En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - July 01, 2008

From: Huntsville, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Effects of concrete patio poured around tulip poplar tree
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a beautiful tulip poplar tree in our back yard that we wanted to be the focal point of our patio. We had seen pictures of patios with trees incorporated in patios leaving two to three feet of soil around the trunk. After a friend saw what we had done she informed us the tree might die even though we left a green space around the trunk. What can we do to prevent this from happening now that we have already poured the patio?

ANSWER:

Oops, you just joined the "leap before you look" club, which has a large membership. Preventing damage to the tree would have included not pouring the patio around it. You should never trust pictures you see in home or garden magazines as a guide for your landscaping decisions. The tree you saw may have been a very small tree, or a bush trained into a tree. The patio around it, in fact, may have been open-slatted wood. Or it may have just been a mistake.

Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree) is a native of North America, and if you follow the link to the webpage on this tree in our Native Plant Database, you will see a note, down near the bottom of the page, which says: "Tulip tree is insect and disease free. It is intolerant of compacted soil and should not be placed in confined beds or planters near pavement. It grows very rapidly in deep, rich well-drained soils with uniform rainfall. Dry summer weather causes physiological problems. Tulip tree drops its foliage in response to drought and is somewhat weak-wooded."

Tree roots develop and survive where there is adequate oxygen and moisture. Most active tree roots are in the top 3 feet of soil; the majority are in the top 12 inches. The more compacted or poorly drained the soil, the closer the roots are to the soil surface. Roots normally grow outward to about 3 times the branch spread. This tree can grow up to 150 ft. tall, with proportional width, so you can imagine how far how the roots are going to be going, even when the tree is still very young. So, what's going to happen? Well, the tree is not going to do well, but it has a strong will to survive. So, those roots (remember, the most active ones are in the top 12 inches of the soil), are going to keep pushing up, hunting oxygen and moisture. And the patio concrete will start to crack. You can always leave it, and let them fight it out. However, when and if you get ready to sell your house, a back garden centered by a crumbling cement slab and a drooping, perhaps dying tree, is not going to add to the sales appeal.


Liriodendron tulipifera

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Selecting a tree for a backyard in San Antonio, TX
May 11, 2013 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants, I recently moved into a home in West San Antonio right outside Loop 1604..my treeless backyard is fairly small at about 55 ft long and 15 ft wide. I am torn because I can't ...
view the full question and answer

Effects of drought and insects on junipers
August 06, 2007 - We live on acreage about 18 miles southwest of Austin. Ever since we moved here about 6 years ago, we've noticed that our mature Ashe junipers seem to be in some sort of decline with foliage graduall...
view the full question and answer

Native tree for San Diego, California
September 19, 2010 - I have conflicting info about the Mayten tree. Pro: recommended patio tree, medium water needs, does not drop seed or leaves. Con: broadly invasive suckers, messy drop. I am in San Diego, Californ...
view the full question and answer

Trees and other plants for privacy along lake shoreline
March 09, 2013 - We are purchasing a new home that has a 2 acre lake. We would like to add some plants/trees for privacy around the shore line. Can you suggest something that would fill in nicely and is strong enoug...
view the full question and answer

Time to transplant an Eastern Redbud in Pearland, TX
November 17, 2010 - When is the best time in the fall to transplant an Eastern Redbud tree in Pearland, TX? We have one approximately 6 feet tall in the back yard and want to move it to the front ASAP.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center