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
2 ratings

Friday - November 12, 2010

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Trees for cutout in driveway in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in central Houston. I have a new driveway with a cutout of 4' x 8'. I would like to plant a shade tree that will not break up the concrete. What do you recommend?

ANSWER:

This is not the first time a similar question has been asked. Here is an excerpt from previous answer on planting trees for shade in or near a driveway:

Our advice is, don't do it. To have hope of being successful planting a tree, it would have to be quite small and still could have transplant shock. The site you describe, bounded by a driveway all around, is also risky. Any tree's roots are going to extend as much as 3 times the drip or shade line of the tree. Either the driveway, curbing and the street beyond it is going to hurt the roots, or the roots are going to push up and crack the concrete. They just don't co-exist well. You might have to wait 10 years for a tree to get up tall enough to create significant shade, by which time your driveway will probably be crumbling. But, to us, the most compelling argument against deliberately planting trees over a parking area is the mess. It doesn't much matter which tree it is, or what time of year, something is always dropping. Surely you have seen the cars with what looks like green fur on them driving around Houston? And where have they been? Why, parking under an oak which has been dropping its lovely allergenic green blossoms. And how about aphids getting in the trees? Then you have that charming aphid by-product, honeydew, making a sticky mess on your car. If you plant a fast-growing tree that doesn't take the time to develop a very strong structure, a windstorm or snow (which we now know can happen in Houston) could drop a branch on a car parked there. Leaves, seeds, acorns, bugs, twigs and branches-we love trees, too, but they make lousy carports.

Since you have already poured the concrete, and we assume it has already dried, let us suggest that you forget about shade, and make an attractive perennial and shrub bed there. Smaller shrubs will not have the large root structure that a tree would, and some are evergreen and/or have nice blooms or berries. You will need to build up the bed with compost and possibly some topsoil, as the soil where the driveway is probably is not prime. The compost will also help with drainage; very few plants will tolerate their roots standing in water for an extended time. In Houston, where it rains more than it does here in Austin, you are going to have the problem of an impermeable surface (the concrete driveway) that will funnel the water into the nearest hole, that is, your mini-garden. A raised bed will both permit drainage to be more normal, while the composted soil will absorb and use the water more efficiently. Another concern is going to be the heat. On a concrete driveway in an August sun, there is going to be lots of heat being reflected onto those plants.

You need to select sun-loving native plants that are well adapted to Texas heat. Furthermore, you will need to be able to irrigate the area when the rain does not fall. We are going to go to our Recommended Species section, click on East Texas on the map, and search for herbaceous blooming plants and shrubs in the database that meet the criteria above. We are going to specify full sun, which we consider to be 6 or more hours of sun a day, but not the soil moisture. You can use the same technique to make your own plant selections. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant for information about projected size, sun and water needs, color, time of bloom, etc.

Herbaceous blooming plants for mid-driveway garden in Houston:

Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

Ipomopsis rubra (Standing cypress)

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)

Salvia coccinea (Scarlet sage)

Salvia farinacea (Mealy blue sage)

Shrubs for mid-driveway garden in Houston:

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea)

Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon)

Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Achillea millefolium


Asclepias tuberosa


Coreopsis lanceolata


Echinacea purpurea


Ipomopsis rubra


Lobelia cardinalis


Salvia coccinea


Salvia farinacea


Callicarpa americana


Hydrangea quercifolia


Ilex vomitoria


Morella cerifera

 

 




 

More Planting Questions

Patience for slow-growing Baptisia
July 07, 2004 - I have three different varieties of well established Baptisia that I have had for several years ... none of them bloom. One of my plants got a very small flower in April, but just pooped out after th...
view the full question and answer

Making a raised garden bed in Texas
October 25, 2015 - I just bought a house in Ft Worth Texas and the soil is undisturbed red clay. I was told I probably would need to build a raised bed to make a 25 ft by 4-6 ft butterfly/humming bird/bee native flower ...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in Texas natives garden
August 20, 2007 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I thought that my new Texas Natives garden was recuperating from ALL the rain. But, suddenly, my Texas Red Bud and the Eve's Necklace next to it have MANY yellow leaves. Is the...
view the full question and answer

Why is my 3 year old Redbud not flowering in San Marcos, TX?
March 24, 2010 - My Cercis canadensis var. mexicana, purchased at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, is 3 years old, very robust, but has never bloomed. Any explanation?
view the full question and answer

Failure to come up of blackeyed susans in Lancaster PA
June 28, 2009 - My blackeyed susans have been blooming for ten years. All of a sudden this year they didn't come up at all..why?
view the full question and answer

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