Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

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

Friday - May 15, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native shade trees for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am building a new home that does not have any trees close by-- I want to have several shade trees to increase the efficiency of my home. What are your suggestions for an easy care, fast-growing, and low-water tree that is also native to the Austin area?

ANSWER:

Generally speaking, we don't recommend "fast-growing" trees, because they tend to have weak wood, break down easily and are short-lived. Since your house is being built now, we urge you to wait until cool weather to attempt to plant your trees.That also should be time enough for construction to be complete, as you certainly don't want to subject new young trees to construction material being piled above their roots, grading of the property, or the absence of a water source for the newly-planted tree.

The ground area at the outside edge of the canopy, referred to as the dripline, is especially important. The tree obtains most of its surface water here, and conducts an important exchange of air and other gases. Any change in the level of soil around a tree can have a negative impact. The most critical area lies within 6 to 10 feet of the trunk. Paving should be kept out of the dripline and no closer than 15 feet from the tree trunk. Placement involves considering foundations, sidewalks and driveways.

You can search for trees on your own by going to our Recommended Species section, clicking on Central Texas on the map, and then Narrow Your Search by selecting "trees" under habit. We will make some suggestions, but you can tailor your choices to your particular circumstances.

Trees for Central Texas

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

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) - deciduous, 15 to 30 ft. tall, blooms white, pink, purple April to September, low water use, sun

Cotinus obovatus (American smoketree) - deciduous, 15 to 30 ft. tall, blooms pink, yellow April and May, low water use, sun, part shade

Fraxinus texensis (Texas ash) - 30 to 45 ft. tall, low water use, part shade

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) - deciduous, 15 to 35 ft. tall, blooms white, pink February to April

Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak) - deciduous, 40 to 100 ft. tall, medium water use, sun, part shade, shade

Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) - deciduous, 50 to 75 ft. tall, medium water use, sun, part shade


Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Chilopsis linearis

Cotinus obovatus

Fraxinus texensis

Prunus mexicana

Quercus macrocarpa

Taxodium distichum

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Native evergreen for shade
August 28, 2008 - Hi, I am looking for a plant that is evergreen (or semi evergreen), native to central Texas, and shade tolerant. This is for a Wildscape area in San Marcos. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Evergreen drought-tolerant screening plant for shade
May 13, 2010 - I am renting my place and looking for a screening, green all year, native plant or shrub. I plan to grow it in large planters along my street and to create privacy in my back yard. It has to be a non...
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

Shady shrubs for an ugly fence in New Jersey.
June 23, 2011 - What type of tree or shrub can I plant in 07747 NJ to cover an ugly fence that gets little or no sun. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Vines for shade in North-Central Georgia
August 07, 2009 - I am looking for something to hide a 6' wood fence that will grow in almost full shade. I have an area approx 2 feet wide to plant in. Since the fence and planting areas are stepped -- about 8 feet f...
view the full question and answer

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