The extreme summer heat and humidity continue as the days of August come and go. As you go hither and there throughout the day, take the necessary precautions to preserve your health and be safe. Find a shade tree for a bit and take a moment to relax and enjoy God’s gifts through nature.
Trees are an integral part of the landscape as they form the walls and ceilings of our properties. They offer psychological, social, environmental, and economic benefits throughout their lifetime. However, trees are not all equally compatible in each planting site or in every climate, thus rubber-stamped projects are not recommended. Tree selection and placement are two very critical points in landscaping.
A very common mistake made is planting the right tree but in the wrong place or the wrong tree in the right place. Understanding the maximum average size at maturity and the cultural requirements needed for survival will help offset any such potential mistake. Save yourself time and money by following professional advice in planning and planting, as well as maintenance.
Know what you want from your trees and shrubs (shade, height, color, barrier, etc.) so that the appropriate selection can be made. This will help guarantee a finished product that can be beautiful and functional. In planting, a good rule to follow is to plant your tree or shrub at least half its mature height from any building, walkway, or established boundary.
A healthy community forest (whether large or small) begins with careful planning. With proper research and the right basic layout, you can produce a landscape that will cool your home in summer and humble the winds in winter. Your well-planned landscape will include trees that grow well in the soil and moisture of your neighborhood or microclimate. Trees should be properly placed to avoid conflicts with power lines, streets, drives, sidewalks and buildings, as well as increasing the aesthetic and economic value of your property.
The southeastern region of the United States offers a hot, humid climate with scorching summers and sort of mild winters. Large shade trees provide some relief with a cooling effect during the long, hot months of summer. Their beauty and value to wildlife definitely add to their significance in the landscape. Shade trees that are native to the region perform best in these climates and soils, thus offering many advantages including curb appeal. The following native shade trees are steadfast and easy to grow in this southern environment. However, be sure you have the space to accommodate your choice.
American Holly (Ilex opaca) is native to the southeast and provides greenery all year, supported with red berries during the fall and winter. It grows to 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide. It prefers part shade to full sun and will tolerate many soil types.
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is native to the southeast. The mottled bark pattern is the signature of this tree, supported by its overall size and large leaves. It can reach heights of 90-100 feet tall with 3-8 feet diameter trunks. It thrives in bottom-land or low lying soils.
Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is native to eastern coastal North America and along waterways into eastern Texas and southern Illinois. Its fine, short needles emerge in early spring with a bright lime green color. The bald cypress can withstand waterlogged soils, thus developing a bolstered trunk that is flared at the base. It produces knees (distinctive above ground structures) in the vicinity of root growth around the tree. They will grow 50 to 70 feet in height and 20 to 30 feet wide. The dropping of the needles in the fall can be a nuisance. It prefers moist soil conditions in part shade to full sun.
Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) or tupelo is native from southern Maine to central Florida and west to Michigan and eastern Texas. The black gum tree produces flowers that attract honeybees, thus tupelo honey is a favorite among honey connoisseurs. It is among the first trees to change color in fall season, displaying glowing yellow to red-orange hues before dropping their leaves. Black gum grows 30 to50 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide and tolerates wet soils thus making it a great choice for swampy sites with poor drainage. It prefers part shade to full sun.
Carolina basswood (Tilia americana var. caroliniana) is native from South Carolina to Florida and west to Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. It provides very dense shade under a full canopy and its early-summer flowers offer aromatic and medicinal values. Its erect and upright form reaches 60 to 80 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide. It tolerates most soil conditions, but prefers moist, well-drained sites in full sun.
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is native to the southeast. Its early spring flowers attract the bees and grows to about 35 feet tall. Its heart-shaped leaves emerge as reddish in color and changing to green as the leaves mature. Seeds are produced in pea-shaped pods. Its strength and endurance through time is questioned by some who have planted it in their landscapes.
Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) is native throughout the eastern coastal plain from southern New Jersey to central Florida. It is a dependable, fast-growing evergreen with drought and wind tolerance, reaching 60 to 90 feet in height and 30 to 40 feet wide. Plant these pines in groups for best effects, including privacy and shade. Loblolly pine likes sandy, well-drained soils in full sun with a low to medium water requirement.
Pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) is native from Alabama to Texas and north to Ohio and southeast Kansas. It is a valuable cash crop because of the edible nuts produced. Establish this deciduous tree as a young plant since the taproot makes this species difficult to transplant as it grows older. It reaches 70 to 100 feet tall and 40 to 75 feet wide with medium water requirements and full sun. Its known more for its economical value rather than curb appeal.
Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) is native to coastal areas of the southeastern U.S. from Virginia to the Florida keys to coastal Texas. It is the majestic evergreen tree that lines streets and embodies parks in cities and towns across the south. It may take a hundred years or so for them to reach their mature height of 40 to 80 feet tall and 60 to 100 feet wide. Thus, planting one today provides enjoyment to future generations. Mature trees have a minimum water requirement and prefer full sunlight.
Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is native to the southeastern United States from the Carolinas, Georgia to central Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi to eastern coastal Texas. This large broadleaf evergreen tree reaches 60 to 80 feet tall and 30 to 50 feet wide and produces large, fragrant flowers beginning in May. Also, their large, thick waxy green leaves with reddish-umber undersides make a desirable holiday wreath or tablescape setting. It has medium water needs and prefers full sun to grow to its maximum size.
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is native from southern Connecticut to Florida and eastern Texas. Its star-shaped leaves turn deep scarlet in the fall season before dropping to the ground. Beware of the spiny capsules that drop and litter the ground. The sweetgum grows to 60 to 75 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide, preferring moist soils in full sun.
Many improved cultivars have been developed through recent years. Think in terms of native and sustainable plants in the landscape. May this bit of awareness spark your desire to learn and ask questions, encourage you to further apply your gained knowledge, and bring you to further realize that environmental stewardship and sustainability should be at the foundation of all your home landscape activities.