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
1 rating

Sunday - July 24, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Root barriers for invasive plant roots from neighbor in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My neighbor's invasive plantings are invading my yard. He has Chinese parasol, China berry, Japanese honeysuckle, privets, ligustrums and native Mustang grape vines planted so closely together they are fighting for water and light. The vines are on his fence and the trunks of the trees and shrubs actually touch it; many are within 10' of my house. They suck up the water I use on my native shrubs and in this drought I am watching every drop I use. I fear some root will undermine my foundation as it searches for more water. He won't remove any of the plantings. He does water, but I continue to find and fight the root suckers or baby plants that have managed to erupt through the caliche at least 40' from the adult plants. Another more tactful neighbor made suggestions about thinning the plantings to relieve their stress, but that fell on deaf ears. I've contemplated trenching along my side of the the property line and installing a root barrier right next to his fence. Will that stop the invasions? Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

You have several major problems, as we are sure you know, and not much of any way of solving them with plants, which is what Mr. Smarty Plants tries to do. Of course, if gardeners all listened to Mr. Smarty Plants in the beginning, there would be no non-native invasives such as Firmiana simplex (Chinese Parasol), Melia azedarach (Chinaberry), Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle), or Ligustrum japonicum ( privet) being planted in the Austin area, but obviously there are. Each link above will take you to a website that tells why these plants are so undesirable.

You are probably not going to be able to convince your neighbor to control or remove his invasive plants. Even if the homeowner went out today and cut down all the alien invasives, their seeds and roots would perpetuate their existence. We did a little research on Root Barrier instructions, most of which were advertisements, but this one seems to have some good advice.

About all you can do is fight a defensive action. Putting down a root barrier on your property line, cutting off any roots coming onto your property and perhaps painting the stubs with an herbicide might slow down the progress of those roots. If you choose the cutting and herbicide route, use an undiluted solution and a small disposable sponge paintbrush, painting the cut surface immediately so the herbicide will be absorbed before the root starts healing over to protect itself. This is not going to be sufficient to kill the neighbor's tree, but might keep that particular root from regenerating into your space. When you have dug out a trench and treated such roots as you can, then you can get the root barrier in. We have no personal experience with this, so you might want to get professional help.

Beyond that physical barrier, you will have to be vigilant about suckers and seedlings in your garden, removing them by pulling, cutting or mowing as quickly as possible. Our hope is that other gardeners planning their landscaping will read this and understand the damage they can do to the environment and to neighborhood relations by putting in plants that are non-native, invasive and totally undesirable. You and other interested gardeners should read our How-To Article When is a Guest a Pest? The best way to control invasive plants is to never plant them.

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Invasive non-native mulberry and groundcover in Jacksonville FL
October 02, 2011 - Northeast Florida (Jacksonville) inland. My mulberry tree provides dense shade in the summer and filtered light the other seasons, leaving sand in its growing area. What fast growing ground cover woul...
view the full question and answer

Why are invasive, non-natives being sold from Hillsboro TX
August 03, 2012 - Why are nurseries allowed to grow and sell seed from invasive non-native plants like: johnson grass, bermuda grass, and king ranch bluestem? Many times when I contact a nursery or seed distributor as...
view the full question and answer

Non-native ligustrum in non-native fescue in Medina TX
May 22, 2013 - Is there an effective way to kill baby ligustrums coming up in my fescue yard without harming the grass?
view the full question and answer

Will Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) roots cause problems in a leach field?
January 14, 2010 - A new neighbor is concerned my Arbovitae's root system will go into his leach field. His house has been there also for the same amount of time as the tree and the field. The tree is 45 years old. Do...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive bermudagrass from Memphis TN
August 17, 2012 - I live in central Memphis and have well-drained clay soil. I have converted much of the front yard from turf grass to beds of native plants, which survive our hot humid without supplemental watering e...
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