En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Need options for smaller trees in neighborhoods in Austin, TX.

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

Friday - May 25, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Need options for smaller trees in neighborhoods in Austin, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Please discuss smaller tree options for typical Austin neighborhood yards. These houses are built close together on the sides, and only have smallish back yards. They just don't have space for big 50+ foot trees or shrubs that develop big girths. The trees need to be "child and animal friendly," i.e. NON-poisonous and without thorns. We need evergreens, but would also like one or two flowering trees. Seems like everything I've researched has problems - it's invasive or brittle-limbed, highly flammable, or they won't tolerate our caliche soil or handle a freeze. I don't mind research, but after months of it, I'm totally discouraged. Can you help? Thank you so much for your time.

ANSWER:

Let me begin by stating that the mission of the Ladybird Johnson Wild Flower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes. This idea is more fully explained in our article  “Why Native Plants”  on the About Us page. Native plants are more likely to be adapted to the local soil and weather and less likely to be invasive.

I don’t know what resources you have researched, but I am going to suggest four that Mr. Smarty Plants finds useful. You may have used some of these before.

Lets begin with our Native Plant Database and the Recommended Species List.  Click on Central Texas on the map, and you will get a list of 156 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Central Texas. Since we are only interested in trees for now, let’s  go to the Narrow Your Search box to the right of the screen and make  the following selections; select Texas under State, Trees under General Appearance, and Perennial under Lifespan. Check Sun under Light requirement, Dry under Soil Moisture, and 12 - 36 under Height. Click the Narrow Your Search button, and you will get a list of 12 species that fit these criteria. Clicking on the scientific name of each species will bring up its NPIN profile page that has information about the plant's characteristics and growth requirements, and in most cases pictures. You will see that several of these plants have showy flowers, but some have thorns, and some have toxic properties. So use caution in your selection.
Scroll down to ADDITIONAL RESOURCES near the bottom of the page, and click on the plant name beside USDA. This will bring up the USDA Profile page for the plant with a distribution map at about the middle of the page. Click on Texas and it will show you the counties in Texas where the plant occurs.

Another source comes from the Texas Forest Service. This is an interactive site that has the Express Tree Selector and the Custom Tree Selector which help pick a tree that fits into the space you have available. It is very well illustrated.  However, some of the trees that are listed are non natives.

A third source for your consideration is Native and Adapted Landscape Plants produced by the City of Austin Urban Forestry Program. Scroll down to Native Tree and Plant Guide under Urban Forest. The guide’s Index indicates that it contains informations about plants that include trees, small trees /large shrubs, perennials, etc. all the way to turf, plus a section on invasives. It also has information about the plant’s nativity, water requirements, whether it is evergreen or deciduous, and if it is deer resistant. There is a lot of information here.

A final source  of information is  an article entitled Tree Selection from treesaregood.com . The article provides a series of considerations to examine when deciding to plant a tree and determining which tree to plant.

We hope these sources will prove helpful, and you can go forward with your landscaping plans.

 

More Planting Questions

Planting petunias around base of oak tree from Houma LA
March 30, 2013 - I live in south Louisiana and I want to plant petunias. Can I plant petunias around the base of an oak tree?
view the full question and answer

When can native wildflower mix seeds be planted from Rosenberg TX
May 30, 2012 - I received a package of "All Native Wildflower Mix". The package says plant in Spring. Is too late to plant now or should I wait for next March?
view the full question and answer

Restoring fire damage in Bastrop TX
November 03, 2011 - I live in the Bastrop State Park area. We were severely affected by the wildfire and as we are trying to rebuild our home, we are being very aware of the particularities of the recovery process. We lo...
view the full question and answer

Trees for Socorro NM
June 28, 2012 - I recently moved from Austin to Socorro, NM. I want to add 2 shade trees to my hot, dry garden. I am considering Arizona Cypress, Live Oak (Quercus Fusiformis - yes, they are native in NM, as well a...
view the full question and answer

Chlorosis in tropical milkweed and asclepias tuberosa
May 18, 2008 - I planted both tropical milkweed and asclepias tuberosa. Both are chlorotic and the native milkweed has brown upturned leaves. Could it possibly be too much water? Or what?
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