Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Thursday - September 18, 2014

From: Lubbock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Septic Systems, Trees
Title: Desert Willow Roots from Lubbock, TX
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I have a very, very happy Desert Willow that has grown larger than we expected and is probably too close to the house. Do I need to worry about a cracked foundation or pipe problems? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants is pleased that your Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) is healthy and growing well.  While it’s impossible to guarantee that you won’t have issues with your foundation or pipes, the indications are positive.  The reason is this, you do not have a “willow” as in the large trees with extensive large root systems.  Instead, the Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) is a member of the Bignoniaceae (Trumpet-Creeper Family).  Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) and Tecoma stans (Yellow bells) are two more familiar members of that family.  Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question/answer pair on Desert Willow roots. This answer indicates that the roots are more widespread and shallow.

  I also found a discussion on Angies List, the indication there was concern with shallow invasive roots, especially near septic systems. My interpretation of these two discussions is that you might be concerned if you have a septic system, but likely your foundation and pipes are reasonably safe from this tree.

 

From the Image Gallery


Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Southern catalpa
Catalpa bignonioides

More Septic Systems Questions

Wildflowers for leach field in Maine
October 31, 2010 - I am looking for a wildflower mix that would suitable to plant over a leach field. What plants should I look to avoid?
view the full question and answer

Native plants for septic field in Austin
March 14, 2011 - Do you have guidance for west Austin residents regarding landscaping a septic field with native plants?
view the full question and answer

Septic Field Recommendations for SW Austin
February 09, 2015 - What would be good native plants to vegetate septic drip fields in both sun and shade in Southwest Austin. The regulations want plants that are evergreen and shallow rooted.
view the full question and answer

Should non-native invasive Wisteria be planted near well and septic system?
May 05, 2010 - I was told not to plant my Wisteria vine near my septic or well because the root will get into it and cause me many problems. Is this true?
view the full question and answer

Shrubs and trees over septic tank in Killen AL
May 20, 2013 - Our church has 5year old blue rug juniper, a crape myrtle and two shrubs I can't identify planted over the septic tank which is surrounded with concrete and asphalt. I am afraid these will cause a pr...
view the full question and answer

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