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
3 ratings

Wednesday - October 10, 2012

From: Rockport, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Lists, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants for underneath oak tree
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a North facing wall of my house that gets half sunlight half shade depending on the season. I would like to layout some native South Texas plants and complete fill in area to prevent the live oak it is under from sprouting. It is currently watered from an irrigation system four times a week but can be adjusted.

ANSWER:

First of all, Mr. Smarty Plants has had lots of question about controlling oak suckers under trees.   Please visit the answer to a previous question for a good discussion about the merits of the various methods to deal with oak suckers. 

There may be a problem growing plants under your oak tree, not just because it will be shady but because the oak tree has an allelopathic effect on some other plants.  Allelopathy is a situation where a plant releases a chemical that has an effect on another plant.  The effect may be beneficial or harmful, but the ones we hear about the most are those that are harmful to another plant.  One of best known of the allelopathic plants is the walnut tree (Juglans spp.).  It has a very strong effect on most plants attempting to grow beneath it.  Trees with a lesser allelopathic effect include oaks, hackberries and eucalyptus trees.  Red oaks, which in your area is likelly to be either Quercus shumardii (Shumard oak) or Quercus falcata (Southern red oak), are mentioned more often than other oak trees.  You can read more about allelopathy in this article, Allelopathy and Arboriculture:  Theory to Application.  That said, not all plants are susceptible to the oak's chemicals.  Some plants can grow under oaks.  I couldn't find a list of plants native to Texas that reportedly grow under oaks; but, by observation, I can tell you some plants that are native to both South Texas and Central Texas that will grow under oaks. 

 Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap) grows in part shade and shade.

Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana) grows best in sun.

Sabal minor (Dwarf palmetto) grows in sun, part shade and shade.

Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) grows in sun, part shade and shade.  There are dwarf varieties ('Nana' and 'Stokes Dwarf').

Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle) will trail across the ground (as well as climb) in sun or part shade.

You can check our list Texas-South Recommended for other possibilities.  The plants on this list are native to your area, commerically available and suitable for landscaping.  You may have to experiment a bit to see if the plants you choose will thrive under your oak.

 

From the Image Gallery


Turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Texas lantana
Lantana urticoides

Dwarf palmetto
Sabal minor

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Erosion tolerant plants for shade from Kerrville TX
August 06, 2013 - We have just cleared a lot of cedar out of a small draw and would like to know the best groundcovers, shrubs, etc. to plant to hold the soil. Deep shade most of the day.
view the full question and answer

How to have year round color in the garden in Fort Worth
October 23, 2010 - Hello, I'm sending an SOS for a miracle! Since planting is the best now during the fall or so I've been told for North Texas Native Perennials, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. My beautifully mat...
view the full question and answer

Salvia that needs dividing in Maryville MO
April 09, 2010 - I have some May Night salvia that is 3 years old. Last summer it split in the middle and spent a lot of the summer laid open. I'm wondering if it needs to be split or pruned in some way?
view the full question and answer

Plant for eastern facing side of house in Washington
August 26, 2008 - I was considering putting some Lily of the Nile in front of the eastern facing side of my home. Is this plant a suitable choice for planting here in Eastern Washington?
view the full question and answer

Container plants for Arlington TX
February 10, 2012 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I just moved to Arlington, TX. I am trying to create a container garden on my apartment balcony. What flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruit combinations can I put together that wil...
view the full question and answer

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