En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Due to drought is pruning live oaks beneficial from Houston

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 - December 07, 2011

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Drought Tolerant, Trees
Title: Due to drought is pruning live oaks beneficial from Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Would it be beneficial (presuming a continued spring drought) to prune live oak trees more severely than usual this winter? I'm thinking that it might help them to have less mass to support.

ANSWER:

Everyone, it seems, has a different opinion on this, but we will throw our opinion out, too. We probably need to operate on the premise that our rain totals will go down and our heat levels will go up in the near future, and to plan our gardens accordingly.

We usually advise seeking professional help in pruning, especially when the tree is large. Of course, most arborists are likely to advise that the tree surely needs pruning, but we hope that with our guidelines in your mind that you can avoid being talked into something unnecessary, expensive and/or possibly damaging to the tree. Don't get us wrong, most tree specialists are competent and ethical; it's a big job and requires special training and equipment. Just don't let someone who knocks on your door and says "we were just in the area and saw your trees and...." do anything to your trees, probably the most valuable part of your landscaping.

In your area of southeast Texas, it is likely that you have Quercus virginiana (Coastal live oak), although there are a number of oaks growing around there. In Central Texas, where the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is located. we are more likely to have Quercus fusiformis (Escarpment live oak) but, again, good pruning practices are going to apply.

From the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories Plant Health Care Program, we found this article on Live Oaks in Texas. Read it all and we will just throw in our comments in addition.

First, and possibly foremost, you must be aware of precautions to take to prevent the attack of Oak Wilt. Live Oaks are the most threatened of all the oaks by it, and there is no cure. While it is not yet the threat in your area that it is in Central Texas, it's out there and prevention of its spread is vital. Please read this website from the Texas Oak Wilt Partnership, in which the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is an active partner. Please pay attention to their advice on when to prune (December to early February) and pruning paint (paint the stub from the removal of any branch bigger around than your thumb with pruning paint.) Avoid any wounds to the tree any time of the year. Any sap leaking from a wound will attract the nitulidid beetle, which may be carrying the fungus causing Oak Wilt on his body from the last time he had a bite to eat.

 

From the Image Gallery


Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

More Pruning Questions

Eradication of mahonia repens
July 27, 2008 - What is the best way to kill and/or remove mahonia repens?
view the full question and answer

Pruning Saucer Magnolia in Eatontown, NJ.
January 12, 2013 - Adult Saucer Magnolia (tulip tree). Branches were getting heavy to where they were ready to break. I pruned them back leaving 1 to 3 inch diameter cuts on many branches. Should I put something on th...
view the full question and answer

Perennial summer blooming plant for Livonia, MI
May 22, 2009 - I want to find a plant that I can cut back in the fall, will come back in the spring, flower throughout the summer, be a medium size plant, no taller than 48", about 36" in diameter. It would get f...
view the full question and answer

How to prune Opuntia ellisiana in Decatur, GA.
August 20, 2009 - Hi Mr SP--How do I go about pruning an Opuntia ellisiana? I have saws, newspaper, heavy leather gloves, goggles, etc. But my question is more about what section of the plant to cut. The base has de...
view the full question and answer

Yucca blades damaged by weedeater in Hellertown PA
July 05, 2011 - Can I cut off the blades of a Yucca plant that have been eaten on the edges with a weed wacker and are very unsightly looking? Can they be cut back to the flower shaft?
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