The Best Way to Cover Your Exposed Tree Roots

The Best Way to Cover Your Exposed Tree Roots

We love seeing our trees grow tall and wide, but their sprawling roots are harder to adore. Often unsightly, they can also be an obstacle and make lawn care a hassle.

In short, above-ground tree roots are a pain. Chances are you’ve thought about removing the roots altogether. Bad news, though. Pruning these roots often makes the tree unstable or unhealthy–and if done wrong, can kill the tree. So now what? Instead of cutting exposed tree roots, try covering them.

Browse this list to find the perfect way to cover your tree roots above ground.

Choosing the Best Way to Cover Exposed Tree Roots

Can you put grass or flowers over exposed tree roots?

While you can go this route, you may run into issues down the road. Ever wonder why grass or flowers under your tree die so fast? It’s because the tree’s shady canopy blocks other plants from getting enough sunlight. Plus, the tree roots take most of the water in the soil for themselves.

If you can find a grass or flower that thrives in the shade and needs little water, this may work. But it will be tricky!

Is it okay to add topsoil over tree roots growing above ground?

Adding topsoil over tree roots presents some problems, too. If you use the wrong soil or pack on too much, the tree won’t get enough water to stay hydrated. Plus, the roots will likely grow through the soil you just added before long.

In short, this doesn’t work well and won’t last.

How about covering with concrete?

Setting a few stepping stones is a smart way to make a path around the roots. Pouring a coat of concrete is a different story. Concrete blocks tree roots from oxygen and water. As time goes on, tree roots need fresh air, so they’ll again grow above ground. This time, they’ll crack the concrete, making a big mess.

Should I cover tree roots with mulch then? What about gravel?

Yes, in fact, mulch is the best way to cover tree roots above ground. When you add 2-3 inches of organic mulch, you get double the benefits. It gives your landscape a clean look and moisturizes and protects the roots.

You can sub in gravel as a low-maintenance alternative to mulch. Though there are some risks. Gravel can compact the soil and heat up the ground in summer, which causes problems. If you want to go with gravel anyway, cover the roots with landscape fabric and spread no more than two inches of gravel for the best results.

Learn more about why mulching above-ground tree roots is best in this video.

  • the Tree Doctor November 29, 2018 >Hi Todd, Your best option is to cover the soil where the roots are causing an eyesore with a 2-3 inch layer or wood chip mulch. This will hide the roots from view as well as provide improved soil conditions for root development that will prove beneficial for the tree. You will also not need to mow the area, reducing potential injury to the roots. Trying to cut and remove the offending roots may have a significant negative impact on the health of the tree or affect its stability. You can also have a certified arborist come out and inspect the tree and the root system in person. They will be able to come up with the best course of action for the situation if you do in fact decide to start cutting roots. Hopefully, this helps. Best of luck to you, Todd.
  • Todd DuBois November 26, 2018 >I have a large Ash Tree with its roots above ground in my grass area in several areas and headed to my patio. One looks like an anaconda snake in my yard. I love the tree but its roots are causing an eye sore and mowing issue. I was told to water deeply an the roots would go back below ground but it had the reverse effect. I would use mulch but it in my grass area....... I don't want to lose the tree if possible.
  • The Tree Doctor June 14, 2018 >Hi Lisa, Surface roots can cause several types of issues depending on the severity and site conditions. Severing roots is sometimes an option, but that can depend on the size, location, and number cut. Improper root pruning can severely injure the tree or affect its stability. Surface mulching with wood chips is generally the best solution. I would highly recommend having a certified arborist come out and look if you decide to go the cutting route. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area. Here is a resource that can help you hire a certified arborist or reputable tree care company in your area: Hopefully, this helps. Here if you have any more questions, Lisa.
  • Lisa Tuell June 14, 2018 >I have large oak trees in front of my patio and its roots are above ground. Some have the hole look in them but they flat to the ground and we can mow over them and others a little higher. Still an eye sore around the patio area. I understand putting soil on them could cause rot so what about regular flowers because honestly I've never had much luck with ground coverage and I'm not that big of a fan of it. The roots are inconsistent as well lots around tree then some here then a few here and so on it'd look like a huge mulch pile right in the front yard. Help lol
  • The Tree Doctor April 9, 2018 >Hi Ron. Maple trees commonly form surface roots as the roots increase in diameter and the soil settles. Cutting them may seriously harm the tree, depending on how many are removed, so we typically don’t recommend that practice. If the roots must be covered, we recommend using a wood chip mulch. A depth of 2-4 inches is preferred. If you wish to use an inorganic mulch, igneous rocks, such as granite, are preferred over sedimentary rocks like limestone. Hopefully this helps, Ron! Please feel free to reach back out with any further questions.
  • ron kent April 8, 2018 >we have a maple tree in our front yard that is about 20' tall and its roots are popping out about 4-6" out as far as 6' from the trunk of the tree. we want to put in decomposed granite about 3' away from the trunk but I am concerned for the tree and for the damage the tree may do to the landscaping we do. Should we consider removing the tree?
  • The Tree Doctor September 12, 2017 >Hi Linda. You can try to seed now, as this is the correct time of year to do so. However, in the long run, additional soil over the tree root system is detrimental to tree health and the tree will probably produce other surface roots over time. Hope this helps, Linda.
  • LINDA WELLS September 9, 2017 >I want to grow grass over tree roots. your example in photo is not my situation. I have flat tree roots that a ride on for the most part can go over without harming the blade - but a few are a bit higher - so I was thinking to spread soil and grass seed now - in the fall.
  • The Tree Doctor July 31, 2017 >Hi Joan! Have you tried to cover the exposed roots with mulch yet? If you have and had issues with that washing away, we recommend planting a groundcover or grass seed that can thrive in the shade. Here if you have any other questions, Joan. You can email us at Thanks for reaching out!
  • Joan Hendrickson July 28, 2017 >Slope between my property and neighbor. 15feet wide. Shaded because of his trees my garage. Tree roots exposed and nothing grows about 25 feet down slope. Keeps washing. How to patch?
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