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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 - February 27, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pruning, Trees
Title: Removing a non-native windmill palm from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a fairly good size windmill palm (about 15ft high) that is planted too close to the house. I also don't like having to constantly remove its fronds as they block a walkway. Is there a good way to remove this palm? I would not have chosen this species and would like to replace it with a good native shrub.

ANSWER:

Here is a U-Tube video on digging out a windmill palm. You will note that there are four or five BIG guys working on it, and the root ball is huge. It is native to China, Burma and India, which means it really doesn't belong in Central Texas. You are correct, it should not have been planted where it would interfere with the walkway, as it gets to be a really big tree.

From a website called Buzzle here is an article on palm tree removal. They have recommendations for simply killing the tree, but it still looks like a very big job. We would recommend you either take the advice of this article to try to trim it up to make it work in your environment or kill it. Our overall advice is to choose some professionals to do it, as they should not only have the big guys but the right machinery. This is a lesson for anyone else considering planting a palm or any other large tree; be aware of the mature size and branch growth of the planned tree before you plant. You didn't plant it so it's not your fault, but you still have the problem to deal with.

Now we will go to our Native Plant Database and, using the Combination Search, select on Texas for the state, "shrub" for the Habit, and pick out the Light Requirement and expected size on the Search page. We will give you a sample list choosing plants native to Travis County. You can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant and see if the ones on our list suit your purposes. Since we don't know the size you want nor the amount of sunlight you will have for the plant, you may need to refine our search for a better fit in your yard. For instance, there is a place on that search page for whether you want an evergreen or deciduous plant.

Shrubs for Austin:

Aesculus pavia (Scarlet buckeye)

Aloysia gratissima (Whitebrush)

Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush)

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow)

Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood)

Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon)

Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo)

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap)

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

Tecoma stans (Yellow bells)

 

From the Image Gallery


Whitebrush
Aloysia gratissima

Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Texas kidneywood
Eysenhardtia texana

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Cenizo
Leucophyllum frutescens

Turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Scarlet buckeye
Aesculus pavia

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