Is Central Texas hospitable enough for Japanese Maples?
I live in the hilly center of Texas with an annual rainfall of about 28-30 inches. My soil is sandy loam and I suspect that means very alkaline. Trees that do well where I live are Elms, Live and Post Oaks, Pecans, Mesquite and Juniper ("cedars"), to name a few.
There are long drought periods and lots of intense heat
and sun much of the year. This past year we've seen very
little rain at all.
Still I LOVE Japanese landscapes and would like to introduce some Japanese Maples into mine. I've seen some good deals on them at Home Depot and other stores, but was warned that unless they are kept in heavy shade and have regular watering they will lose their leaves and/or will die. The leaves often do come back when the weather cools, but who wants a bare tree for more than half the year?
I will use as many native plants as possible. For instance, Flame Leaf Sumac is an okay substitute for Maples (they're small, turn a beautiful red/orange in fall and can be pruned to graceful shapes). But it's really not the same.
So here's my question: Shall I skip it or should I buy a few cheap trees and try them in different locations? If so, shall I amend the soil? With what? What should I avoid (besides strong sun)? It is early November and the rainy months are upon us, so if I'm going to transplant some gallon sized trees, this would probably be a good time to do it. I'm considering planting them as understory below several large live oaks and/or pecans.
I'd especially appreciate hearing from any Texans in my region who have had success in these conditions. I'd also be grateful for any general info about how to go about this.