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May Landscapes – What is the best tree to plant in North Texas?

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Best trees to plant in your North Texas landscape (and those to stay away from)

May is one of the most popular months for planting trees. The weather is warming in the month of May, giving a good start to the young trees before the temperatures get hot.

I am sometimes asked what trees I like most and what trees do I like the least. First, let me say that I like all trees. However, some are just not good options for the homeowner to put in their landscape. What you want is a tree that performs and grows to expected size and look. So you have to ask, what grows well here? Those are the types of trees that are the best choice.

My list of trees I don’t care for would be topped by the Bradford Pear and the Cleveland Pear. A few decades ago, they were a popular choice for landscapers and homeowners. But then we began noticing and dealing with the various issues that these trees bring with them.



Do Not Plant

The Bradford Pear was created in the 50’s as an ornamental flowering tree that would not bear fruit. For a couple weeks each spring, the canopy is filled with white blooms. They are indeed pretty, for sure. But their branch structure is flawed in that they are more easily snapped or broken. Imagine, just when you have seen your Bradford Pear tree get to mature size, it suddenly becomes disfigured because of the branches that were snapped by a spring storm.

In many cases, the tree has split in half. Lots of folks try to keep them at that point despite the disfigured look, but the tree will never be the same after that. The rest of the canopy then becomes more vulnerable to wind damage.

In an effort to correct the problems of the Bradford Pear, in the 1960s they developed and introduced the Cleveland Pear. Same flowering tree but with corrected branch structure. Or so they thought. Turns out, the new structure was just as flawed as the previous one. Same problems. Same results.

One of the selling points of both the Bradford and Cleveland Pear trees was that they will not reproduce. However, we soon learned that though they do not reproduce from Bradford-to-Bradford or Cleveland-to-Cleveland, but they do reproduce from Bradford-to-Cleveland (and vice versa). The resulting tree is neither a Bradford Pear nor a Cleveland Pear – but instead will be a wild Callery Pear, a tree that becomes thick with long thorns, multiplying and creating a grove. I’ve heard contractors say that to remove a grove of them, you must use a tractor or dozier with tracks, not tires.

If you’re going to have a Pear Tree, plant a Bartlett Pear. It will bloom and bear fruit for you without all the issues.

I like the Bald Cypress, I really do. But they create problems for homeowners with their knobs which extend above ground. They can grow high enough to damage a lawn mower and often cause uplifts in concrete driveways, sidewalks and even foundations. For those reasons, I would not recommend planting one unless your lawn is large enough that you can plant one a good distance from the home.


Now, on to trees that I would recommend to anyone in the North Texas area.


Proven Winners


Shumard Red Oak – A large tree at full growth (50-60 ft high). The Shumard Red Oak is a hybrid Oak taken from the Texas Red Oak. It has been engineered to be Oak Wilt resistant. It has a naturally perfect shape so it seldom requires trimming. It has a deep red fall color and keeps its leaves, even when brown, until late February when it starts budding out again. This is one of the fastest growing Oak that I know of.


Chinese Pistache – This is a medium-sized tree that is prized for its fall color. The fall color with this tree is just as spectacular as our Maples. This is a rare species where you can tell between a male and female tree. The female will have berries in the canopy during late summer and fall. The males do not. It is only at that time that we can tell the two apart. This one goes to about 35 ft high and just as wide. It is a moderately fast grower.


Autumn Blaze Maple – The name says it all. Combinations of oranges, yellows and reds make this tree a beautiful sight in Fall. They are moderately fast growers and will top out at around 40-45 ft. They make a good shade tree without being so large and overbearing. They are also very drought tolerant.



Vitex – The Vitex is a fast grower and features some of the most spectacular blooming of any tree we grow here. Long candles of purple blooms will appear in the tops of this tree during mid-summer and beyond. They will grow to about 30 ft high and 35 ft wide. They do have an erratic growth habit so it would require some trimming every couple of years. This is a desert tree so they are very drought tolerant.



Southern Magnolia – This is a full-size Magnolia that will grow to 50-60 ft high and about 35 to 50 ft wide. They have large, white, fragrant blooms during the spring and summer. Their downside is they do shed leaves fairly frequently during the growing season. They are growing new leaves while dropping old ones. Magnolias are evergreen.



Look Before You Reach

I want to remind folks that we’re now in Spring and snakes of all types are out and about again. They can sometimes be found in our gardens and beds. So if you get out in the garden, make sure you look before you reach so you do not become a snake bit victim.

I highly recommend that folks become familiar with the snakes that are poisonous so that you can correctly identify them when you see them. In our region, the Diamondback Rattesnake, the Copperhead and the Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin), and to a lesser extent Coral Snakes, are the primary snakes to watch for. Any other type would be worth sparing as they often eat the things we don’t want to have around (rats, mice, etc.). The King Snake often eats poisonous snakes, so you want to leave them be.

If you have a shed, make sure you look things over thoroughly before entering. Snakes don’t want a confrontation, so they will often try to avoid you if they can. If they feel cornered, they’ll strike.

If you happen to get bitten, make sure you identify the snake before walking away so that you can tell the medical personnel at the hospital. They will need to know what type of anti-venom to use.


Spider Mites

We are seeing some growing populations of Spider Mites in our ornamental trees here in North Texas. We haven’t received as much rain as other areas of the state thus far this year, so that is the set up the Spider Mite likes (moderately dry). The key to having a successful eradication of spider mites from your tree is early detection. It is very helpful to get them before their numbers become an infestation. You can detect this yourself by looking your tree close up, looking for very small areas of webs with lots of single strands from limb to limb. The spiders are very small and their webs are not created to catch anything, as most spiders are trying to do. Spider Mites create single strand web for transporting themselves from one place to another. They do their feeding on your tree’s moisture. They can inflict a lot of damage if left unaddressed.

Spider Mites enjoy warm/hot dry conditions. So if we’re seeing them this early in the season, there is a potential for infestation as we move into the hot months ahead.

For the homeowner, you can use Insecticidal Soap. This is not chemically harmful and relies on making the spiders slide down from the tree. Once they have fallen off the tree, they cannot get back up the tree.


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49 minutes ago, Baron said:

How well does the Vitex, Chinese Pistach and the Maple grow in central Texas? Do they grow at a faster rate than other trees? The Shumard oak I'm aware about

All three will grow in Central Texas. The Vitex is a fast grower but is one of those trees that is always trying to be a bush, so you must trim these up fairly regularly. They are spectacular when they bloom though.

The Chinese Pistache is a moderately fast grower. Grows probably 2-3 feet per year. 

The Maple will be similar to the Pistache in growth rate. 

All of these are trees that require full sun.

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29 minutes ago, Baron said:

@SirhornsalotWhat is your opinion about Cottonwoods? I planted two in my front yard 15 years ago and one has become massive. Well over 30' tall. Do I need to worry about it falling on my house like a Silver Maple?

Yeah, it randomly dies off and drops limbs. So you are at risk if any limbs extend over your home. Cottonwoods will go 70 ft tall, easy. So yours will double in size over time.

Cottonwoods don't typically fall over unless its a lightning strike or high wind event in soft soil.


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5 hours ago, gmcc said:

I did not get to finish my previous post.  Similar to Eastexhorn I sometime do not type what I am trying to say.

Due to both of your help, they were the largest ones I have ever grown.  Thanks again.

Thats great news! I also harvested my onions this past week. Like Eastexhorn, mine were about half as large as what I had last year. In my location, we just haven't had the kind of rain we need to get during spring. Today, however, I got three inches in about two hours.

My Tomato plants are huge but only a handful of fruit. No rain while its cool, tomatoes don't set. Once its hot, meh tomatoes.

Peppers are doing great. Watermelons having trouble getting a start.

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3 hours ago, nstr said:

Any idea what has caused this and how to treat? Thank you!20230529_121509.thumb.jpg.d886c96120e3502cdacc29eaedb5c200.jpg

I would imagine the 21' February winter storm, followed by 67 days of 100 degree heat, and capped with an ice storm in December. The Juniper is diseased with either Foama or Blight. Both are fatal although an arborist could probably keep it going for a few more years.

IF that is just damage from the December storm, then you're in luck. Either way, the brown should be cut out asap to slow the spread.


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