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?

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
2 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

Failure of TX bluebonnets to thrive
May 28, 2015 - We have had extraordinary luck with bluebonnets growing in our driveway of decomposed granite--until last year and this year. The bluebonnets seem to be drying up and wilting away. The ones in other a...
view the full question and answer

Low maintenance, low growing native plants
August 21, 2007 - Mr. Smarty Plants, Could you recommend several low growing easy to maintain plants for planting next to our house. The area for the plants is next to the house(white stone) in between the house and t...
view the full question and answer

Is Cerinthe major toxic to cats in Gresham, OR
March 14, 2013 - Hi, I was wondering about whether a specific plant was poisonous or not specifically to cats.. I've done a lot of searching and can't find anything on whether or not this plant is considered toxi...
view the full question and answer

Apples, pears and geraniums in Kipling, Saskatchewan
March 30, 2013 - My geranium's leaves became yellow - Why? Where can I buy a good nice apple tree? Will apples and pears grow in south Saskatchewan?
view the full question and answer

Are Viguiera dentate leaves toxic to dogs?
November 26, 2014 - Many dogs on the Turkey Creek Nature Trail in Emma Long Metropolitan Park love to snack on the leaves of the Viguiera Dentata plants. The leaves SEEM to be harmless. I am writing to request informat...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center