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

Apple trees for Dothan, AL
April 01, 2009 - I would like to plant early, mid and late season apple trees in my area Dothan Al.What types can I plant that will help pollinate each other? I have plenty of room and planting some crabapples trees w...
view the full question and answer

Loss of bloom on Fremontodendron californicum in California
June 11, 2009 - The flowers on my Flannel Bush all died at once I have noticed a sappy substance at the base of the trunk. There are still some flowers on bush but most are dead. It has been blooming since Feb. Is ...
view the full question and answer

Can a Quaking aspen grow in central Texas?
August 11, 2015 - I live in Austin and like the idea of a Quaking Aspen tree. I live on a creek and the tree(s) would get good sun and water. Am I crazy?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of shrub with thorns and purple flowers
July 05, 2011 - I have a small tree or shrub, it has very small or thin thorns on the branches. It blooms in April / May. The flowers are purple. My mother-in-law said that it has been around for over 100 years, b...
view the full question and answer

Deciduous tree with tap root
August 04, 2008 - I have a 13 foot space between two town houses and would like to plant a slender deciduous tree up to 30 feet in height with a tendency to tap root so as not to disturb the foundation of the houses. ...
view the full question and answer

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