[Image: Sweetbay magnolia]
[Image: Southern sugar maple]
News Release Distributed 12/20/13
By Allen Owings
LSU AgCenter horticulturist
HAMMOND, La. – Arbor Day, in Louisiana the third Friday in January, is designated as a day for planting trees. In Louisiana, January is considered the best month to do this.
Fall through winter is the time to add trees to the Louisiana landscape. Some of the most popular and best trees for Louisiana landscapes include the Southern live oak, Southern magnolia (our state flower), bald cypress (our state tree), crape myrtles, deciduous oaks, southern sugar maple, hollies, vitex, Sweetbay magnolia and pines.
The Southern live oak is one of Louisiana’s signature trees. If you want to plant one, realize the spread on these trees and give them the adequate room they need to grow.
Our state flower is a tree – the Southern magnolia. The most planted variety is Little Gem, Southern magnolia trees need well-drained soil. They commonly bloom from late spring to early summer. A larger-growing variety of Southern magnolia is Bracken’s Brown Beauty.
Louisiana’s state tree is the baldcypress. These trees have fine-textured leaves, and many times they have a rusty brown fall foliage. Above-ground roots (“knees”) on cypress are most common in clay and poorly drained soils and less of a problem in well-drained sandy or silty soils.
Crape myrtles are our most popular non-native summer-flowering tree. Select crape myrtles based on mature size. They come in tall, intermediate, semi-dwarf, dwarf and miniature varieties. Great varieties for Louisiana are Natchez, Sioux, Acoma, Muskogee, Tonto and Tuscarora. Crape myrtles must have full sun (8 hours daily) in order to grow and flower their best.
Nuttall, willow, southern red, cherrybark and shumard are examples of oaks trees that drop their foliage in the wintertime – thus the term, deciduous. All of these are great trees for Louisiana landscapes. Personally, nuttall oak and willow oak are favorites. The willow oak is a Louisiana Super Plant.
Another Louisiana Super Plant in the tree category is the Southern sugar maple. Fall foliage color is outstanding. Plants reach a height of 30 to 40 feet after 20 years.
Savannah holly is one of the most popular hollies that will grow into a tree shape. They are also known for their heavy clusters of red berries that persist through fall and winter. The American holly is also a favorite but harder to locate at garden centers.
The 12-inch, fragrant flower spikes of deep lavender blue makes the vitex tree, also called chaste tree, a summer landscape favorite. The variety Shoal Creek is a Louisiana Super Plant. Flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Another magnolia to consider is the Sweetbay magnolia. These native trees mature to an average height about 30 feet tall with a spread of 20 feet, but larger sizes are common. These trees have a tendency to be semi-evergreen. Flowers are creamy white and about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Flowers are present in April and May and have a lemony fragrance.
Pines trees thrive in many soils across Louisiana. Many pine species are native to the state. Spruce pines are smaller and slower growing and take more adverse soil conditions than other pine species.
Trees are a long-term investment. Select the correct tree to fit your planting location and also consider the purpose for which the tree is being planted. Now through February would be a great time to plant.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.