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 - May 13, 2010

From: Lakeway, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native Paulownia tree roots around pool in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We live in Lakeway (basically Austin) and planted a Paulownia tree in our back yard. It is growing well. However, since we planted it a couple of years ago we have put in an in-ground pool. During the two weeks it took them to chop out the hole we definitely received verification that our back yard is solid rock after about a foot of dirt. Now that the pool is in we are trying to ascertain if any of the trees behind it are too close and could cause damage with their roots. The tree I am speaking of is 11' from the wall of the pool. Can you tell us how close the Paulowia can safely be next to the walls of pool or home? We would rather be safe than sorry and have been unable to find anyone that knows enough about the roots of this tree to advise. Thank you for any help or referral you can provide.

ANSWER:

Before we answer your question, let us tell you what we know about the tree. It is variously called "Royal Empress," "Royal paulownia" and "Princess Tree." It is called a lot of other things by people who either inherited this tree in their yards, bought and planted one, or had one planted by seedlings. However, this is a family website and we can't repeat those things. 

Begin by reading, from the Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group Least Wanted : Royal Paulownia - Princess Tree - Royal Empress Tree - Paulownia tomentosa.

We would also like for you to read the comments on this Dave's Garden forum site on Paulownia tomentosa, in particular, the 7 negative comments.  Notice the comments about it showing up in disturbed ground, like where a swimming pool has been put in, and about the roots breaking up foundations, just from a seed that caught on the corner of that foundation and grew into a tree. Considering this tree is purported to grow 8 ft. a year, and that most trees have root system circumferences of 2 to 3 times the height of a tree, we would say your pool, sidewalks, house foundation and maybe the next-door neighbor's foundations are all at risk. If you planted it only a couple years ago, maybe it has not yet started seeding. If you let it live long enough to seed, not only will you be fighting a grove of these plants, but your pool will be a mess all the time. 

Our advice is to get rid of it while you still can. Roots will send up suckers trying to survive, and you will have to be after them all the time, and we just hope it has cast no seeds yet. Please, not in Austin, we are already having enough trouble with invasives.

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Mexican Lime Turning Yellow
March 25, 2015 - What causes moderate yellowing of 40% of the leaves of an 8 year old Mexican Lime Tree that is booming and blooming right now with lots of thick new growth? I used a general garden fertilizer a few ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of non-native nectarine tree from Lakeway TX
December 16, 2010 - Could you describe when and how a nectarine tree should be pruned? Or, give us a resource for such information? Also, when and what type of treatment/pesticide (?) should one use on it in the Austi...
view the full question and answer

Regulations for transporting plants to Texas from Florida
July 29, 2008 - We are relocating to TX from FL, I have a collection of potted palm trees and quite a few potted tropical plants (none are invasive)that I would like to bring with us, we will be traveling by car and ...
view the full question and answer

Magnolia and non-native weeping willow competing in Annapolis
October 19, 2010 - We planted a sweetbay magnolia next to a Weeping Willow in our yard and did not anticipate the willow would grow so quickly and into the magnolia. We have had the magnolia now for 3 years, and it is c...
view the full question and answer

How to produce ivy with large, green leaves
May 25, 2007 - How can I keep an Ivy green? When it was purchased it was green and had BIG leaves. How can I get the leaves to grow big again and get it green?
view the full question and answer

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