En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - March 01, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Live oak roots and house foundation in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our builder left a live oak on our lot that is 7' from our foundation. The tree is now around 18' tall with a 20" circumference. Will this tree eventually cause damage to our foundation and is there some way to prune a live oak to make the tree grow away from our roof?

ANSWER:

While it is certainly true that tree roots can grow up to three times the spread of a tree, the problem in foundations, especially in our very dry climate, is soil subsidence. The tree root does its part on this by looking for water and sucking it up, but the very dry soil is probably going to drop and shrink anyway, and that is much more likely to cause the foundation damage then the tree roots. That having been said, 7' is still pretty close to a house for a tree that will grow as big as a live oak, and not just because of the roots. There is really no way to tell a live oak to grow in another direction, and the branches against your roof can definitely cause problems. Insects, not to mention squirrels and raccoons, consider tree branches against a house as an open invitation to come in, have a bite to eat, and spend the winter. Certainly a trained arborist could prune the branches away from the house, but when you prune a plant, where does the new growth appear? Right, it appears in the area you pruned. And you surely don't want to be pruning now, as the Nitiludid beetle is most active in this area from now until May or June. That pesky bug also considers newly cut or damaged tree trunks or branches as an invitation. And, in that case, this often results in the spread of Oak Wilt disease, which has no known cure but prevention. We can't really recommend one way or the other on removing the tree (we assume you choose the house over the tree?) but you should certainly get the opinion of the aforementioned tree specialist. We would suggest you contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office in Travis County for possible information on this subject, and/or referral to an experienced arborist.
 

More Trees Questions

Shumard Oak failing to leaf out in Pflugerville TX
March 27, 2010 - I planted a five gallon container grown Shumard Red Oak late last October and so far this spring there is no sign of any leaves on the tree. The branches are not brittle so I don't think that the tre...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting a native Texas Persimmon in Austin
October 18, 2008 - I have a Texas Persimmon, approx. 2.5 feet tall, growing in a 5 gal. pot. When should it be transplanted and where? How much sun? Could it grow in a larger pot for a time> Do deer like it? Thank ...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestion for a replacement tree in Dallas, TX.
January 23, 2013 - We are going to have a 25' tall tree removed and ground out because every year squirrels chew the branches and make huge piles on the deck and into the pool. This continues for a good month 1.5. Hen...
view the full question and answer

Killing regrowing shoots of a downed hackberry tree
June 28, 2013 - Hackberry plants won't die. You and others have suggested to cut the suckers or saplings to get rid of them. Over the years I have continued to cut the same saplings and the only thing I have now ar...
view the full question and answer

Need to know how to plant trees to create a windbreak in Ashburn, VA.
May 06, 2010 - I want to know how to plant trees to create windbreaks. I live on a slope of a hill, the front of the house is steep and the back of the house has neighbors in a cul de sac. I swear I live in a wind...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center