En Español

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?


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

Thursday - August 09, 2012

From: San Diego, CA
Region: California
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Drought-tolerant trees for planters in San Diego
Answered by: Nan Hampton


We need some ideas for a drought tolerant tree that will provide shade (4 foot raised planters in sunny location) not get too big when mature, and not too messy. San Diego


Here are some suggestions for San Diego native small trees/large shrubs that are drought tolerant and should do well in your large planters:

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (Birch-leaf mountain-mahogany) is evergreen and grows to about 15 feet.  Here is more information from Las Pilitas Nursery and from the Theodore Payne Foundation under its synonym, Cercocarpus betuloides.

Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) is deciduous and here are descriptions from Las Pilitas Nursery in Escondido and Santa Margarita and from the Theodore Payne Foundation.

Comarostaphylis diversifolia (Summer holly)  is evergreen and is a slow-grower to 20 feet.  Here is more information from Las Pilitas Nursery and from the Theodore Payne Foundation.

Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) is evergreen and usually grows to 6 or 8 feet but can grow as high as 20 feet.  Here is more information from Las Pilitas Nursery and the Theodore Payne Foundation.

Malosma laurina (Laurel sumac)  is evergreen and can grow to 18 feet.   Here is more information from Las Pilitas Nursery and the Theodore Payne Foundation.



From the Image Gallery

Smooth mountain mahogany
Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Summer holly
Comarostaphylis diversifolia

Heteromeles arbutifolia

More Trees Questions

Transplanting a native Texas Persimmon in Austin
October 18, 2008 - I have a Texas Persimmon, approx. 2.5 feet tall, growing in a 5 gal. pot. When should it be transplanted and where? How much sun? Could it grow in a larger pot for a time> Do deer like it? Thank ...
view the full question and answer

Splitting bark on non-native mimosa from Buda TX
June 24, 2012 - What would cause my Mimosa tree to have splitting bark. I've only lived in this house for 8 months and am learning about this tree. The other tree seems fine. It looks as though it split and then ...
view the full question and answer

Why is non-native peach tree not going dormant in Owensville IN
December 19, 2011 - I have a peach tree I grew from a peach pit. It is about 2 years old. I planted the tree in my yard this summer. It is now about 3' tall. My problem is it is not going dormant. We have had several fr...
view the full question and answer

Eastern Redbud Flowers and Leaves Dried Up
June 12, 2014 - I have a young Eastern Redbud that started blooming last year. This year blossoms formed and leaves started to come, but now they are all dried up. What might have caused this?
view the full question and answer

Young huisache trees dying
October 02, 2015 - We have had several young huisache trees suddenly die. These trees are only three or four years old and were apparently healthy when they just died. They are growing by the curb on a city street and w...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center