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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 - December 08, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: How close can I plant Mountain Laurels to my house in Austin, TX?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Hello, I'm interested in planting 2 or 3 Texas Mountain Laurels on the side of my house and I'm wondering just how close is safe. I've been told that planting trees too close can damage the slab foundation, but I'm planning on keeping the tree around 10', and since it's supposed to dig it's roots deep rather than wide, I'm hoping I can keep them pretty close. What do you think?

ANSWER:

Mountain laurel Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) can be a spectacular addition to your landscape, and your concern about the foundation is understandable. However in the case of Sophora, it is not a big problem.
 I’m going to direct you to three links: the first from Iowa State University Extension tells about plant roots in general; the second, also from Iowa State, deals with Trees and Sidewalks; and the third article describes the Mountain Laurel and its planting and care.

From this reading, you can see that a shrub like Mountain Laurel does not produce the large lateral roots that you find in larger trees, so its threat to the foundation is minimal.  Mr. Smarty plants thinks that you need to focus on the top part of the plant. Putting it too close would allow it to interfere with the sides and and eaves of the house, as well as makeit difficult to trim and maintain the plant. Look around Austin for mature specimens of Mountain Laurel and try to visualize how they would look next to your house before deciding on your planting location. Proper pruning as the shrubs mature is important in maintaining the appearance of the plants.

I'm including two photos: one is of Mountain Laurel in a natural habitat, the other in an un-natural habitat.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

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