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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - November 03, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Trees
Title: Ground cover under trees from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I need ground cover plants that can tolerate leaf litter and grow under oak tree shade.

ANSWER:

Not a whole lot of those around. Please read this previous Mr. Smarty question on allelopathy in oaks. Even those oak leaves on the ground have bad effects on other plants trying to grow there. Instead, we are fond of recommending a good quality compost or shredded bark mulch under that tree. It will combine with the oak leaves and gradually decompose to help amend the soil beneath in terms of drainage and access to the nutrients in the soil. It will have to be replaced from time to time, but that is still less expensive and work intensive than constantly replacing plants that will not survive. Also, the mulch, up to 4 inches thick, will provide a non-muddy path and protect the tree roots from heat and cold as well as retain our all-too-scarce moisture in the soil.

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Ground cover for heavy dog traffic in Huntsville TX
July 23, 2010 - We have recently moved to Huntsville, TX where our backyard is very shady and has only a small patch of St. Augustine grass and the rest is a dry, sand-like soil. We also have 2 Great Danes and 2 Pugs...
view the full question and answer

Creating a bluebonnet patch between Brenham and Houston.
April 12, 2009 - I am creating a Bluebonnet patch in a well-drained section of my flowerbed. I just planted the plants (it is now early April and I'm between Houston and Brenham, TX). I plan to let them go to seed ...
view the full question and answer

Sudden death of Texas Mountain Laurel
April 14, 2008 - Last year, my 15-year-old Mountain Laurel died very suddenly. The leaves began to curl up and turn brown, and it was dead within about 15 days. What happened?
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of lantanas in San Antonio
July 22, 2010 - Mr. Smarty Plants, We have lantanas in our front yard. This summer the leaves have turned white and they die to a brown color all the while the leaves are "crispy". At the beginning of the season...
view the full question and answer

Lawn Maintenance in Colorado
March 20, 2010 - When do I begin to fertilize and water my grass in Colorado Springs? I am selling my house and want my lawn to look green?
view the full question and answer

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