“By planting and caring for trees, you help improve your surroundings, reduce pollution, lower energy costs, improve the appearance of your community and increase the value of your property.” (North Carolina Cooperative Extension). Trees offer environmental benefits by providing food and shelter for birds and insects and sequestering carbon, monetary benefits by lessening summer cooling costs with their shade and health benefits including reducing pollutants and providing oxygen.
Most of North Central Texas is part of the cross timbers ecoregion. Many tree varieties are native to this area and thrive even under challenging environmental conditions and soil types. The Texas Forest Service has an interactive guide for tree selection to help choose the right tree for a given location and landscaping purpose. Input conditions (sunlight, soil conditions, height, etc.) to receive a list of suitable trees.
Special collections for North Central Texas from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center
Texas Tough Plants — Natives located in Handouts and Presentations
Denton County Extension Agent Emeritus, John Cooper, has taken the mystery out of tree planting. His article, Tree Planting and Care explains how to prepare the soil, which tree to select, and how to plant and irrigate young trees. Texas Forest Service guide to Tree Planting to help you select a site, plant and maintain your trees.
Pruning Trees: For landscape shade trees, pruning is only necessary to remove dead limbs. Should you choose to prune for other reasons, remember that the tree does not require it. Trees need leaves, so be cautious before pruning. In particular, do not top a tree unless you want to permanently stunt its growth. The most common victim is crape myrtle (it is sometimes called crape murder). There are legitimate reasons for pruning, such as aesthetics or to be able to mow underneath a tree. Reducing shade so that grass will grow is not the best option for the tree, although you might decide it is the best option for you. If it is too shady for grass, then planting a shade-tolerant ground cover is preferable to lifting the canopy year after year.
Pruning is part art, part science and usually completely confusing for homeowners. There are some tricks to doing it properly. Go to these links for more discussion:
Fertilizing Trees: Before fertilizing trees, lawn, or any other plant, find out what the soil needs. You can download forms and instructions for a soil analysis. To give the soil what it needs, at the right time, and prevent runoff, follow these instructions. Most of the time, trees do not need supplemental fertilization. If you fertilize your lawn, that may be plenty for the trees as well. Do NOT fertilize a sick tree. Get the problem properly diagnosed before performing any type of treatment, including fertilizer.
Watering Trees: Even established trees need water during periods of drought, especially in hot weather. This Tree Watering Tips video will help you know when and how to water your trees.
Most tree problems seen by Master Gardeners are not diseases but abiotic factors, meaning improper planting, watering, weather damage, etc. When trying to diagnose a tree problem, first consider the age of the tree. If it has been planted within the past two or three years, it may be that the tree has not overcome transplant shock. The tree will look thin, and the top may not have leaves at all. Another very common problem is underwatering. A new tree needs infrequent but deep watering. In the absence of rain, water the tree once a week. Give it at least 1 to 1-1/2″ of water; the ideal is to use a soaker hose. The regular irrigation system may not provide enough for a new tree. Conduct a water audit to find out. A very simple way to audit the sprinkler system is to put out tuna cans (or similar size) and run the system for 30 minutes. Measure the water in the can to figure out how long to run the system to get one to 1 1/2 inches each time you water.
If there is a disease process, fungal diseases are the most common. The Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab will diagnose diseases for a fee. Look at their Plant Disease Handbook for a description of common diseases.
For professional help, consider hiring a certified arborist to diagnose and possibly treat the tree. The International Society of Arboriculture (Texas) “Find a Tree Care Service/Verify an ISA Certification” page can help you find an arborist based on your zip code.
One of the most common native trees in Denton County is the post oak. These lovely natives do not transplant well, so if you are lucky enough to have them in your landscape, take good care of them. John Cooper, Denton County Extension Agent Emeritus, wrote an extremely helpful article called, “The Care and Feeding of Post Oaks.” It is well worth reading. He also wrote “Care and Feeding of Pines in Denton County.”
Homeowners are concerned about oak wilt due to heavy media coverage about the condition. Denton County has had very little trouble with oak wilt to date. Chances are good that is not what is bothering your oak tree. However, read the symptoms here.
If you know what type of tree you have, the IPM Online site from the University of California Davis can help you find out what diseases may be afflicting it.
This is a good article about oak tree diseases.
Storm Damage: When storms come, limbs or sometimes entire trees are damaged. Check the AgriLife Extension Tree Care Kit for tree first aid, as well as storm damage prevention. The Texas Forest Service After the Storm: Can My Tree Be Saved page has excellent information on pruning trees with illustrations, along with information to help you determine if your tree can be saved.
For varieties recommended in North Texas, check these lists: Fruit Trees for North Texas
If you think it is not possible to grow citrus trees in Denton, think again. This article by a Denton County Master Gardener will help you get started: Growing Citrus in North Texas
Successfully growing peaches in Denton is a daunting task, but many try. Here is the definitive guide to insect control on peaches, pecans and plums.
More Information about specific trees
Shrubs come in many shapes and sizes, but they can be broadly defined as multi-stemmed woody plants, usually under 20 feet tall. Shrubs are often referred to as bushes. In a landscape, shrubs are usually ornamental. They may be used as a hedge, a windbreak or colorful focal point. Some shrubs are deciduous, while others are evergreen. There are flowering shrubs, berry-producing shrubs and some with bright, colorful leaves. Choose shrubs based on a landscape plan with due consideration of their eventual size and sunlight requirements.
Once established, shrubs usually require little maintenance or special care. In the hot, dry summer heat trees and shrubs need a deep, thorough soaking about once a week in the growing season, either from natural rainfall or supplemental irrigation. Because supplemental water needs vary by plant type, it is best to check the water requirements for each type. When irrigating, be thorough and allow the water to penetrate deeply. A soaker hose or slow drip irrigation works well for getting moisture deep into the soil. Adding mulch around, but not touching, the trunks help retain moisture and moderate soil temperature.
“Newly-planted ornamental trees and shrubs will benefit from light applications of fertilizer made during the first growing season after transplanting. Uniformly broadcast the fertilizer along the perimeter of the planting hole. Avoid using weed-and-feed fertilizers in the vicinity of newly-planted ornamentals because injury from the herbicide may result.” University of Georgia Extension Service
Selecting a shrub: Outstanding Shrubs for Texas
More information about specific shrubs