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Karen Siddall
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Planting trees and shrubs that are native (or well adapted) to our area can benefit homeowners in a couple of ways. Natives have a better change of thriving in our heat and under our on-again, off-again watering restrictions so they won’t need replacing after a bout of extreme weather. Also, not having to provide supplemental watering for these natural beauties saves you time, water, and money.

According to Texas AgriLife Extension, fall is the perfect time to add a new tree or grouping of shrubs to your landscape. Planting during the fall months of September through December has distinct advantages.

Plant roots grow anytime the soil temperature is 40 degrees or higher, which may occur all winter in Texas.

During the winter months, the root systems of the fall-planted specimens develop and become established.  When spring arrives, this expanded root system can support and take advantage of the full surge of spring growth.

According to Bonnie Reese, owner of Beautiful Landscapes, a landscape designer and consultant, some of the best trees for our area include Chinquapin Oak, Texas or Shumard Red Oak, Cedar Elm (but only if mistletoe is not a neighborhood problem), Burr Oak, and Live Oak. These are great large native shade trees.  Lacey Oak is a small native evergreen oak and Caddo or Shantung Maples are smaller shade trees but are not native to our area.  For smaller ornamental native trees, consider Vitex, Possumhaw Holly, Yaupon Holly and Carolina Buckthorn.  A couple of noteworthy non-native ornamental trees are Desert Willow, Chitalpa, and Crape Myrtle. 

When considering shrubs, there are just not many native shrubs that are suitable for landscapes except for Texas Sage, various yucca and agave.  Non-native considerations could include many varieties of nandina, yew, holly and abelia.

When making selections, homeowners should keep in mind the ultimate size that the tree or shrub will attain and whether that will work for the location they are being planted, water needs, and the amount of sun the location receives on a daily basis. Remember new plants should be monitored and watered deeply as needed and allowed to dry between irrigations.  Always water plants before a hard freeze if we have been in drought leading up to the freeze.

Texas SmartScape (www.txsmartscape.com) hosted by the North Central Texas Council of Governments was designed to help local residents determine some of these factors. The site features do-it-yourselfer design assistance as well as a simple-to-use Search function that suggests native or adapted plants that perform well in our area under a wide variety of circumstances. You can learn more about Bonnie Reese at beautifullandscapes.net.