Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Monday - October 26, 2009

From: Kaysville, UT
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Invasive Plants, Problem Plants
Title: Containing roots in Kaysville UT
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I'm planting my yard in all native Rocky Mountain and Great Basin plants. Is there a way to halt or contain the root propagation of Smooth Leaf Sumac and Quaking Aspen? I've considered digging down some depth to place barriers to contain the shoots to a specific area but don't know if this would be effective. My soil is medium to light clay with varying amounts of moisture and sunlight depending on the location.

ANSWER:

Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) Quaking aspen reproduces rapidly from seed and root suckers. It is short-lived and plagued by disease and insect problems, but is practically indifferent to soil conditions. From the USDA Forest Service website Populus tremuloides you will get a lot of technical information on how and why this plant suckers, but not much suggestion in how to limit it. 

Rhus glabra (smooth sumac) is the only plant native to all 48 contiguous state. Sumacs will grow in dry waste areas, such as impossible slopes where even junipers struggle. They are fast growing, generally pest and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single, suckering parent. Only female plants produce flowers and berries.

Ordinarily, when we are asked about control of suckering, it has to do with a tree or plant that has been cut down, and the gardener is trying to eliminate. The suckering, besides propagating the plant, is also a defense mechanism against damage, such as being cut down. In those cases, we recommend cutting off or pulling the suckers immediately when they reappear. For saplings already established from the parent root, the best way is to cut them off close to the ground and paint the cut surface within five minutes with a broad-spectrum herbicide. This gives the herbicide access to the roots befoe the cut begins to heal over to protect itself. However, in your case, you probably don't want to do that as you apparently wish to keep the parent trees.

We found a couple of articles about installation of root barriers, but these had to do with protecting foundations from encroaching tree roots. The first is from Horticulture Update from the Texas A&M University Cooperative Extension, Root Barriers. Another article, Root Barriers Prevent Costly Damage offers some more possibilities.

We have no personal experience with these procedures, but hope you can develop your own way of dealing with those roots.


Populus tremuloides

Populus tremuloides

Rhus glabra

Rhus glabra

 


 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Invasive, non-native Siberian peashrub for waller TX
February 02, 2012 - Good Morning Mr. Smarty Plants! I am trying to find out if the Siberian Pea Shrub is a good plant for Southeast Texas or if it is considered an invasive no no. It seems to have many qualities for wild...
view the full question and answer

Is Ruellia aggressive?
July 06, 2014 - Is Ruellia aggressive?
view the full question and answer

Grass for Seattle Arboretum
May 20, 2012 - I am writing to you on behalf of the Arboretum at South Seattle Community College Arboretum. I am interested in Panicum virgatum Switch Grass as a plant for a very heavy clay garden in our Arboretum a...
view the full question and answer

Non-native invasive Siebold viburnum from Isleboro ME
June 17, 2012 - I was given several small Siebold Viburnum for planting on my Maine property. Even though it is often for sale in nurseries, I'm aware it is listed as invasive in several eastern states. Shouldn't I...
view the full question and answer

Plants for under pine trees in Colorado Springs CO
April 23, 2011 - What can I plant under pine trees in Colorado that will grow every year? Would like ground cover; tried bishop weed.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.