Which tree to choose?
Here are some proven winners for Texas homeowners
I recently wrote that fall until early spring is the best time of year to plant shrubs and trees. A hot, dry summer can stress new trees and plants in Texas. It is best to allow new trees to acclimatize, to develop roots while the soil is still cool and temperatures are still moderate.
This month, we’re going to find out which types of trees are best to plant here, and some of the pros and cons of each.
But first, some facts for the owner about trees:
â¢ Trees can reduce the temperature of the house. roof and walls by 20% in summer, reducing electricity bills.
â¢ Deciduous trees (shed leaves in fall / winter) allow winter sunlight to enter, which helps heat your home.
â¢ Houses with mature shade trees are more expensive and sell faster than those that don’t.
The choice of the type of tree is an important decision. First you need to figure out where you want to place the tree, and then maybe decide which one is better.
For example, you would never want to put a life-size tree next to your house. Thus, trees such as holm oaks, red oaks, and pecans should not be considered for a location close to the house. Instead, go for ornamental trees that won’t pose a threat to your home, roof, or foundation, such as crepe myrtles, dwarf magnolias, and more.
If you want a full-sized tree and your front yard is small, it’s best to stick with something moderately large, like a Chinese pistachio or Vitex tree. Some varieties of maple are also suitable for this type of location.
Large gardens would be a great place to plant large trees, such as:
Bald cypress – If you have spots on the property that remain damp or damp for long periods of time, remedy this with a bald cypress, who will happily keep that moisture to themselves. These wet areas will not stay wet for long.
Red Oak Shumard (shown above) – A hybrid oak made from Texas red oak, engineered to have superior oak wilt resistance. Scientists have hit a home run with the Shumard Red Oak. It is a large tree, reaching about 60 to 70 feet in height and approximately 50 feet in width. It has a naturally perfect shape and will rarely require a cut. Although they do produce acorns, they do not produce large numbers of them and squirrels usually take most of them.
Their fall color arrives late in the season, one of the last trees to turn. They will turn a shiny dark red which will last two to three weeks. And unlike other deciduous trees, these don’t shed their leaves once they turn brown. Instead, they’ll hang onto it until new buds start to come out in late February. No fall leaf cleaning for these guys.
Living oak – Originally from North Texas, they are doing very well here. They get very big and sprawling. When properly cared for, they are one of the most graceful and beautiful trees you will see. And none of them will be shaped the same. Some of the most beautiful living oak trees I have ever seen were in Landa Park in New Braunfels, Texas. Graceful but majestic. The downsides would include the millions of acorns they can produce during the fall. Even with the help of squirrels, they can be overwhelming. The March leaf drop that lasts two to three weeks is also a bit overwhelming. Still, I have two in my own backyard, so what does that tell you?
Bigtooth maple – Native to Texas, this fast-growing deciduous tree features fantastic red and orange fall colors. This is the species you will see in the âlost maplesâ in the southern part of Hill Country.
Others include Burr Oak, Chinquapin Oak, DD Blanchard Southern Magnolia, and Pecan.
Medium-sized trees would include:
Chinese pistachio – A tree that Texas A&M ranks high in its “Super100” trees for Texas, although it is not from Texas, it does quite well here. It is a medium-sized tree that produces a fall color that will rival that of a maple. This color includes reds, yellows and oranges. It is a moderately fast grower and is one of the species that has a discernible male and female sex. The female produces clusters of red berries, which are inedible, but birds like them. Males do not have berries. These berries only appear in the fall, so this is the only time you can tell the sexes apart. Plant them with good drainage to prevent cotton root rot on the road.
Shatung maples (pictured above) – Shatung maple comes from China but is known to be able to tolerate not only alkaline soils, but also hot weather. These can therefore be planted anywhere in the Texas Black Clay section, including the DFW Metroplex. Their fall color is spectacular. They do not produce berries, acorns, or nuts.
Japanese black pine – One of my favorites because of its bonsai type growth habit. You will rarely see one growing straight. Being evergreen, they are never leafless and theirs is a beautiful deep green. They grow quickly, reaching up to three feet per year in some cases.
Forest Thought Redbud – This tree would normally be listed as an ornament, but it grows so wide that it is difficult to plant it too close to the house. What to like – a traditional, breathtaking flowering in the first 2-3 weeks of spring. Once flowering is complete (the tree flowers before producing leaves), they grow burgundy leaves. This burgundy color will stay until the temperatures reach the upper 90 and 100 degrees, then turn dark green.
If an ornamental tree is what you’re looking for, consider one of these:
Pancake myrtle – Virtually any bloom color you can imagine is available in a Crape Myrtle. Science has really played with this species and developed many varieties of offshoots, including those with dark chocolate colored leaves. Their big flaw as some will note is the frequency with which scales and aphids will attack them. However, if planted properly and maintained, insect problems will be kept to a minimum. Pancakes are quick to stress, so insects react to that stress. Everything is in the plantation.
Japanese maples – There are many varieties of Japanese maples, but Bloodgood is the most common we see in Texas. It is beautiful, graceful but long lasting. However, you want to have filtered sun or partial shade for these trees as they will suffer from direct Texas sun. Plant on the north or east side of your house unless you have tall trees around to protect it with shade.
Little Gem or Teddy Bear Magnolias – Dwarf versions of their older cousins, there is a lot to love about them. The Little Gem has an erect growth habit that is not as problematic around rooflines. They don’t get very wide and aren’t the constant stripping that their cousins ââare. Their flowers are large and white like the others and are quite fragrant. They are persistent.
Texas Mountain Laurel (shown above) – Another evergreen and native to Texas, the DFW zone sits at the northern limit of their growing region. They are relatively easy to grow, you find them on the cliff side in the Austin area. They have pretty little rounded foliage and feature grape clusters of medium blue flowers each spring. They are small and grow slowly, so keep that in mind when buying one.
There are other trees, notice, that serve different purposes for us. Visual barrier trees such as Red Tip Photinias, Eastern Red Cedar, Savannah Hollies (as well as several other varieties of holly) and several types of junipers. And we’ll discuss that in another column later.
The instinct of trees at work
The recent strong winds that have blown over Texas have created some alarm. Of course, there are the broken limbs and the usual broken trunks. . . but if you have live oaks you will notice small sections of limbs / leaves that are washed away.
âHelp! My Live Oak has to die because it’s losing parts of itself to this wind! One owner wrote to me.â There are pieces of live oak all over my lawn and driveway !. â
Believe it or not, it’s more or less expected. Live Oaks will try to lighten the load on their canopy before winter arrives so that they are not so stressed during the ice and snow. Live oaks are evergreen, so whatever ice, sleet, or snow we can get, they will stick to those leaves, making the tree canopy heavier.
The pines are the same way. Every fall you will notice a collection of pine needles under the tree. It’s the same protective instinct at work, moreover, pine needles form a mulch on the root ball area, providing additional insulation for the winter.
Fall is a time when we can get high winds here in Texas. There is a transition from summer to fall and the encounters of cold and warm air masses can create severe weather here.
As for the fall show, it was only just beginning in late October with a few pops of color appearing in the tops and outer fringes of some varieties of trees in Texas. November should bring us all that color. Some species to watch out for when it comes to this color will be maples, pistachios, oaks, hickory, chewing gum, and even Japanese maples.
It is an exciting time of the year. But remember, in Texas we are only a windstorm to have our trees stripped of those colorful leaves. I hope we have seen the worst last week in this regard.
What to do this month. . .
â¢ If you haven’t already done so, drop the last pre-emergence round of your season this month. The earliest would be best.
â¢ We have now completed another summer season and are entering winter. . . have the jets checked on your system to make sure there are no issues. Don’t let the freezing weather show you that and should react when it’s cold.
â¢ The duties of start of leaf collection this month. Let those leaves sit.
â¢ christmas lights start going up this month. Make sure you have planned your installation with your installer. The longer you wait, the later your lights come on.
â¢ Make arrangements for bring in your potted plants, or at least have an interior space to take them to. Potted plants freeze quickly due to the freezing temperature hitting the top and all sides.