Tree Selection and Maint for SoCentral TX Landscapes

January 6, 2007


Since trees are the largest and most permanent plant form, they represent a huge, long-term investment of time, effort and money. Knowing the proper care for trees is essential in protecting this investment.

Along with proper care, special attention needs to be taken in selecting trees for the landscape.

First of all, have an overall plan or objective for planting a tree. Do you need shade, protection from wind, screening, a pedestrian barricade, or a colorful accent?

When planning, remember to consider the tree’s ultimate height and spread. Beware of planting too close to the house, building, street or power lines. For a complete list of recommended landscape plants for south central Texas and their ultimate height and spread, visit our website at:

Know your soil and climatic conditions. In our alkaline, rocky, caliche soils, many tree species that do excel in some areas of Texas may do very poorly in our area. Our sudden temperature fluctuations in the spring and fall kill many non-adapted trees each year.

In the nursery, small trees (6-8 feet height) may be your best investment, since they recover more quickly from transplant shock than larger specimens. Container-grown stock is generally the quickest to re-establish, followed by balled-and-burlapped (B&B) and bare-rooted trees.

Whether planting B&B or bare-root trees or shrubs, the first step is to dig a hole of sufficient size. As far as depth is concerned, plant the tree or shrub about the same depth it was growing in the nursery. Plant a B&B plant so the top of the soil ball is at the soil surface or several inches above the soil surface–error on the side of planting too shallow rather than planting too deep. On a bare-root plant, the trunk or main stem is often discolored at the original soil line. This may be several inches above the upper-most roots. Trees will die because of wood rotting caused by soil being piled on the trunk.

When setting out B&B plants, the hole should be about 1 ½ times the diameter of the ball. The depth should be the same as the depth of the ball or several inches shallower than the depth of the ball. For container grown plants, the hole size should be just large enough to allow placement of the root system in the planting hole.

After setting the tree or shrub in the hole, always use the same soil which was dug out of the hole as backfill. Adapted trees and shrubs do not need soil amendments to help them become established. Water the plant thoroughly after planting with a slow flow into the planting hole to settle the soil fill around the root system and remove all air pockets.

Fertilizer should not be used on new plants. It should be used only after the plant has become well established in the new location which takes 6 – 8 months.

Water your shade trees slowly and thoroughly during dry spells. Fertilize in late February with a complete and slow-release fertilizer such as 19-5-9. Use seven pounds of this fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter, measured 12 inches off the ground.

Plant a B&B plant so the top of the soil ball is at the soil surface or several inches above the soil surface–error on the side of planting too shallow rather than planting too deep.

Remember, Learn and Have Fun!

David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture for Bexar County. He represents Texas Cooperative Extension with the Texas A&M University System. For any landscape or gardening information, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners Hotline@ at (210) 467-6575, email questions to, or visit our County Extension website at

Special Note: Listen “Live” with David Rodriguez every Saturday morning between 8:00-11:00 a.m. on WOAI 1200 AM, Gardening Show. Feel free to call in at 737-1200 or 1-800-383-9624.

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