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?


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


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


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

Oak Wilt in Georgetown, TX
November 17, 2014 - We have lost several live oaks to oak wilt. Another couple are dying but still have some green leaves. Is it OK to cut down these trees now or should we wait until they are entirely dead? I've heard ...
view the full question and answer

Leaves on 3 year old maple turning brown in Lebo, KS.
July 16, 2011 - Hello, one of our five Maple trees which is is 3 yrs. old now, we saw a week ago that the leaves started turning brown and dropping. My question is: Will the tree survive this and return healthy next ...
view the full question and answer

Yucca rostrata needs some help in Austin, TX.
September 16, 2013 - We planted an expensive 5-6 foot Yucca rostrata last fall. It bloomed beautifully in the spring. We installed an irrigation link to water the recently planted areas with succulents, viburnums, spart...
view the full question and answer

Perennial Suggestions for Under Ash Trees in Minnesota
June 12, 2013 - With our house we have inherited 2 ash trees in our front yard with a large amount landscaping underneath. I'm replacing the landscaping but there are tree roots at the surface preventing me from bei...
view the full question and answer

Will Fragrant Ash grow in Bowie County TX?
April 24, 2011 - I live in south Bexar County in very fine deep sand. Will the Fraxinus cuspidata grow in my soil and temperature?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center