Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

Support the plant database you love!

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

Monday - June 08, 2015

From: Katy, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning Live Oak trees to limit height.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I notice many of my neighbors here in Katy (Fort Bend county) would have landscapers cut the lower limbs/branches of the live oak trees in their front yards, and the trees naturally keep getting taller. I have two live oak trees that are currently about 20 feet tall, in my front yard, at least 20 ft away from the house. My house faces southeast. The trees are a few feet shorter than the 2-story house. The house was built in 2006 and I guess that was when the trees were planted there. I want to keep the heights of the trees about as they are now, not any taller. How will the trees react in the long run, if I cut off some small branches at the top and sides to thin their canopies in July every year? Will they likely die off? Will they grow lots of sprouts from their roots? Will the roots still grow spreading out? Thank you in advance!

ANSWER:

The ultimate height of individual Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) trees is determined by the genetics of each specific plant and its growing condtions.  Removal of lower branches will not cause a tree to be appreciably taller when it reaches its ultimate height.  However, removing top-growth from your trees will encourge lateral growth.  If you prune to maintain your trees at 20 feet in height, they will very likely expand beyond a desired width over time and will assume an unnatural,  "flattened" appearance.

Root sprouts are a natural phenomenon of Live Oaks and some other treees, but only certain individuals are prone to producing them.  Pruning of limbs has no effect on the production of root sprouts.  However, top-pruning may result in unwanted, weak new growth called water sprouts which may appear near the site of pruning cuts

The better solution is to remove your Live Oak trees and plant trees that will naturally reach and maintain a height and width more in keeping with your desires.

 

More Trees Questions

Is western soapberry (Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii) dioecious?
February 15, 2008 - Hi! I found different information on the flowering habits of the western soapberry, Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii. Is it dioecious or polygamo-dioecious or none of them? I have some little seed...
view the full question and answer

Ecosysystem with pecan at center from Austin
February 21, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I would like to create a native tree guild around a mature pecan. It shares its space with native shrubs and ephemerals but I would like to add a nitrogen fixing plant. I am...
view the full question and answer

Serviceberry for North Myrtle Beach, SC
February 19, 2009 - I'm looking to landscape a second home in North Myrtle Beach,SC and was wondering if the Serviceberry trees we love so much in the Buckeye State would also grow down here? Thanks!!
view the full question and answer

Propagating magnolias from Springtown TX
July 07, 2011 - I am trying to find out how to plant Magnolia tree seeds and what has to be done with them prior to planting, if anything and what type of soil to use.
view the full question and answer

Thorny shrub for deterring break-ins in southeast Texas
February 05, 2013 - Looking for a very, very, thorny three or four foot tall shrub for in front of windows to deter break-ins. Considering Rosa Rugosa rose but it is not native.
view the full question and answer

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