Contact Us Host an Event 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
1 rating

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

Problems with yellow lantana in Smoaks SC
June 05, 2010 - My yellow lantanas are about five years old - big and beautiful, but beginning last year, the blooms are small and part of the tiny petals are brown or black. Can you tell me what I can do about this ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive mimosa trees in Vincennes IN
April 29, 2014 - I have 3 Mimosa trees here in Vincennes, Indiana and so far none of them are leafing out this spring (4-28-14) Do you think that this past winter could have killed then?
view the full question and answer

Texas native bamboo vs. non-native for hedge.
August 25, 2008 - Why is Mr. Smarty Plants so against bamboo when there is a native American/Texan bamboo and an active bamboo society in the Austin area? I live in Central East Austin and I need the cheapest, fas...
view the full question and answer

Cold hardy non-native fig tree for Dallas
July 04, 2008 - Do you know the best cold hardy fig tree that will grow and fruit in Dallas, Texas?
view the full question and answer

Identification of red/yellow/black flower in California
April 15, 2013 - Plant found, April Mount Diablo CA 6 symmetrical petals red with a pattern of a yellow flower with black edge in the centre, I can not identify, please help.
view the full question and answer

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