Landscape Trees

Landscape Trees by Karla Basallaje, Master Gardener

“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” No doubt you have read or previously heard this famous couplet by Joyce Kilmer, and without waxing too poetic, or straying too far off topic, I agree with the poet’s sentiment. Trees are spectacular plants offering a wide range of size, color, shape and function, making them a great addition to any landscape design.

Before choosing a landscape tree, determine your soil’s drainage and water holding capacity by conducting a “hole-test”. First dig a hole 6-8 inches wide and 2 feet deep. Fill the hole with water and allow the water to saturate and drain. Fill the hole again only this time halfway and make note of the time. Monitor how long it takes for the water to drain from the hole: 15 minutes – excessive drainage; 15-30 minutes – adequate drainage; more than 30 minutes – poor drainage. Use these guidelines to make decisions and to make modifications. Visit the aggie horticulture website for more ideas and solutions.

A little bit of research before deciding on a landscape tree will save you time and money. Trees are most definitely a long-term investment. Choose a tree that is suited to your climate, soil, and available space. Texas A&M Agrilife has designated hardy, reliable, disease-resistant plants with the Texas Superstar designation. Currently there are six trees designated Texas Superstar trees which include: Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle; Deciduous Holly; Shantung Maple; Lacey Oak; Chinkapin Oak; and Chinese Pistache, visit to learn more about these trees and other Texas superstar plants. If you are looking for a wider range of choices visit the Texas Tree Planting guide website at and you can customize your choices with the tree selector option.

Once you have selected a tree, it is time to plant it. Fall is a great time to plant your tree when the temperatures are milder. Remove the tree from its container and dig a hole that is 2 to 3 times the width of the rootball (a wide hole allows ample drainage for the roots), make sure that the depth of the hole is 1-2 inches shallower than the rootball. In other words, the top of the ball should be sticking out at least an inch. Loosen outside roots from the ball and remove excess soil from the top and water it thoroughly. Place the tree in the hole (most experts agree that there is no need for staking as it might damage the bark) backfill with just the soil that was dug up from the hole but before the backfill is complete, water it in, then complete the backfill. Continue to water it in thoroughly and mulch. Make sure that only a thin layer of mulch is near the trunk, saving the thicker layer of mulch for the outside edge. Fertilizers are not recommended until the tree has had an opportunity to become established, which is about 6-8 months. For more helpful ideas visit the Texas A&M horticulture websites.

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