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

Tuesday - March 05, 2013

From: Lincoln, CA
Region: California
Topic: Container Gardens, Trees
Title: Small tree for Northern California backyard
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm looking for a small tree for backyard (west side of house). I'm replacing a Calif.Laurel which is not doing well because it is planted on a downward slope and gets too much water. I could plant this new tree (or shrub) 18" higher on the slope making it 7 feet from the side and back fence. Also wondering if I should plant a small tree in a decorative pot instead. I'd appreciate any suggestion. P.S. Do you think a sweet olive might be an alternative?

ANSWER:

Because our expertise and focus are with plants native to North America, we would not recommend Osmanthus fragrans (sweet olive tree) since it is native to Asia.

We do have the following recommendations for native large shrubs or small trees that are known to grow in Placer County or an adjacent county.  They should do well in the area you describe but be sure to read the GROWING CONDITIONS on each species page to compare to your site. 

Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry) grows to 18 feet, but can grow taller in rich soils.

Calycanthus occidentalis (Western sweetshrub) grows to 15 feet in sun or part shade.

Cornus nuttallii (Pacific dogwood) grows 15 to 40 feet in sun, part shade or shade.

Acer macrophyllum (Bigleaf maple) grows 20 to 75 feet in sun, part shade or shade.   Here is more information with photos from Calflora and North Coast Native Nursery in Petaluma.

Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry) grows to 20 to 30 feet in sun part shade and shade.

Aesculus californica (California buckeye) grows 10 to 20 feet in sun and part shade.

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (Common elderberry) grows to 12 feet in part shade.

You can look for more possibilities on the California-Northern Recommended page.  You can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to choose the features you want.

In our "How to Articles" you will find Container Gardening with Native Plants with helpful information about growing native plants in containers.   Although it doesn't address trees specifically, its suggestions for container growing are applicable for all sizes of plants.  You will need to consider that roots of plants are sensitive to cold and within a pot they will not be as protected as they would be planted in the ground.  Plus, the pots you will have your trees in are not likely to be easy to move because of their size and weight so that you can transfer them inside to a warm place to protect them from freezing temperatures. You can find several articles on the internet with advice about growing trees in pots, such as Growing Trees in Containers from Gardening Know How and 9 Tips for Growing Container Trees from Urban Farm Online.

 

From the Image Gallery


Saskatoon serviceberry
Amelanchier alnifolia

Western sweetshrub
Calycanthus occidentalis

Pacific dogwood
Cornus nuttallii

Chokecherry
Prunus virginiana

California buckeye
Aesculus californica

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

More Trees Questions

Container plant to grow in late afternoon sun
July 02, 2011 - I have a shaded brick walkway that leads to my front door. It faces west, and can get very hot late afternoon Houston sun, although it is shaded for the remainder of the day. I have been successful ...
view the full question and answer

Soapberry tree problems in North Richland Hills, TX
September 01, 2010 - We have a small grove of soapberry trees. The city recently reconstructed the street and added a side walk which now sets as close at 1 foot from the nearest tree. Everything seemed fine until they ...
view the full question and answer

Will wood shavings in the soil require nitrogen from Charleston MO
May 04, 2011 - I cut down a big maple tree and a lot of the wood shavings was left in the soil. I planted a flower bed over the area this spring. I later read that the wood chips in the soil would use a lot of nitro...
view the full question and answer

Care of huisache tree (Acacia farnesiana)
September 25, 2007 - I bought a huisache tree, about one ft. tall, last spring. How do I prune, stake, and care for it as it grows? Do they usually bloom in Brownwood, Tx ?
view the full question and answer

Tree well for partially exposed roots from Lake Kiowa TX
May 05, 2012 - Medium oak tree along lake has partially exposed roots. Can we make a barrier (what kind?) and fill the roots behind it with topsoil, compost, etc.? Tree and roots are above the waterline. Lake occ...
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