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

Causes of death to Papershell pinion pine (Pinus remota)?
December 03, 2015 - Good afternoon. I did my best to review the site and have not found a comparable question - apologies if I have missed something. I own property equidistant between Leakey and Campwood off of HWY 33...
view the full question and answer

Information about Lemon Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)
December 16, 2007 - Lately, I've been seeing references to a tree/shrub called a "lemon cypress tree". It looks like a standard Italian cypress, but the foilage is yellow. I cannot find any reference to this plant e...
view the full question and answer

Possibility of growing a Lacey Oak in Katy, TX
April 04, 2011 - I live in Katy, TX - west of Houston and would like to place a Lacey Oak tree in my yard. We enjoyed this tree in our former home south of Dallas - and I understand it does better in alkaline soils; ...
view the full question and answer

What's causing holes in trunk of white oak tree in SouthBend IN?
June 10, 2013 - We have a huge White Oak in our backyard that is approx. 130 years old. This evening I became aware that there are several small holes around the trunk that appear to be oozing a dark sappy liquid. ...
view the full question and answer

Foundation plants for Albuquerque.
July 01, 2012 - Hello, I live in Albuquerque. I am looking for some native/xeric low water usage plants for foundation plants for my home. They will be foundation plants for a two story home that has a large ponde...
view the full question and answer

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