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?


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 - September 30, 2012

From: Paragould, AR
Region: Southeast
Topic: Septic Systems, Trees
Title: Tree roots in sewer from Paragould AR
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have beautiful pecan trees, an apple in the back yard, a pine on the west side of the house and pecan trees in the front yard. Two trees are interrupting my sewer systems (at least one in the back yard) and other than getting rid of them, is there anything I can do to curb the root growth in the sewer drain that I just spent a bunch of money to have cleaned out. I do have a "clean out" in the back yard that makes it easier to access from the outside and not under the house. Can there be root structure dug up to make sure my dilemna doesn't happen again and not kill the trees?


We know a lot about trees and zip about sewer lines. We have in the past experienced this very problem. It was way in the past, because our sewer lines were terra cotta (yes, like your garden pots) and they were't just plugged, they were demolished. This took some major work by contractors and plumbers, replacing the "pot lines" with a poly pipe. We lived there several years longer and had no more problem, but the tree roots probably got in those lines later. There is no magic product to keep lines clear, and we are always in favor of bringing in people who know what they are doing. Many of the articles we read suggested the use of copper sulfate, which is quite poisonous; so much so, that it is suggested that if you flush it down a toilet, you leave the house for 24 hours. Not crazy about poisons. However, to permit you to research the various options, we found several different resources you should read.  This is way out of our line of expertise, except to say that tree roots do grow farther out than the circumference of the top of the trees. If you are forced to choose between the roots and the sewers, we would certainly want to keep the trees, on the other hand, the sewer......

Please look at the research we did; you are the only one that can decide this matter, but you need to get professional help and be sure you understand what is being recommended.

YouTube Ask the Builder. Roots in Sewer Lines.

PipeDoctor USA 5 Steps to Dealing with Invasive TreeRoots

eHow.com Home How to Get Rid of Roots in a Sewer Pipe




More Trees Questions

Roots in foundation of home in Audubon NJ
February 17, 2012 - I live in an old house (almost 90 years old), and within the past year I have noticed in one area the concrete basement floor breaking. Today I finally made time to investigate. In these old houses ...
view the full question and answer

Time to transplant an Eastern Redbud in Pearland, TX
November 17, 2010 - When is the best time in the fall to transplant an Eastern Redbud tree in Pearland, TX? We have one approximately 6 feet tall in the back yard and want to move it to the front ASAP.
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing evergreens for privacy in Center, TX
March 30, 2010 - I live in East Texas and am looking for a fast growing evergreen for a privacy screen around my backyard. The area gets partial sun and the soil has a lot of clay in it.
view the full question and answer

Need information about pruning Persimmon trees in Buda, TX.
November 29, 2010 - Mr. Smarty, We have many wild persimmon trees in our yard. Some I want prune to bush size. What is the best way to prune these trees and to what extent can they be safely pruned. Thank you for shari...
view the full question and answer

Plants for under non-native fruitless mullberry trees from Ft. Worth TX
June 28, 2012 - I live in Tarrant county, where summer droughts are the norm. I have a 150x50 foot swathe of mature "fruitless mulberry" trees, which create a very shady atmosphere. The soil is clay dominated, ro...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center