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

Thursday - August 18, 2011

From: The Woodlands, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Watering, Drought Tolerant, Trees
Title: Difficulty of watering at drip line of trees from The Woodlands TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I'm watering my couple dozen native mature trees to make sure they survive this drought and its aftermath..and I'm reading about how to water at the drip line. But..all of my trees' drip lines extend over other trees, patios, sidewalks, neighbors' yards, houses, garages, etc. And my property is rumpled with miniature slopes and ridges that send water trickling in all sorts of directions. So should I just soak my entire yard every time I see one tree in the crowd that starts to show yellow leaves? I had been soaking the targeted trunks previously, and that seemed to have been working. What do I do?

ANSWER:

So, this is our second chapter of Gardener Survival in a Texas Summer. The first chapter, also for you, is this previous Mr. Smarty Plants question.

Your specific concern this time seems to be concerning mature native trees. We have had several questions about our reference to "drip line." Since roots of large trees will ordinarily go out far beyond the drip line, if you have a lot of trees, yes, you are going to have to cover a lot of ground. Soaking the trunks with water is not what we recommend. Too much moisture on the bark of a tree can invite disease and fungi. Our suggestions to push a hose down in the soil around the tree and let the water drip slowly has to do with young, newly planted trees.

No, we don't think you should soak a yard when one tree shows yellow leaves. Those yellow leaves could be early Fall color because of our extreme drought. We realize some of your trees are under or over other trees, but all of the roots are in the ground, and it's the roots you need to be watering. There is not much you can do about roots under sidewalks, patios and so forth, and some of the roots under foundations or driveways may be causing you problems having nothing to do with where they are being watered. Roots go where they do in search of water and nutrition; if it happens to be under your house, pulling the water out by the tree could be causing settling of your foundation. We always urge people planting trees to stay well away from hardscape of any kind, especially structures.

But you probably had trees on your property, since we know the area in which you live, and you sure want to preserve them if you can. If some of the roots go into your neighbors' yard, some of theirs are probably in your yard. Be responsible neighbors and follow the watering restrictions to water the lawn, gardens and soil under which you know you have tree roots. If you have bare ground, we suggest mulching. That will hold in moisture, help cool the roots and, as it decomposes, add organic material to the soil to aid in drainage and nutrition. Do not pile the mulch up around the trunk-another opportunity for insects and mildew to move in.

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Plants to grow under elm tree in Amarillo TX
May 01, 2014 - I have a large elm tree and I can't get seem to get anything to grow under it. I was wondering if there are any shade-loving groundcovers that you would recommend (have tried English Ivy, hostas, an...
view the full question and answer

Native shrubs or ground cover for north-facing landscape in Ft. Worth
March 23, 2010 - Need native plant ideas for a landscaping bed against the house facing north. Already has 1 Beautyberry but two others died of root rot last year due to incredibly high water table in our area. Old ...
view the full question and answer

Source for pecan mulch used at Wildflower Center from Austin
November 11, 2011 - Hello Mr. Smarty Pants I was recently at the Wildflower Center. I saw all the pecan shell mulch and was wondering where you get it from. I noticed awhile back that it is one of the recommended mu...
view the full question and answer

Oak leaf hydrangeas from Edwardsville IL
August 13, 2012 - Hello, I live in West Central Illinois (across the river from St. Louis) and I am considering planting several Oak leaf Hydrangea's in my yard. The location where I would like to plant them is und...
view the full question and answer

Perennials non-toxic to horses in Thayer MO
September 21, 2010 - I live in South Central Missouri. I am looking for a plant/shrub to plant in pots (our soil is clay and very rocky)to landscape the front of our barn. This plant can't be harmful to horses and must b...
view the full question and answer

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