How Far do Tree Roots Grow Down

A recent blog published on Deeproot Urban Landscape looked at the depth of roots for several different types of trees.  They compared several different research papers to debunk a common myth about tree roots.  This group was interested in learning the answer to this question because they are focused on the improving green infrastructure through street trees.  As a home owner or landscape designer the study does have several relevant implications.

The study looked at 5 different tree species (Black Walnut, White Oak, Sugar Maple, Dogwood, and Eastern Red Cedar) in 2 different types of soils.

Lesson Learned:

The deeper the roots the more drought resistant a tree is. So be careful when planting a drought resistant tree because we know that they will grow deep roots.

Read entire blog here and find out how deep roots grow.


Ben is an employee of the Arbor Day Foundation. My favorite types of trees are flowering trees and my favorite tree is the Japanese Red Maple.


  1. I live in San Diego,CA. My condo complex is 30 years old. Our Luqidamber tree roots are damaging our sidewalks. Sidewalk repair people recomend we remove 30 plus trees for causeing the trouble. Do we have a choice? Do root barriers installed on a mature tree work? It seems like our only option is to remove and replace with more smaller or new trees in some type of root barrier, We have a bad combination of shallow soil and surface rooting trees. does the industry favor a certain type of root barrier? ie plastic or cloth with herbicides? thanks for any comments you may have.

  2. Hello Ken,

    I would recommend that you should take a look at the following resources, and share them with condo staff making the decision on new design of the sidewalks.

    Typically the problem has to do with the specifications used to create a sidewalk. With proper design tree roots and sidewalks can safely coexist and properly function together.

    Sincerely, Robert

    1. Tree City USA bulletin #3 – Resolving Tree-Sidewalk Conflicts

    2. Tripstop – Articulating Sidewalk Joint System

    -Ways to Save Trees

    -Construction Practices to Save Trees

    3. Up By Roots, by James Urban, FASLA, ISA

    Up By Roots is a manual for landscape architects, architects, urban foresters, and planners who are designing, specifying, installing and managing trees in the built environment. Part One discusses basic soil science and tree biology and their relationship to healthy trees. (Including good design concerning trees & sidewalks.)

    Part Two explains the process of planning and implementing landscape designs to ensure healthy trees that can improve the quality of places where people live, work and play. The book contains numerous illustrations and data in graphic form to provide guidance in the design of healthy soils and trees.


    5. Rootmaker

    P.O. Box 14553
    Huntsville, AL 35815
    Phone: (256) 882-3199

    Ask Wayne Hinton about the use of Rootmaker root barrier fabric. I believe they are starting to look at this product in the design of safer sidewalks.

    RootMaker, The Original Root Pruning Container System
    Screen clipping taken: 12/20/2010, 10:41 AM

    6. City of San Diego – Street Division – Urban Forestry

    As for which types of root barrier work best…contact your San Diego Urban Forestry to see which methods work best in your community. The answer may depend on your soil type and drainage.

    Drew Potocki, City Forester
    (619) 527-5486

    I hope these resources prove to be useful. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank for contacting the Foundation and for caring about trees.

    Sincerely, Robert

  3. Pingback: Arbor Day Tree Care & Landscape Design Blog » How Far do Tree … | Tree Services Austin

  4. Our neighbor has three queen palms that are shotting up so fast. They are right behind a common fence that seperates our properties. The housess are tiny, the land area small. Cosnidering palm trees have shallow roots we’re deeply concerned about them blowing down and injurying everyone with a radius commensurate to the height of the palms. Side from that threat we see a lot of roots in our yard and interfering with the health of our plants.

    With the recent almost 7 days of rain, and trees felled in the neighborhood because of that…….would you advise removing those palm treets?


    palm challenged

  5. My problem is at the base of our tree, braches are growing out. Some people have advice to cut them off then rub tar on them.Others like nurseries have recommnded to spray some of their paint they have for sell?

  6. I live on Long Island, NY and I have been researching the right tree to plant in my front yard. It is a full sun location and I would like a relatively large tree. I love the tree lined streets within my area and we just moved in this neighborhood in November. I finally settled on the Bur Oak b/c of the lack of surface roots, but unfortunately, we are having a difficult time finding one. What are your thoughts on some of my other choices, Sugar Maple, Northern Red Oak, Yellow Birch, Chestnut Oak or White Oak? thank you

  7. I just replaced a 10′ retaining wall. I was wondering, can I plant an arbervtae close to the wall or will the root system do the same thing as the sycamore that grew there. What has some hight with a small root system?

  8. Arborvitae do not have an aggressive root system, but I would make sure that you give them plenty of room to grow. You also want to find out what the mature spread of the arborvitae is and make sure that you plant them at least half the distance of the spread away from the retaining wall. I would also observe the planting location during the day to make sure that there is plenty of sunlight. Evergreens need a lot of sunlight to grow.

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