Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners. To submit a question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit www.pcmg-texas.org.
We are building a house on property that has no trees. Can you recommend some fast-growing trees that will shade the house?
There are important questions to consider before you start selecting trees.
First, consider why there are no trees on the property. It may be that the land was cleared for pasture or farming, but it is also possible that conditions are not favorable for tree growth. There are tests that check for depth, drainage, and fertility of the soil, which will be helpful in determining if the land will support trees. The Master Gardeners can supply you with more information on these tests if you like.
Assuming the area is suitable, consider how much space you have. Mature trees large enough to shade a house require a great deal of space. They must be planted at least 20 feet from the house and 25 feet apart. A smaller lot will have better curb appeal with smaller trees, but they may not provide the shade you want. Do you want shade year round? Most large trees are deciduous, allowing the winter sun to warm your house and reduce utility bills.
Do you need shade from the west-setting sun? This will require an evergreen tree, which will limit your choices.
The following trees are well-adapted to both our soil and growing conditions in Parker County. This list includes a nice mix of larger and smaller trees. Deciduous trees include Shantung Maple, lacey oak, Chinese pistache, golden raintree, chinkapin oak, cedar elm, pecan and sweet gum. The Arizona cypress is an evergreen. We do not recommend Bradford pear, fruitless mulberry, Leyland cypress or silver maple for our area.
Trees can be the most important element in your landscape, and also the most expensive. A well-adapted tree that is planted properly in a good location, watered well for the first year, and mulched for the first three years should thrive and grow. Trees that are hybridized and marketed as “fast-growing” trees should be considered carefully. They may grow more quickly than other trees, but they are also likely to have a genetic weakness that will shorten their lifespan.
Trees are a major investment in your landscape. Taking time to explore your options will pay off in the end.