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
1 rating

Monday - May 20, 2013

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Rock under space for Bigtooth Maple in San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just got a 10 gallon Bigtooth Maple in Medina TX for my home outside loop 1604 in San Antonio. I hit rock about 7 inches in when trying to plant it..I am entertaining the idea for a raised bed to level the last 6 or so inches. Is this even with it or is it a lost cause?

ANSWER:

Okay, we have more than one problem here. The first one is that you will be planting in what is quickly becoming very hot weather. We ordinarily recommend that in Texas and other hot areas woody plants, that is, trees and shrubs, be planted in November to January. So, whatever you do, that baby needs to get into the ground quickly. Here are the growing conditions for Acer grandidentatum (Bigtooth maple) from our webpage on the plant.

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist soils, Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Calcareous."

"Limestone-based" means alkaline soil that has developed from limestone, not a solid chunk of limestone. We did considerable research on the type of roots maples have and one of the outstanding points is that the roots are far-reaching and shallow. In fact, maples are often not recommended because those roots come to the surface, heave up sidewalks and punch holes in basement walls. Frankly, in maple tree vs. chunk of rock, we're betting on the maple.

Ordinarily, we would not have suggested you plant a tree in such shallow soil, but since you already have the tree, we think you should dig as deep and wide a hole as is practical, preferably away from pavement, foundations, patios, etc. We assume that the root is still in the pot in dirt. Put the tree root over the rock and kind of let it spread out. Refill the hole with a mix of native soil and compost to give the little hair-like rootlets something from which they can access nutrients and water. We are not confident that such a shallow hole is going to stabilize the tree until it gets some of those roots out, so you should probably stake it.

Remember from the Growing Conditions, this plant likes moist soil, which you probably don't have in Bexar County. As soon as the tree is in the hole and staked, stick a hose down in the soil loosened by the addition of compost, and let the water just drip until the surface is wet. Do that 2 or 3 times a week until cooler weather or more rain.

The tree could still die of transplant shock because you are planting it in hot weather or because too much root damage has been done getting it into the hole, but at least you will give it a fighting chance.

 

From the Image Gallery


Bigtooth maple
Acer grandidentatum

Bigtooth maple
Acer grandidentatum

Bigtooth maple
Acer grandidentatum

More Planting Questions

Sumacs under live oaks dying in Austin
August 08, 2010 - Converted my yard to native plants last fall. All of the fragrant and evergreen sumacs are dying off one by one - they have never thrived. I ensure they get a good soaking at least once a week. I w...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in tulip tree in Cincinnati
October 02, 2009 - I planted a tulip tree sapling (3 feet tall at the time of planting) in May of this year and it sprouted! Unfortunately, I believe the top portion (nearly 2 feet) did not make it (the sapling only spr...
view the full question and answer

Growing conditions for Giant Coneflower from San Antonio
August 09, 2013 - Rudbeckia maxima is considered to be a perennial plant for the sun but I have had a difficult time maintaining it in a pot in full sun before attempting to plant. Do you feel that it will survive and...
view the full question and answer

How close can house be built to live oak from Austin
May 30, 2012 - We have a healthy 21" live oak tree on our lot and are planning to build a home in Circle C subdivision in southwest austin. The home foundation will be within 15' of the large live oak. Need your h...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting mature guavaberry in St. Croix
January 22, 2010 - I live on the island of St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands and I have a Guavaberry tree that is about 25 to 30 years old, between 15 to 20 feet tall and about 6 feet wide that I would like ...
view the full question and answer

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