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
1 rating

Wednesday - May 13, 2009

From: Burbank, CA
Region: California
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native trees for shade in Burbank, CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I need a few ideas for a non-deciduous (or nearly non-deciduous)tree that grows fast and will provide shade. Shade need not be total. Chinese Elms come to mind but I'm not sure of the growth rate. Camphor Laurel is too messy I'm told. I'm trying to provide at least dappled shade to a patio year round (can be denser shade during summer months). I live in Los Angeles so certain "deciduous" trees may not lose their leaves. I also need it to be frost resistant as my particular area of LA gets frost at least 30 days a year.

ANSWER:

Please don't plant either Ulmus crassifolia (Chinese or Siberian elm) or Cinnamomum camphora (Camphor laurel). Chinese elm is native to, well, China, as well as Japan and other parts of temperate and tropical Asia. Camphor Laurel is native to the same areas, is invasive and will take over natural habitats in disturbed areas, and is spread by berries eaten by birds. In Australia, it not only has become incredibly invasive, but toxins in the tree are apparently causing some species of birds to nearly disappear. Living in Southern California, you should know that California soils and living conditions are so attractive to plants that non-native invasives have taken over and nearly destroyed many natural areas that cannot be replaced. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the care, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. These two trees are classic reasons for that practice. A plant already adapted by thousand of years in your area will require less fertilizer, water and maintenance and not threaten other plants, because they have all been co-existing for a long time.

So, we will go to our Recommended Species section, click on Southern California on the map, and select on trees. If our native plant database has information on the speed with which a tree grows, we will pass it on to you, but we really don't recommend choosing a tree for its speed of growth. Fast-growing trees usually have weak wood, break down easily, are susceptible to pests and diseases and are short-lived. And we will also let you know if the tree on our list is considered deciduous, realizing that it may not be in Southern California. You can use the same procedure to search for trees on your own, or even shrubs that might fill the bill. Follow each plant link to the webpage on that individual plant, read about its characteristics and, for more information, go to the bottom of that page and click on the link to Google.

Trees for Southern California

Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) - deciduous, 10 to 20 ft. tall, blooms pink, purple March and April, medium water use, sun or part shade

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) - deciduous, willow-like (though not a true willow), 15 to 30 ft. tall, blooms white, pink, purple April to September, low water use, sun

Fraxinus velutina (velvet ash) - deciduous, to 40 ft. tall, water use low, sun

Quercus agrifolia (California live oak) - evergreen, 20 to 50 ft. tall, medium water use, sun, part shade

Umbellularia californica (California laurel) - slow grower to 40 ft., evergreen, high water use, part shade


Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Chilopsis linearis

Fraxinus velutina

Quercus agrifolia

Umbellularia californica

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Shade ground cover in San Antonio
May 18, 2008 - I would like to find plants, spreading ground or flowers, to go under my red tips. These plants would be in a lot shade and not a great deal of water.
view the full question and answer

Native shade plants for sandy soil in New York
April 30, 2008 - I have a small patch (about 10 feet x 6 feet) of shady ground next to my house. The soil is very sandy. I really would like some perennial color - or at this point, anything actually - that will grow...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for heavy clay soil in east Austin
May 02, 2007 - I live in East Austin and have very thick clay soil on my property. I also have a lot of shade and partial sun/shade. Can you suggest some native plant varieties that are well-adapted to these condi...
view the full question and answer

Need a 2-4 ft shrub for the shady NW side of the house in Austin, TX
February 07, 2012 - I am looking for a 2-4 ft tall shrub or hedge to plant along the NW side of my house, which is shaded by a live oak. This area doesn't get any direct sun. I wondered if a row of Winter Gem Boxwoods ...
view the full question and answer

Shrub for shade in Rockford IL
April 29, 2009 - I live in Rockford, IL and would like to know what kind of bush to plant in pretty much, full shade. I would prefer to stay away from evergreens due to allergies. Thanks.
view the full question and answer

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