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
2 ratings

Saturday - July 13, 2013

From: Wallingford, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Pruning, Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Will catalpa roots damage a nearby swimming pool?
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Will a catalpa tree cause problems to my swimming pool? It is 8 feet away and I cut all the branches off every fall. It then grows back to about 6 feet in diameter an makes a great garden feature but I am worried if it will hurt my pool. It is about 9 years old now. Thanks so much

ANSWER:

Most arborists would say that 8 feet is too close to your pool.  But I have not read of any case of damage to pools or house foundations by catalpa roots.  However, both the Catalpa speciosa (Northern catalpa), which I expect you have, or the Catalpa bignonioides (Southern catalpa) have extensive root systems.  My biggest cause for concern is whether your pool may have a hairline crack, leading to a slow seepage of water in the direction of the tree.  Tree roots tend to grow strongly in the direction of any water source.  So the first step is to inspect the pool for possible leaks.

I would suggest that at the time that you trim branches off in the fall you also dig a trench parallel to and about two feet from the end of the pool.  Trim off cleanly any tree roots that are growing towards the pool and bury some kind of root deflector to prevent roots from growing past that point.  These deflectors, or root barriers, can be found advertized on the Internet.  I have myself found this particular product to be sturdy.  Few large roots would grow towards the pool at a depth exceeding eighteen inches, so your deflector should extend to two feet below the surface.  To further reduce the chances of root problems, restrict any hand watering of the tree to the side away from the pool.

You are already aware of the positive and negative attributes of Catalpa trees. Trimming off the branches does prevent the dropping of seed pods during the winter.  With care you should be able continue growing your tree without harm to the pool.

 

From the Image Gallery


Northern catalpa
Catalpa speciosa

Southern catalpa
Catalpa bignonioides

More Trees Questions

Leaves dropping on evergreen sumac in San Antonio
January 11, 2012 - I have a large evergreen sumac in my back yard that started off as a small shrub 10 years ago. This summer the leaves turned red and now have dropped off. Is the plant dead? It sent out two smaller pl...
view the full question and answer

Small flowering tree for MS
March 21, 2011 - I had to cut down some trees that had grown too close to my foundation, but would like to re-plant something a little farther from the house (12-16 feet away) that would still serve as a screen outsid...
view the full question and answer

Are non-native Chinese pistache poisonous to alpacas from Galt CA
October 07, 2012 - Are Chinese Pistachio trees poisonous to alpacas?
view the full question and answer

Potential danger of oak wilt in live oaks in Dallas, TX
February 17, 2005 - Do you have or know of any recent publications that discuss a potential oak wilt problem in live oaks in the Dallas area? We strongly believe that live oaks have a great landscape value and are tryi...
view the full question and answer

Native Texas tree for anniversary in Austin
May 20, 2009 - My husband and I would like to plant a tree in our yard commemorating our 5 year anniversary (wood anniversary). What native Texas tree can we plant in June? I love Red buds and any pretty blooming ...
view the full question and answer

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