Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - June 29, 2012

From: Frisco, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Tree species for a small yard
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I have a small front yard area. Maybe 10' x 15'. It is also elevated. There is a retaining wall about 4 feet high. The builders planted a live oak! I think it is a nightmare waiting to happen as it matures. I would like a smaller tree, to fit in that size yard, that will not tear the wall down 10 years down the road. I have looked at crepe myrtles, and choke cherries. Am I going in the right direction? Are there any others I should consider? Additionally the parkway area between the sidewalk and street. Maybe 5 feet wide. They planted live oaks there as well. I love trees, but it just seems like bad choices for small areas. I am in zone 8a. Help!

ANSWER:

You are wise to be concerned about tree size and possible damage to retaining walls.  Crepe myrtle (non-native) and Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry) are good bets.  To view a larger number of possible replacement trees check the Texas Tree Selector web site.  Native trees are recommended because of their ability to withstand the Texas climate.  This site does not give information on root encroachment, but some useful data on that point will be found at a site dealing with street trees.  As a general rule, trees will extend at least small roots out to about the outer drip line of the foliage.  Additional information on any of the native trees, including images, can be found by typing the common or botanical name into the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database.

This is certainly not an ideal season for planting trees.  You would be advised to wait for cooler weather in the fall or winter.  By checking the list of plant suppliers in your neighborhood on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center web site you should find a source of suitable trees.

 

More Trees Questions

Blackening of top growth of yaupon in Sunrise Beach TX
June 09, 2010 - My question regards a Will Flemming yaupon which I am thinking may be within your scope of expertise. These were recently planted under windy conditions, then hit with a neighbors antiquated jet type ...
view the full question and answer

Danger of oak wilt infestation in trees with storm-damaged limbs
June 15, 2007 - A recent severe storm in Southwest Austin broke large branches and trunks on many Live Oaks in my neighborhood, including my next door neighbors'. Can this invite Oak Wilt? I'm worried about my tree...
view the full question and answer

What plants to put under an oak tree in Clover SC
January 30, 2010 - I have a 70 year old oak tree in my backyard and have tried to grow grass out from it with no success. I'd like to just plant some shrubs and make it a natural area now, but need advice on what I ca...
view the full question and answer

Washingtonia palms need to be skirted?
August 31, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have five Washingtonia palms on my property that have never been skirted and look rather shabby. The interesting thing is that they have thrived (20-30 ft) here to begin with...
view the full question and answer

Will Texas madrone (Arbutus xalapensis) grow in northeast Texas?
November 24, 2009 - Will Texas madrones grow by Cedar Creek Lake and if so, do you know where I could purchase them "sort of" locally?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.