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Shade Plants & Tree Mistakes to Avoid

air date: October 7, 2017

Fall is the best time to plant trees. TreeFolks Executive Director Thais Perkins spares problems down the road with the right selection, placement and care. Plus, find out what to do about trees that tilted in heavy rain. On tour, Valerie and Kirk Walden started from scratch to layer a garden for wildlife, from trees to flowering ground covers. Daphne explains what’s going on with a troubled lime tree and why to plant honey mesquite tree this fall. Trisha and special guest Barbara Wise head into shade to brighten up dappled light with flowers, structure and groundcovers. Get their shade plant list.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Lake View Garden for Wildlife

When Travis County Master Gardener Kirk Walden and wife Valerie, an artist, bought their razed property overlooking Lake Austin, they gave it artful perspectives. Working with Botanical Concerns, they channeled the hillside’s flooding waters through dry creek beds. Terraced beds and berms partner texture, color, and wildlife habitat without obstructing the lake view.  In front, layers of low-water-use plants in sun to part shade resist browsing deer. Get Kirk’s plant list!

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Question of the Week

Leaf damage on my lime tree: what’s going on?

Thanks to Amy Acosta-Welch for this great question about her lime tree. She’s noticed damage to her lime tree leaves: what’s happening?

It appears that so far, the damage is pretty limited and diffuse, with no discernible pattern, so it’s a bit hard to know for sure. Amy says she’s noticed some grasshoppers in her yard, but they’re voracious eaters, and they tend to devour leaves pretty quickly, leaving only stems behind. Some of the damage appears to be caused by the wind, or some other physical damage.

In a few places, it also looks like sun damage, which could have been caused if the tree is in a container and was moved into the shade for a period of time, then back into the sun.

Some of the other damage, where there are actual holes, could also be the early stages of caterpillar feeding, and since there’s not yet any discernible pattern to the damage, we asked entomologist Wizzie Brown, my colleague at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, who suggested that since this is a citrus plant, and since it’s butterfly season, the most likely culprit is swallowtail caterpillars.

I’d say the issue isn’t worth worrying about. Especially if the tree is mature. But you should watch to see if the problem progresses. Check for swallowtail caterpillars, which have a very distinctive appearance. Again, if the tree is mature, consider leaving the caterpillars alone, sacrificing a bit of your tree for the sake of future swallowtails.

Keep the plant healthy with sufficient water and fertilize with a high nitrogen formula this fall and next spring.

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Plant of the Week

Honey or Texas Mesquite

Honey or Texas Mesquite

Prosopis Glandulosa

Native honey or Texas mesquite is a medium-height, often shrubby, deciduous tree. Due to their thorny branches and tendency to take over in disturbed areas, mesquite trees have a pretty sullied reputation, especially among ranchers. But in cultivation, honey mesquite makes a great landscape tree. It lends the perfect amount of bright, dappled shade to a yard; providing protection from the harsh rays, but allowing enough light in for other plants to grow underneath. The divided leaves sway in the slightest breeze and have a beautiful, wispy appearance. Once established, honey mesquite easily survives on annual rainfall, but will benefit from a little supplemental irrigation during extended heat and drought. With ample rainfall, the tree produces fragrant, creamy-white flowers, followed by long bean pods that can be slightly annoying to clean up. Plant honey mesquite in full sun, and away from your home and other structures. Getting only 20 to 30 feet tall but up to 40 feet wide, honey mesquites can be too large for some home landscapes, so be sure you have plenty of space.