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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - October 31, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Would like fast growing evergreen trees in Austin, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Hi, We're moving to Southwest Austin and would like to plant a cluster of pines (or cypress trees?) or other fast growing, large and tall evergreen trees. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

That sounds like a good plan, but it is not without some problems. A tall Texas pine that grows in Central Texas is the Loblolly Pine Pinus taeda (Loblolly pine). It is prevalent in Bastrop County but not so much in Travis County, partly because of the alkalinity of the soil in Travis County.

Loblolly Pine  Growing Conditions
Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Adaptable, but prefers moist, sandy soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam Acid-based, Medium Loam
Conditions Comments: Loblolly will respond well to extra moisture and richer soils. One of the fastest-growing southern pines. A pioneer species along river bottoms. Often infected with a rust which produces prominent, enlarged areas on twigs, branches and trunks. Also suffers damage from pine beetles.

A Cypress tree that grows in Travis County is the Bald Cypress Taxodium distichum (Bald cypress) which prefers acidic , moist environments.

Bald Cypress Growing Conditions
Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Wet, acidic mucks, sands & loams. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay.
Conditions Comments: Bald cypress is a majestic tree with soft, ferny foliage that enhances many landscapes. Enjoy the terra cotta hue of the foliage around Thanksgiving. Adapted to riverine habitats, the roots are not susceptible to suffocation making bald cypress a common candidate for parking lots. Deciduous conifer adaptable to wet or semi dry conditions. Does well in full sun. Bald refers to the deciduous nature uncommon among other conifers.

To identify other choices, lets go to our Native Plant Database. Scroll down to our Recommend Species Lists and click on View Recommend Species page. Click on Central Texas on the map, and you will get a list of 156 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Texas. This is too many for now, so go to the Narrow Your Search box on the right side of the screen and select Texas under State, tree under Habit, and perennial under Duration. Check sun under Light requirement and dry under Soil moisture. Click on the Narrow your Search button, and you will get a  list of 19 native trees for Central Texas landscapes. Clicking  on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page which contains a description of the plant, its growth characteristics and requirements, and in most cases images. As you check out each plant, you can note its size and other features.

Another approach is to use the Texas Tree Planting Guide from the Texas Forest Service. This in an interactive guide that is fun to use, and has lots of information about tree selection, planning,  planting, and care. The “Tree Planting Tools” feature is particularly helpful.

 

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