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Can plants be planted in the holes of large old trees?

Posted by Cassialee Southern California (My Page) on
Sat, Oct 1, 11 at 21:20

I am researching ways to landscape around the infamously difficult yet beautiful California Pepper tree. I read on another website that someone described seeing a Cal. Pepper in which someone had planted various Monocot type flowers growing out of holes or crevasses in the tree. Before I go causing harm to this ancient pepper tree and spending money I wanted to make sure this was something I could do.
I anticipate some warnings about the pepper tree's acidity being to much but if so, out of curiosity, can the holes in other large trees be planted into, like say old oak trees?
Thank you.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Can plants be planted in the holes of large old trees?

You will be blown away by the wonderful wide world of bromeliads - they are mostly Epiphytic , meaning that they grow on other plants ( trees ) and hosts ( pieces of bark, dirftwood ) Some are terrestrial ( grown in the ground) and others are lithophytes ( grown on rocks ). Most are monocots.

You can wire bromeliads to your pepper tree and it can become a beautiful blooming sight to behold. I have bromeliads wired to the trunks of my palm trees as well as a few orchids.

My favorite website for bromeliad information is the Bromeliad Society of San Francisco

They have some great cultural information and some wonderful photographs of bromeliads in the garden .

Bromeliads in a San Mateo palm tree

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

Bromeliads in Ted Kippings garden

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

A tillandsia set in a red banana

From Pina Colada

A sampling of bromeliads ( Aechema and Billbergia ) that could easily be wired to a tree
David Feix design.

From david's garden photos

RE: Can plants be planted in the holes of large old trees?

Very lovely pics. Amazing what you can grow in mild climate. I don't think anything like that would grow around here, nevertheless holes in trees make excellent wildlife habitat.

RE: Can plants be planted in the holes of large old trees?

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 2, 11 at 18:41

For starters, I don't think you could harm the pepper tree if you tried. Secondly, I think the canopy will provide a good environment for epiphytes. The only drawback will be the extensive litter from the pepper tree.

The first photo shows a mature orchid happily growing attached to the bark of a tree in a private garden in Los Angeles. The second photo shows numerous epiphytes, including staghorn ferns and bromeliads, thriving in limited space on palm trunks along a narrow driveway in the same garden.



The bright bromeliad below the lantern is a type of Neoregelia; the hanging plant is an epiphytic cactus from Mexico, Rhipsalis.


RE: Can plants be planted in the holes of large old trees?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 2, 11 at 21:38

In California the lack of year round rains and relatively dry air make it a bit more difficult to attach epiphytes to bark unless you provide automatic or manual watering. When I use bromeliads or Rhipsalis in trees, unless they are all Tillandsias, I typically use them in hanging baskets with a bit of soil, or when mounted directly onto tree trunks, I'll pack some moss held by fishing line or wire to retain a bit more moisture at the roots. I like adding drip lines with misters within the tree to make watering easier. Species orchids and Cymbidium orchids would also work for this use.

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