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
3 ratings

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

Killing mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) with propane torch
January 14, 2010 - Can I kill mesquite with intense fire, such as a 1.2 million BTU propane torch? I know mesquite bounces back from cutting at the soil line. The trees are in Elgin. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Distinguishing native Celastrus scandens from non-native C. Orbiculatus from Lexington MA
June 08, 2014 - Dear Mr. Plants, I maintain a wildflower garden with the Lexington Field and Garden Club in Lexington, Massachusetts. Every year, I pull up sprouts of Celastris orbiulatis. I want to plan...
view the full question and answer

Removing invasive Dichelostemma firecracker plant from Austin
April 12, 2012 - We have dichelostemma firecracker plant & cannot kill it. We need help in getting rid of this plant. Spent another 3 hours digging up corms this afternoon. It is invading our backyard & want it kil...
view the full question and answer

What to do about bastard cabbage in the Austin area?
May 08, 2015 - I am noticing bastard cabbage taking over roadsides and medians at an alarming rate where a mixture of native flowers used to bloom. Is it allowable to organize efforts to pull the invasive plants ou...
view the full question and answer

Possibility of camas being raised in Edmonton, Alberta
September 18, 2007 - I live in Edmonton, Alberta, and wish to find out how "Camassia (leichtlinii white) will fare in this zone.
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center