Wild About Texas – October, 2007

Winter is a Great Time to Plant Trees and Shrubs

Winter is an ideal time to plant native tree and shrub species that are native to your area (caution: some non-natives or natives from other parts of the state may do better if planted after danger of hard freezes) By using proper planting techniques, you will get your new plants off to a good start this winter. Trees and shrubs are dormant this time of year and will suffer less transplant-stress than when planted during other times of the year. Planting in winter also allows the roots time to become established before summer’s brutal heat arrives.

Step 1: Prepare a hole that is twice as wide and just as deep as the rootball of the plant. Some gardeners prefer to dig the hole a little deeper, which is fine, as long as you account for some settling. It is imperative for most species to not have any part of their trunk buried nor roots exposed.

Step 2: Carefully remove the tree or shrub from its container. If the pot cannot be pulled off with some squeezing or tapping, it may need to be cut or broken off.

Step 3: Gently loosen the root system so that the roots are oriented away from the base of the plant and lower the it into the hole. Take care that it is standing straight.

Step 4: Backfill the hole simultaneously with water and soil extracted from the hole, packing the soil gently as you go. This ensures that the tree or shrub is well watered and helps soil particles settle, reducing air pockets. Depending on the properties of your on-site soil and the type of plant you’ve selected, you may decide to add soil amendments. Well-composted organic matter can be mixed with your native soil at a ratio of 1 to 3. Peat moss is not recommended as it is difficult to re-hydrate once dry and is not a renewable resource in our lifetime.

Step 5: As you finish filling the hole, create a shallow trough by building a 3- to 6-inch-high berm (depending on the size of the hole) out of soil around the perimeter of the hole. This captures water during irrigation, allowing it to soak in slowly rather than running off.

Step 6: Cover the root zone with mulch to reduce weeds, insulate the roots from temperature extremes, diminish erosion and give a “finished” appearance. Leave a few inches at the base of the trunk free of mulch to avoid disease problems. (See last July’s Wild About Texas e-gardens column titled “Under Cover” for more information about mulches.)

Step 7: Water the tree or shrub thoroughly one more time.

During the next few weeks, check that the base of the plant is still at the appropriate soil level. Ideally, you won’t have to readjust the plant, but if you do, the earlier this is done the better. Over the next year or two be sure to nurture the new planting by watering during dry spells. The longer the plant has been in the ground, the deeper the waterings should be and the less frequently you will need to water. Once established, a well-selected native woody plant should be able to withstand all but the worst droughts.

Join us at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Saturday, January 28, 2006, for Tree Talk and Winter Walk to learn more about selection, planting and care of woody native plants.

Recommended Native Shade Trees*
Cedar elm Ulmus crassifolia
Live oak Quercus virginiana
Pecan Carya illinoinensis
Plateau live oak Quercus fusiformis
Spanish red oak Quercus buckleyi

Recommended Native Ornamental Trees*
Desert willow Chilopsis linearis
Mexican buckeye Ungnadia speciosa
Mexican plum Prunus mexicana
Redbud Cercis canadensis
Texas mountain laurel Sophora secundiflora

Recommended Native Shrubs*
Agarita Mahonia trofoliolata
American beautyberry Callicarpa americana
Barbados cherry Malpighia glabra
Cenizo, Texas sage Leucophyllum frutescens
Coralberry Symphoricarpos orbiculatus
Flame acanthus Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii
Fragrant sumac Rhus aromatica
Texas lantana Lantana urticoides
Wax myrtle Myrica cerifera
Yaupon Ilex vomitoria

*Select trees and shrubs from this list that will do well in your part of the state.

For more information about native plants and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, visit www.wildflower.org.

About the author: Andrea DeLong-Amaya is Director of Horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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