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
1 rating

Saturday - December 22, 2012

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Water Gardens, Trees
Title: Cover oak roots with a pond from Round Rock TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello! I have looked for this answer. We have 2 huge old beautiful live oaks. One is very close to the patio and house, and the other is about 20 feet of the house. Thus, part of their root systems are covered by the house. They were there first! Both are doing well. We are designing a pond in the yard. My question is whether it is safe to cover more live oak roots, about 20 feet out from the trunks. The pond will be lined, so I believe this will take some water away from the trees. The pond will not cover the entire areas, but will cover a big part of the yard starting just beyond one oak's canopy (about 20 feet from the trunk) and dipping under the other oak's canopy approximately 20 feet in and 20 feet in width. Do you think our pond plan is OK? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Which is more important? The pond or the oaks? We believe you are creating a large amount of impervious surface above those oak roots, just as if you were paving over the yard. As you say, the oaks were there first, and only you can decide if it is worth the risk.

An oak tree root system is extensive but shallow. The ground area at the outside edge of the canopy, referred to as the dripline, is especially important. The tree obtains most of its surface water here, and conducts an important exchange of air and other gases. Any change in the level of soil around an oak tree can have a negative impact. The most critical area lies within 6 to 10 feet of the trunk. No soil should be added or scraped away from that area. Construction activity is a great threat to trees. Do not allow any piling of materials, waste, etc. in the dripline area.

Paving should be kept out of the dripline and no closer than 15 feet from the tree trunk. If at all possible, use a porous paving material such as brick with sand joints, open bricks, bark, gravel, etc., which will allow some water penetration and gas exchange. Even with porous paving, the area around the trunk-at least a 10 foot radius-should be natural and uncovered

Water Gardening from How To Articles. From that article:

"Finding an ideal location for your pond should be your first consideration. It is possible to have a water garden in considerable (although not dense) shade, but leaves falling from nearby trees are a maintenance headache. Your largest selection of aquatic plants are those that grow in plenty of sun."

Previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer - Shade Trees Not Invasive to Foundations and Driveways

Previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer - Distance of oak tree to existing driveway in San Antonio

So, do we think your plan is okay? Sometimes when you can't find an answer to a question, it's because the answer is "no." There is absolutely no reason why you cannot do precisely as you have outlined. The trees might survive, but if they don't, you will need a Time Machine to fix it. You have asked our opinion. Since we live in dry, arid Texas, we would vote for the tree every time.

 

More Trees Questions

Southern Live Oak Authority for Jackson MS
June 23, 2016 - Who are the foremost authorities on Southern Live Oaks? May need expert testimony to oppose cutting of 50 year-old live oaks in boulevard of Riverside Drive in Jackson, MS
view the full question and answer

Will a Texas Mountain Laurel thrive in a 4'x4'x4' brick planter. pl
September 14, 2015 - Would a Texas Mountain Laurel thrive in a 4'x4'x4'x4' brick planter with a drain at the bottom? It will get full sun all day. If not, would a Green Cloud Sage or a Waxleaf Myrtle work? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Where to plant the Texas Olive tree?
November 11, 2009 - I need to know where to plant the Texas Olive Tree, and what kind of care is required, such as watering, pruning, fertilization.
view the full question and answer

Plants under an oak tree from Corpus Christi TX
June 30, 2012 - My project: To grow white turk's cap under an old oak tree I first planted St. Augustine sod this spring because we had many oak suckers around the tree. We mixed new soil and compost, and laid the ...
view the full question and answer

Why are my potted Prunus caroliniana plants shedding leaves in LA, CA?
May 02, 2011 - I bought Prunus caroliniana in pots to use as privacy fence on my balcony. Have had them for about 6 weeks and they are shedding a lot of leaves. Some leave are drying out and others have what ...
view the full question and answer

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