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

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

Spraying paint on White Pine tree trunks
October 31, 2011 - Is there a paint that is safe to spray on a tree trunk without damaging/killing the tree? We have White Pines that have ~16" spacing without limbs & would like to 'camouflage' the bare space. If pa...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in Mountain Laurel in San Antonio, TX
June 03, 2011 - I planted a 2 ft. tall Texas mountain laurel a month ago. Some of the leaves have turned very yellow and some of them are falling off. The plant doesn't look real healthy in general. I did add s...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing, Horse-safe Pasture Tree for Okeechobee, FL
July 05, 2012 - I'm looking for a fast growing tree to plant in pasture that's safe for horses.
view the full question and answer

Cupressaceae dying in Suffolk Co.NY
October 20, 2012 - I have noticed that all of my Cupressaceae (& others I see in my area) are dying. They turn yellow, then rust & brown til they are everbrowns. what is going on?
view the full question and answer

Anacacho orchid not leafing out in Georgetown TX
April 18, 2013 - February 2012 I planted 2 4-ft anacacho orchids which did well. This spring, they have yet to leaf out or even bud. There is green, however, when I scratch the stems and some suckers at the bottom of ...
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