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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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Friday - October 25, 2013

From: austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Medium-sized trees for Central Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I need some help figuring out what 2 trees to plant to replace 2 trees that are being taken down on Monday. The input we've received from the company doing the tree cleanup is to go with a chinkapin or monterrey oak as replacements, but when looking at these, they look much too large. The front yard is losing an ash. The space it takes up now is not that large (1/2 of a standard suburban front yard). It shares space with a burr oak, which has grown quite large. In the back - a bigger yard for sure - we have lacebark elm that is absolutely huge and is taking over. The one that's coming out is a very tall ornamental pear - it's very tall, but not too wide. We need something similarly shaped. What would be your recommendations? Thank you SO much!!

ANSWER:

You are wise to concern yourself over the possible long-term problems of shade trees too closely spaced.  There is a very good tree guide published by the City of Austin.  It provides information on the mature size of various common trees and will be a great help in choosing replacement trees.  Further information on tree species you consider can be found by entering each tree's name in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database.  This latter source sometimes gives a slightly different estimate of mature sizes.

One possibility would be replacing you ash with another ash, namely Fraxinus albicans (Texas ash).  Or, if you wish trees that will pretty much fill the canopy space, consider Quercus buckleyi (Texas red oak), Ulmus crassifolia (Cedar elm) or Acer grandidentatum (Bigtooth maple). The maple is becoming more popular, especially if your setting is somewhat moist. But rumor has it that the maple does not like city mains water, so placement where rainwater can occasionally soak the ground is desirable.  A smaller oak like the Quercus laceyi (Lacey oak) would give you more open space.  Two even smaller trees, Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) or Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) cast a thinner shade if that is desirable.

Many of the tree species shown on the City of Austin guide are available from local plant nurseries.  The best time for planting is winter, when leaves have dropped and water requirement is minimal.  Our web site has a good guide for tree planting.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas ash
Fraxinus albicans

Texas red oak
Quercus buckleyi

Cedar elm
Ulmus crassifolia

Bigtooth maple
Acer grandidentatum

Lacey oak
Quercus laceyi

Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

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