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?


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 - 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


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.


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 Drought Tolerant Questions

Identifying Rhus lanceolata in Texas
April 28, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I think I've identified two small trees, 4 to 5 feet high at the back fence line and two in the front yard flower beds as prairie flameleaf sumac (or at least some kind of s...
view the full question and answer

Leaves dropping on evergreen sumac in San Antonio
January 11, 2012 - I have a large evergreen sumac in my back yard that started off as a small shrub 10 years ago. This summer the leaves turned red and now have dropped off. Is the plant dead? It sent out two smaller pl...
view the full question and answer

Specifications for a property in Corning CA
March 29, 2012 - Drought resistant, deer resistant, low growing (ground cover), and shade tolerant request: I am looking for a variety of species that not only fit the above preferences, but also a few other things. ...
view the full question and answer

Drought Tolerant Shrubs and Perennials in San Jose, CA
July 18, 2013 - Hello I am a SLT home owner in San Jose, Ca. and want to plant drought tolerant shrubs and perennials. We don't have irrigation but plan to put a timer on a nozzle and run some lines. At least I am t...
view the full question and answer

Low water hedge for Sedona, AZ
August 19, 2009 - I'm looking for a shrub to plant along a 90' property line with my neighbor in Sedona, Arizona (high desert). Ideally, the shrub would grow to about 8' and would not require too much water. What wo...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center