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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - January 18, 2012

From: Folsom, CA
Region: California
Topic: Planting, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Need tree suggestions for a long, narrow strip in Folsom, CA.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I live in Folsom, Ca. I have a long strip (50') of planting area about 2.5' wide at the top of a retaining wall to the fence behind it. I would like to plant alternating (2) trees down this strip to block views of neighbors yards (maybe 12'-15' high). Can you tell me two types of trees that won't send roots through the fence or retaining wall?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is having some difficulty visualizing the situation that you describe. How tall is the fence, and what type is it? It sounds as if you are hoping to the constrain the tree roots in a 2.5' wide space along the length of the wall. This is referred to by some people as a non-invasive root system. 
People frequently ask about “taproot” trees thinking that the root grows straight down and will not interfere with sidewalks, driveways, and foundations. Some trees begin with a taproot, but as the system matures, it spread out in all directions in search of water and nutrients, and to provide a base of support to stabilize the tree. A tree that reaches a height of 20 feet can have a canopy at least that wide, and will have roots that spread out three to four times the width of the canopy. I am including links to Colorado State University Extension and Iowa State University Extension that explain this concept further.

As for the tree recommendations, I am going to introduce you to our Native Plant Database that will help you select trees for your situation. The Database  contains 7,161 plants that are searchable by scientific name or common name.

 There are several ways to use the Database, but we are going to start with the Recommended Species List.  To do this, go to the Native Plant Data Base and scroll down to the Recommended Species List box. Clicking on the map will enlarge it so that you can click on Northern California. This will bring up a list of 286 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in California. These aren’t all trees, so you need to go to the “Narrow Your Search” box on the right  of the screen and make the following selections: select California under State, Tree under General Appearance, and Perennial under Lifespan. Check Sun under Light Requirement, and Dry under Soil Moisture (or the conditions that apply). Click on the Submit Narrow Your Search button and you will get a list of 13 native species from which to chose.  Since trees may not be appropriate for your situation, you can go through the selections again, this time choosing Shrub under General Appearance. Click on the Narrow Your Search button, and now you have 32 native species. Clicking the Scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page that gives the characteristics of the plant, its growth requirements, and in most cases, photos. You can get different lists by changing the Light requirement and Soil moisture selections.

Here is another link to Colorado State University Extension that has good information on tree selection.

For help closer to home, you might contact the folks at  the Sacramento County office of University of California  Cooperative Extension.

 

 

More Trees Questions

Difference in native and non-native cherry laurel
October 02, 2014 - I have a backyard volunteer that I have identified as a cherry laurel, but how do I tell the Carolina from the non-native? This is still young (2 years or so), and not flowering, at least not now.
view the full question and answer

Problems with Cedar Elm in Austin, TX.
August 04, 2012 - Our Cedar Elm has yellowing very dry leaves and something is eating the topmost leaves leaving holes and obviously chewed off leaf segments. Could this be two different things? Aphids and bacteria or ...
view the full question and answer

Small flowering tree for MS
March 21, 2011 - I had to cut down some trees that had grown too close to my foundation, but would like to re-plant something a little farther from the house (12-16 feet away) that would still serve as a screen outsid...
view the full question and answer

Proper watering of cedar elm trees in Sachse, TX
August 15, 2008 - I've just planted two Cedar elm trees in clay soil, each about four inches in diameter, and I want to water them correctly. I'm aware that too much water can be bad as well as too little water. I ...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing evergreens for privacy in Center, TX
March 30, 2010 - I live in East Texas and am looking for a fast growing evergreen for a privacy screen around my backyard. The area gets partial sun and the soil has a lot of clay in it.
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