of t...
view the full question and answer

protecting native trees during drought
June 07, 2011 - We are very concerned about our mature live oaks and cedar elms because they are so stressed due to the drought. We have lost several of our mountain juniper and I really don't want to lose our more...
view the full question and answer

It's so hot, even the Salvia greggii are sad, in Bulverde Texas
July 28, 2011 - I have several Salvia greggii in large terra cotta pots. The leaves have developed a yellowish tint and are thinning. What is the best process to get them back to full green foilage?
view the full question and answer

Sudden death of Texas Mountain Laurel
April 14, 2008 - Last year, my 15-year-old Mountain Laurel died very suddenly. The leaves began to curl up and turn brown, and it was dead within about 15 days. What happened?
view the full question and answer

Problems with Cedar Elm in Kerrville TX
April 28, 2012 - We live in 10 miles outside Kerrville - have a Cedar Elm tree - planted 4 or 5 years ago, 15-20 foot high, is losing leaves in the top 1/4th. Rest of leaves look healthy and green.
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center