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Monday - January 16, 2012

From: Cedar Park, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources, Propagation, Transplants, Watering, Poisonous Plants, Drought Tolerant, Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Replacing Drought-Stricken Cedars
Answered by: Janice Kvale


Hello, I live in Williamson County on a couple acres. We have several dead cedars as a result of drought; we're reluctant to cut them down because many of them provide a friendly barrier between us and next-door neighbors. We have around our property several young Texas mountain laurels that are volunteers from seed, and since they grow so nicely here, we're thinking of transplanting them in place of the dead cedars. First question: is now a good time to cut down cedars, or should we give them another try? Second: if transplanting the mtn laurels is a good idea, is now a good time to do that? Many thanks for your help!


Let's begin with your first question. Your trees are most likely Juniperus ashei (Ashe juniper) or Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar), both native to Texas. A number of persons have lost these trees as a result of drought in the past year. Although they are usually drought resistant, there is a high probability that your trees have also succumbed. You may want to check out this answer to a previous question describing how to check for viability of an apparently dead tree. If you determine they are truly dead or you do not wish to retain them, they can be cut out anytime. Persons allergic to cedar pollen will cheer!

Now let's consider those easily available and extremely drought resistant small trees, Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel). You can certainly try to dig and transplant these volunteers, but they often do not survive transplantation. They have a deep tap root and some of the root will be destroyed with the digging. Smaller specimens (2 1/2 feet high or less) may have a better chance of survival. They are relatively slow growers, but being an optimist I say it is always worth a try. As to when to plant or transplant a tree, any month is possible but our hot summers may be the least advantageous time. If these shrubs are producing seeds, you can try planting seeds from your volunteers also. Note that the seeds are mildly poisonous. This site has a description of how to propagate by seed and they usually germinate well.

Alternately purchase replacement trees or shrubs of your choice or reseed the junipers, if you can find the fleshy (and mildly poisonous) cones from your stand. Unfortunately reseeding may be as risky as transplanting the Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) since germination for the junipers is poor. For each of the mentioned varieties in this article, click on the name and a description will pop up detailing, among a lot of other good information, how to propagate the shrub. Purchase either the junipers or Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel), or another often used shrub of similar size such as Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon), from local suppliers. And this is a good place to mention that the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center's Spring Plant Sale is April 14-15, 2012 where you may find attractive shrub specimens in containers for sale.

Consult the Texas Forest Service guide on tree planting. Once you have your replacement trees planted, be sure to mulch and water them. As long as this drought persists, you will want to water weekly any of the cedars that have survived as well. Check out the Drought Resource Center at this site and this YouTube video by the Texas Forest Service on keeping trees watered. Good luck with this project.


From the Image Gallery

Ashe juniper
Juniperus ashei

Eastern red cedar
Juniperus virginiana

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Ilex vomitoria

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