I was looking through some horticulturally related Facebook posts from outside of Texas when I stumbled on a site that advised against planting certain trees. Trees, they said, that should NEVER, EVER, EVER be planted near a house, much less in a landscape.
I thought about half of the no-no's were dead on, but a few were questionable, especially for Texas. For example, they advised against planting cedar and Leyland Cypress. Texas red cedar works fine here.
But they omitted two trees from their list that, in my opinion, have no business being planted anywhere there might be a hint of freezing weather. No matter the sales pitch, they are not "freeze-tolerant!" In fact, they can't even handle 30 degrees for several hours. That's why they croaked in massive numbers in our region when we had 18- and 22-degree nights earlier this year.
The two are Tru-Green laurel and Piru palms.
Tru-Green laurel is from the ficus family, which is tropical in nature. If you buy one knowing it can't take a freeze, that's punishment for your wallet. They can barely take 30 degrees for several hours, so if they tell you it's freeze-tolerant, that's a big can of hooey!
Piru palms are supposedly a sturdier, thicker queen palms (which did not make it through freezes in January 2010, February 2011 this year) bred specifically to handle cold and heat. It's cross-bred with something ... palm experts think maybe a coconut palm ... which can't handle 30 degrees either. So, real palm experts won't touch them.
Others that Facebook page and I both suggest you avoid:
Arizona ash - I get calls on them almost every weekend, especially about those over 20 years old. Yes, they are a fast-grower, but they also have a limited life span - maximum 25 years on average. The good news is that they're simply not available anymore, unless unscrupulous tree sellers are re-labeling them as green ash.
Silver leaf maple - An even shorter life span than the Arizona ash. It, too, is considered a fast-growing tree, but because of that it becomes highly susceptible to insects and disease, which often kill them after 12-15 years.
Tallow - Chinese tallow, Chinaberry ... whatever you call it, it's not a good shade tree and has an invasive root system only slightly less formidable than cottonwood, maybe. Once you "don't want them," they are nearly impossible to kill without several attempts over multiple years.
Hybrid poplar - These trees are created by cross-pollinating two or more poplar species together. The result can be a fast-growing tree that looks good in your yard - for a couple of years. They are especially susceptible to diseases, and most won't last more than 15 years. Plus, they don't really develop a shade canopy, whish is the most-desired tree attribute, wouldn't you say?
Giant mulberryy - Big surface roots, lots of pollen, messy fruit, and often shade so dense that grass refuses to grow underneath. Unless you're a silkworm, what's to like about it? The mulberry is the silkworm's only source of food, so silkworm farmers should plant away! Otherwise, you'll be happier with a different kind of tree in your yard.
Eucalyptus - Imported from Australia and popular for their speedy growth, some varieties will shoot up 10 feet in a year. But it has a bad rap for suddenly and unexpectedly dropping big, heavy, resin-filled branches. You can see a big batch of them at the intersection of U.S. 59 and Beltway 8 in Southwest Houston. They've grown very tall I admit, but they provide scant shade.
This Saturday 11 a.m.-1 p.m. I will be at Shades of Texas, 2618 Genoa Red Bluff a mile East of Beltway 8. And if you want to know which trees I recommend, all you have to do is visit this place because they almost always carry seven or eight of my top dozen.
This will be my next-to-last appearance at a garden center/nursery this season. Next week, I'll be at The Arbor Gate in Tomball, then we won't be on the road again until June 14 at The Woodlands Ace Hardware.
I mention all that because this may be the last chance for me to "get a pair of eyes" on your weed, bug or disease problem. And don't forget ... this is not just a garden center, not just a nursery, not just a soil yard and not just a great place for garden art. Shades of Texas is the only tree farm of over 100 acres in all of the Greater-Houston area. Plus, we are doing something new at Shades of Texas. Their customers have told them after past GardenLine events there that it would be cool to be able to hear all the questions that were asked in line before them So, Shades will set up a "classroom" setting with a microphone and speaker system, so you can hear everyone else's questions and my answers.
Of course, you know I'll have some good stuff to give away, like samples of Soil Mender products and several "Lemmon" trees for anyone who might think they can stump me with a question. (Get it? A lemon tree if you can stump the Lemmon!) But you do have to stump the whole panel, including the guys from Shades and Soil Mender. I'm just saying. We will also have a "register to win" box for chances to score ...
- A queens wreath vine
- A purple star flower (Grewia caffra) tree (three of them)
- A Hannah Ray bottle brush tree
- An unaltered cantaloupe seed (Brought back during WWII)
- And more
For a chance to win, just make a purchase or drop a registration form in the prize box. And you must be present 12:45-1 p.m. to qualify! Oh, and you might also win a bottle of honey, produced right there at the tree farm by their own hives.