En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - October 08, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Select Region
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Pruning, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Area under live oaks from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have many live oaks in our mostly shaded half acre. While I have tried to plant mostly native plants, often beneath them, the plants are showered with leathery leaves, acorns and sap, while oak sprouts protrude. Short of putting up nets to catch all the stuff falling from the oaks, what can I do to have cleaner beds without frequent kneeling and hand raking to get up the "fallout" without damaging the plants? Can I let it just sit there to eventually turn into mulch? In one oak motte I use a hedge trimmer to turn the multitude of sprouts into a ground cover as the sprouts have outdone the Asian jasmine! Help! PS in 25% of yard, we've put ground cloth and mulch.

ANSWER:

Please begin by reading this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer, as well as following any links in that answer to other material. Once you have read all of those anwers, we would summarize our take on this situation.

1. What do you want to keep? Our decision would be the live oaks, they are the most valuable part of your landscaping, as far as we are concerned.

2. No, untended debris will not magically turn into mulch. It will stack up, blow around, and where it piles up will attract insects, rodents, snakes looking for a snack and general trash.

3. A motte of live oaks is risky, in that Oak Wilt can not only enter a tree via damage to the bark (hedge trimmer, weed eater, pruning, etc) but if one tree becomes infected, it will travel to the other trees in the motte via intertwined roots.

Until you have read all the references and considered the options, you won't be able to make an informed decision. Since we are from West Texas where the ground cover is cactus and the trees are scraggly mesquites, we would vote for the trees and stop trying to grow stuff under them. Neither trees nor underplantings are likely to thrive under those conditions.

 

More Pruning Questions

Pruning of Hamelia patens, Firebush
June 23, 2006 - I have a Hamelia Patens (Fire Bush) it says it will grow to 12 feet high and 5-6 feet across. Can I keep pruning it to about 5 feet without damaging the shrub?
view the full question and answer

Trimming native salvias in January
January 17, 2008 - I have heard you can trim Hot Lips, Raspberry and other salvias back severely in January, to about six inches from the ground. Is this correct?
view the full question and answer

How to Prune a Mountain Laurel to make it more tree like in Hendersen, NV
April 28, 2011 - How do I prune a Texas Mountain Laurel into a tree? Just bought a 15 gal. with two trunks above the crown. Was told that multiple trunks are their natural growth, which is OK. But all research call...
view the full question and answer

Care of Spanish Dagger (Yucca treculeana) after blooming
May 27, 2007 - I live in Austin and have a 5 ft spanish dagger in my backyard. Now that it has bloomed and the flowers have withered in May, should I cut off the center stalk or will it bloom again from the same st...
view the full question and answer

Roots in foundation of home in Audubon NJ
February 17, 2012 - I live in an old house (almost 90 years old), and within the past year I have noticed in one area the concrete basement floor breaking. Today I finally made time to investigate. In these old houses ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center