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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.

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

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Wednesday - August 06, 2008

From: Ottawa, ON
Region: Canada
Topic: Non-Natives, Planting, Shrubs
Title: Lilac bush roots dangerous to house foundations
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Are lilac bushes dangerous to the foundation of a house? There is a lovely white-blooming lilac that grows against the house outside my bedroom window. My ex-husband said that the roots would destroy the foundation and tried to kill the bush. It has come back, and I love the scent of the flowers coming through my window at night in the spring. Is it dangerous? I know willow tree roots are very invasive, and if the lilac is like that, I'll get rid of it. But I'm hoping it isn't.

ANSWER:

The common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, is a native of Europe and Asia; therefore, we have no information on it in our Native Plant Database. We can understand your wishing to keep your lilac, even though at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we encourage the use of plants native to North America and to the area in which the plant is being grown.

We looked and looked and looked without finding anything about damage to a foundation from lilac roots. Since they won't grow in hot country like Texas, we have no personal experience with them. We did find information that growing them over a septic field was not a good idea. Finally, in an article by Ron Smith, Horticulturist for North Dakota State University Extension Service, Questions on Lilacs, we found this question and answer:

Q: I have lilac bushes that apparently are planted too close to the foundation of my house. I’ve been told to move the bushes so they don’t cause a problem when they get bigger (with the drain tile and the foundation). How do I remove the bushes? Can I replant them in another location? When is the right time to do that?

A: I doubt the lilacs will be a problem to your drain tiles or foundation. If you still want to move them, now is not a good time. Early next spring or late this fall, after the foliage drops, would be better.

 

 

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