Essential Resources to Plant & Care for Native Trees

Whether you join us at the Arbor Day Tree Give Away in The Woodlands, or are buying tress from one of the many sales this time of year, here are some great resources to ensure your trees thrive for years to come.

Here is a quick overview of what you’ll find here. Click on a category to jump to each section, or scroll through for all the tree care tips.

Planting Bare-Root Trees | Mulching the Right Way | 3 Great Pruning Resources | Plant Health Care | Right Tree Right Place | Find a Certified Arborist Near You

Arbor Day Varieties | Which Tree is Good For Me? Guide to Arbor Day Varieties | Detailed Links for Each Variety |

Planting Bare-Root Trees

Click here for the step-by-step guide from the Arbor Day Foundation to successfully plant your bare-root tree.


Mulching the Right Way

After you plant, there’s one more step! Mulch is one of the best things you can do keep moisture in the soil and add organic matter. There is a right and a wrong way to mulch; check out this simple guide to make sure you are helping the tree, not harming it.

Check out this quick guide to mulching right from the Arborists themselves, or watch the video below from the Tree Care Video Library.

Mulching is also important to avoid conflicts between trees and turf grass. Find out why here.


3 Great Pruning Resources

1] This Tree City USA Bulletin covers How to Prune Young Shade Trees. Follow the story of two families who both plant trees, and how those trees turn out in 15 years. Isn’t the one below a thing of beauty? It is the result of judicious pruning throughout the tress life.

2 ] A quick guide to correct pruning is found in this this ISA Guide to Pruning Young Trees. Proper pruning is essential to a tree having a strong structure and pleasing form.

3] Wondering what some of the common mistakes are? This USDA Forest Service Guide has some great pictures on what to avoid as well as how to do it right.


Plant Health Care

Health Care? For Plants? Certainly! Plant Health Care (PHC) is a holistic approach to the care of trees and plants that can save you money, save your trees, and save our environment from needless amounts of toxic chemicals.

The benefits are large following the 5 steps of PHC. Skip to the second page of this Tree City USA Bulletin to find out how to implement PHC in your own yard for healthy and resilient trees.


Right Tree Right Place

Even if you plant the tree correctly, mulch it well and prune it for a strong structure, it won’t matter much if the tree is in the wrong place to begin with. One of the essential functions of trees in SE Texas is to provide cooling summer shade. Think about that and other factors that affect tree placement in this visual guide to determining the Right Tree for the Right Place.


Find a Certified Arborist

If you would like to entrust pruning, assessment and health to a certified professional, the International Society of Arboriculture has a great online tool to find one using your zip code HERE.

And for some talking points to consider in discussing your trees with the Arborist, check out this guide on How to Hire an Arborist.



CANOPY TREES

American Sycamore

Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Chinkapin Oak

Quercus muehlenbergii (Chinkapin oak) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Overcup Oak

Quercus lyrata (Overcup oak) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Green Ash

Fraxinus pennsylvanica (Green ash) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Loblolly Pine

Pinus taeda (Loblolly pine) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

UNDERSTORY TREES

Chickasaw Plum

Prunus angustifolia (Chickasaw plum) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Possumhaw Holly [NOT SHIPPED BY GROWER]

Ilex decidua (Possumhaw) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Roughleaf Dogwood

Cornus drummondii (Roughleaf dogwood) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Texas Redbud

Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Texas Persimmon

Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Spicebush

Lindera benzoin (Northern spicebush) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)

Witch Hazel

Hamamelis virginiana (Witch-hazel) | Native Plants of North America (wildflower.org)


Tree Resource Hubs

Arbor Day Foundation | Tree Care Tips & Techniques for Homeowners

Trees Are Good.org | Tree Owner Information

Tree City USA | Bulletins & Resources


Arbor Day is brought to you by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services

Originally started by the Howard Hughes Development Company, since 1977 more than 1.5 million seedlings have been shared with residents to plant in their yard, in community open space reserves and in forest preserves. Participate in one of The Woodlands longest standing traditions and help plant trees today for our community to enjoy for years to come.

Are Invasive Species Eliminating Native Vegetation in Your Village?

“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” Earnest Hemingway said it best. Within our forests, green belts and even our backyards, there is a fight taking place. One that we can all help with: the fight to keep invasive plant species from damaging our native habitats.

Invasive plants are species that exist in habitats outside of their native environment. Introduced accidentally or intentionally, these plants establish themselves – spread – and eventually eliminate native species. Invasive vines grow, unimpeded by natural predators, blocking the sun’s light by overgrowing their native host. Lost along the way is the food and shelter that native wildlife depends on. Invasive plants change the soil chemistry, impact water quality, and alter food webs in our remaining natural areas.

Each of us can take important steps to help in this fight.

Start by keeping invasives out of your home landscape. Some species, such as Japanese honeysuckle, nandina and Asian jasmine, are available for purchase, so shop your local nursery’s native plant section to avoid them. If invasive plants already reside in your landscape, consider replacing them with a native. You’ll prevent their unwanted spread and enjoy the wildlife that natives invite.

Not sure which are the bad guys? HARC Research publishes The Quiet Invasion, a handy identification guide you can search for species of local concern. Report your sightings in our greenspaces through The Woodlands 311 app. Township staff and Invasives Task Force volunteers will start the process of removal.

Now, consider taking it one step further and join the Invasives Task Force. The battle against invasives is a big one but a corps of trained volunteers is helping to turn the tide. As one volunteer puts it:

“The part of vine removal that is always rewarding to me is uncovering our beautiful native species in the understory and to follow-up restoration with natives.  In the end, I see the mission of the Task Force to preserve the character of The Woodlands as a remnant forest on the edge of the Piney Woods. The Woodlands is a city ‘in the forest’, not just another suburb.”

Interested in becoming an Invasives Task Force volunteer? By working with our corps of trained volunteers in conjunction with The Township’s invasive species removal program, you can make a big difference in whether all our villages stay green or the invasives win! Attend the next training class for volunteers on February 4, 2023. Full details and registrations available online.

Registration is easy – sign up here.

Got Questions? Contact The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department at 281-210-3800 or enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Add Beauty and Manage Rain with a Rain Garden 

Rain gardens are a great landscape feature that helps slow, collect, infiltrate and filter storm water. They are the best solution to turn a “problem” wet area in your yard into a real benefit. Designed for a low-lying area that collects rainwater you’ll find there are many benefits to a rain garden like transforming a bare, wet area into a green, blooming habitat that provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.  

Problem Solvers 

Increased stormwater runoff is the real problem. Add soil erosion to that and the result is vulnerability to flooding. Rain gardens can prevent both, helping to conserve water and soil.

Consider the water cycle shown above and then add human development to the picture. Humans create stormwater runoff when natural areas are developed, replacing them with a sea of impervious surfaces fragmenting our green spaces.  Within a developed residential area, pollutants such as fertilizers, herbicides, pet waste, and oil are washed from lawns, streets, and parking lots into local streams and drainage systems. 

How Rain Gardens Help 

While a single rain garden may seem inconsequential, it has great value. Rain gardens slow the water down allowing for it to be collected in the garden’s depression. Settling soil, silt and organic material that are washed by the water from higher ground are also captured and prevented from washing away. The captured water slowly filters back into the soil where it is needed most.  

As the water soaks into the soil, the deeply rooted plants in your rain garden act as a filter, removing pollutants from the stormwater. Now your rain garden has become a beautifully designed space in your yard with stunning plants that captures and treats stormwater!   

No need to worry that your rain garden will become a breeding area for mosquitoes. When designed correctly you should not have standing water that lasts longer than 72 hours. This is a much shorter time frame than the 7 required for most species of mosquitoes to develop and hatch from eggs laid in standing water. 

Rain garden basics 

Choose a site. Locate your garden in a low lying area of your landscape that tends to collect rain water and is at least 10 feet from your foundation. Choose a sunny or partially sunny spot. Also consider how it can be incorporated into your existing landscape replacing an area of traditional turf grass where the lawn slopes toward the street. An area that would catch roof run off or water from a down spout is perfect. If the rain garden is located on a slope, create a berm on the low side to retail water and soil. 

Compared to a patch of lawn, a rain garden allows 30% more water to soak in the ground. 

Test drainage. Test the location’s drainage before you create the bed. Dig a hole 8 to 12 inches deep and fill the hole with water. The water should soak in within 48 to 72 hours. Soils heavy in clay will drain much more slowly than soils heavier in loam, silt or sand. Amend sites heavy in clay with organic compost to improve the soil and help drainage. If the site doesn’t drain within 72 hours, choose another site. 

Start digging. Rain gardens can be any size, but a typical residential rain garden ranges from 100 to 300 square feet. The depth of the garden can range between four and eight inches. Anything too deep might pond water too long and if too shallow, it will require greater surface area to effectively manage water. 

Add plants. Choose a variety of native forbs and grasses, planting those with higher water tolerance in the middle of the garden. Include plants of varying heights and bloom times to maximize the garden’s depth, texture and color. Plant in groups of three to seven plants of a single species.  Go for diversity. In natural areas, a diversity of plant types not only adds beauty, but also creates thick underground root network that keeps the entire plant community in balance. 

The chart below includes plants for our area suitable for a rain garden. Planting zones are indicated as: 

Margin: the high edge around the rain garden that is the driest zone 
Median: the area between the margin and center 
Center: the middle of the garden that is deeper and will stay wet longest 

Help it flourish. Rain gardens can be maintained with little effort after plants are established. Weeding and some watering during dry periods will be needed the first two years. 

Need more information? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov 

Fall in Love with Leaves

It’s Fall! Time for cool mornings and pumpkin spice everything. And, while nothing says fall like fallen leaves, sometimes they can feel like a bombardment.  If you’re thinking there’s got to be a better way to deal with those leaves than hauling bag after bag to the curb, you’re right. Here are three things to consider as you tackle the autumnal abundance. 

Rake Into Beds

The best place for leaves is right on the ground – raked under your trees and shrubs or mowed into the lawn. This returns nutrients back to the soil and provides shelter to caterpillars and other overwintering insects. Come spring these insects will get to work as natural pest control in the garden, and they in turn will feed new clutches of baby birds. This native mulch also suppresses weeds and holds in soil moisture. A great return for “leaving the leaves”. 

If all your landscape beds have a 3-4″ layer and you still have leaves here are some good options: 

  • Start or feed a compost pile
  • Heap up 6-8″ in a corner along with branches and hollow stems for a simple insect hotel 
  • Stockpile to put around tender shrubs as insulation over the winter 

If you regularly contend with a lot of leaves, consider vacuuming instead of blowing. Units that vacuum and shred leaves as you go really help reduce the volume and small pieces break down faster into rich compost wherever they end up. 

Out of Drains & Gutters 

One place leaves don’t belong is in the stormwater system. Don’t blow leaves into the drain, it’s illegal! Stormwater flows, untreated, into local waterways and all that extra debris depletes oxygen, reducing water quality for fish, dragonfly naiads and a host of other aquatic organisms.  

After a rain, check for needles, sticks and other debris that may be lodged in driveway culverts and drain inlets near your house. Keeping the stormwater system clear reduces flooding. It also prevents formation of small, stagnant puddles ripe for mosquito breeding.  

Fall is a great time to check those gutters, too. Pay special attention to sections under trees as well as roof valleys (where two sections of roof join). As these areas fill with debris, you risk damage to the roof and you create more ideal mosquito breeding sites, right at your doorstep. 

Fun with Leaves 

Albert Camus wrote “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” There are 168 words to describe leaf shape, arrangement, venation, and edges; take some time to delight in the variety. Have a leaf scavenger hunt or make a leaf print bookmark. Learn the language of leaves. 

Leaf Print Bookmark 

  1. Collect leaves from the neighborhood that have interesting shapes or vein patterns 
  1. Use a roller or brush to apply paint to the underside of a leaf. Do it sparingly so that the texture appears 
  1. Place painted side down on a heavy sheet of paper or cardstock 
  1. Cover with a scrap piece of paper and use a rolling pin or straight-sided can to press the leaf down evenly 
  1. Remove the scrap paper and peel the leaf back gently from the stem end 
  1. Let the print dry and embellish with doodles, stickers, glitter or stamps 
  1. Punch a hole at one end and loop through a piece of ribbon or yard to complete the bookmark 

Other ways to use the leaf print technique: 

  • Decorate brown kraft paper for a tablecloth or placemats 
  • Stamp over newsprint for recycled wrapping paper 

Resources

Check out the Texas A&M Forest service for help identifying native trees

5 Steps to Create a Backyard Bird Habitat

Did you know Texas is home to more species of birds than any other state? In fact, we host more than half of the 1,100 species in the US. Here in The Woodlands, we’re doubly fortunate: not only are we replete with resources birds depend on – forests, edges, riparian zones, and native plants – we lie at a crossroads of eastern and western habitats mixed with subtropical and temperate ones. From this diverse habitat springs diverse bird life. Best of all for the local avian lover, we sit smack dab in the central flyway where spring and fall migrations amplify an already impressive diversity of species. 

You need not invest in a pair of hiking boots or high-powered binoculars to take in the spectacle. In fact, backyards and even apartment balconies offer ample opportunity to invite birds in for your enjoyment and their support.   

Start by providing the essentials: 

  • Native trees and plants – they’re far superior to non-natives for providing sustenance and they require less water and care to thrive. Check out these lists of native plants for The Woodlands.  
  • Clean feeders – supplementing what your native plants offer is a great idea as long as you provide quality feed and you clean feeders every couple weeks to prevent disease transmission. 
  • Water sources – birdbaths should be no more than 3 inches deep with sloped sides. Be sure to clean them regularly with soap or a vinegar solution.  
  • Nesting and shelter options – trees, tall grass, and shrubs provide cover for resting or nesting; supplement with bird houses and roost boxes suited to local species you want to attract. 
  • Use biocontrol – applying pesticides rids your landscape of an essential food source for most birds (seeds alone aren’t enough). Instead, invite birds in as a natural pest control.  

For more tips, visit the National Wildlife Federation’s page on attracting birds. 

The best habitats incorporate each of these elements. If you want to make your backyard even more inviting, keep it cat-free. Cats kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds in the U.S. annually, making cat predation the largest human-caused threat to birds. If you can’t keep your cat indoors at all times, bring them in at dusk and dawn, when birds are more active.  

For more resources on native plants for The Woodlands or to learn more about upcoming birding programs, contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov