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
1 rating

Monday - November 07, 2011

From: Newhall , CA
Region: California
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Trees with non-invasive roots or tops in Newhall CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We would like to plant a tree with noninvasive roots near our garden wall and concrete driveway in a grassy area in the front yard facing west. This spot is very sunny in the afternoon with automatic sprinklers. We also need to plant a second tree to hide a telephone pole that would be somewhat under the electrical wires that run across our backyard that is facing east. We would like to plant a tree that is not likely to interfere with the wires. The electric pole is at the top of a hill. We had to cut down a 40 year old Alder that had begun to die and was entangled in the wires. It was very tall over 100 feet. We can plant the tree at the base of the hill. Thank you

ANSWER:

We are frequently asked by visitors to Mr. Smarty Plants site for non-invasive roots or trees that won't grow too tall. In an urban area like Los Angeles County we can certainly understand your need to maximize your space. Because we are asked so often for non-invasive tree roots, we will exhibit a little laziness and link you to a Mr. Smarty Plants previous answer to explain about tree roots.

The gist of our argument is that a tree that grows very tall is going to need lots of space under ground (and not very far down from the surface) to gather sufficient nutrients from the soil, storing water and, perhaps most importantly, anchoring that tree in the ground. You have heard the expression "top-heavy" we are sure; apply that to a large tree and you can perhaps visualize a tree that topples in a wind or even if someone leans against it. And with an instinct for survival, tree roots stand up for themselves, or perhaps we should say "push up" because they will push up sidewalks and driveways, as well as crack foundations in search of water. We realize you are probably looking for shade in a sunny area, but since your wall and driveway are in that same sunny area, we don't think they will co-exist. We don't know how much space you have available or how far the trunk would be from the wall and driveway, but you need to remember that roots are radiating out in all direction from that trunk for as much as 2 to 3 times the width of of the top of the tree.

We would suggest you rethink your landscaping for that area. There are shrubs that can be trained in small tree-like shapes, perennials and grasses that will not have roots that interfere with the concrete, but will fill the space attractively. In terms of a tree that will disguise a telephone pole, it is better to select a small tree that will not be expected to ever get high enough to invade the wires, but that, with a leafed-out top, will at least distract the eye from the telephone pole in the background.

We suggest you go to our Recommended Species section and select Southern California on the map. This will produce a list of 208 plants native to Southern California. Mr. Smarty Plants does not recommend any plants that are not native both to North America but also to the area in which the plants will be grown. These plants will be conditioned by centuries of experience to do well in your climate, rainfall and soils. Using the sidebar on the right-hand side of the page, you can select on "Habit" (tree, shrub, herbaceous blooming plant), "Light Requirements," "Soil Moisture" and even projected height of the plant. Following the plant links on the resulting list will take you to webpages on the individual plants, where you can learn more about them, and decide if they are suitable for your space.

 

More Shrubs Questions

Native shrub for north window in Austin, TX
March 23, 2008 - Hello. I am trying to find a native shrub to provide privacy next to a low north-facing window and protection from northerly winds in the winter. I would like to find a shrub with a maximum height o...
view the full question and answer

Hedge shrubs that attract butterflies & birds in Virginia
June 13, 2014 - Hi - I need recommendations for north VA hedge shrubs that attract butterflies and birds. Thanks
view the full question and answer

HOA chopping down wax myrtles from Katy TX
April 24, 2011 - My local HOA just chopped down 80+ wax myrtles saying that they lived out their life span..they are roughly 18-20 years old..is there a species of wax myrtles that lives only 20 years..or did they co...
view the full question and answer

Epiphytic or halophytic trees and shrubs
December 10, 2008 - Hello I was searching on this issue, but couldn't find what I really want, and I would be great full for your assistance. Please could you help me to find the scientific name for the "Trees" or...
view the full question and answer

Bird-friendly plants for the Texas coast
July 13, 2012 - I'm interested in starting a native plant garden, specifically with an eye towards providing food (either from the plants or insects that are attracted to the plants) for migratory birds. However, s...
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