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Mr. Smarty Plants - Tree species for a small yard

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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.

 

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