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Monday - November 24, 2008

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents, Shrubs
Title: Is a Texas Mountain Laurel too messy for swimming pool area?
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Our landscaper has recommended a Texas Mountain Laurel to plant beside our swimming pool. We recently removed Cherry Laurels from the same location because of the mess they made in the pool (especially the filter) while blooming. I would love to have a Mountain Laurel, but it is going to cause the same types of problems?


We can understand how you might think you would have similar problems, because each plant has the word "laurel" in its common name. However, they are not even closely related. Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry) is a member of the Rosaceae family, and therefore more closely related to your garden roses. Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) is a member of the Fabaceae family, or pea family. 

So, since you've obviously already eliminated the cherry laurel from consideration, as in dug it up, let's talk about the Texas Mountain Laurel. This is pretty much a southwest Texas plant, so we went to the USDA Plant Profile that shows the county distribution of Sophora secundiflora.  It does not appear that it grows naturally anywhere in the Dallas area. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we always recommend that plants in landscapes be not only natives of North America, but of the area in which they are being grown. The reasons for that include moisture needed, soil tolerances, hardiness zone, etc. One source said that it was doubtful that it would be cold hardy north of IH-20.

In our research, we never found anyone who said "this is one messy plant!", but we're not sure just how messy it would be in relation to your swimming pool filter. Although evergreen, it is going to shed some leaves year-round to be replaced by new ones. It has huge clusters of blooms, and when they dry and fall off, they have to go somewhere. Their seed pods are big, with lots of poisonous seeds in them, which also are going to fall. It grows very slowly, and when purchased from a nursery, needs to be small because of the very long taproot this plant develops. Damage to that taproot in transplanting can cause transplant shock and the plant will die. It can be grown from seeds, in place, but they are difficult to germinate, and sometimes take years to do so. They don't compete well with other nearby plants for space, nutrients or water, and are not very disease resistant. And they have a mind of their own about when they want to begin blooming; that, too, can take years of maturity.

Don't get us wrong. We love the Texas Mountain Laurel. In its native habitat, it is stunning. In the right spot, in town, it's a focal point. But it terms of whether it's worth the trouble and time necessary to grow it versus how much mess it's going to make in your pool, we have no way of deciding. It's possible that no shrub or tree is going to be compatible with the sanitary needs of your pool filter. You might consider some smaller, lower plants like Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) (a grass-like plant), Hesperaloe parviflora (redflower false yucca), or an evergreen shrub like Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) as alternative plant accents in your pool area. 

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Hesperaloe parviflora

Nolina texana

Morella cerifera




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