Fruit, Shade and Curbside Trees with Non-Invasive Root Systems

Fruit, Shade and Curbside Trees with Non-Invasive Root Systems

Walking through the local nursery and seeing all the flowering, fruiting and shaded treasures you can choose is pure joy.

As you’re picking the right tree for the right place, think about how big that tree will get–and how far its roots will spread. That way, you won’t have to cover up or deal with unsightly roots later.

If there are obstacles, like sidewalks, close to your planting site, pick a tree with a non-invasive, small root system. Below, learn the benefits of these trees and discover which tree is best for you!

Trees with Roots that Don’t Spread (By Zone)

Tree roots want all the water they can get! Sometimes that causes trees to prod underground structures, like water tanks and sewer lines. Homes, sidewalks and driveways are also in danger of becoming puckered or injured when roots tunnel under them.

Luckily, non-invasive root systems are less likely to interfere with sidewalks, sewers or your home. Plant a tree with non-invasive roots to solve problems brought on by protruding roots. Remember: Choose a plant in your zone for best results, and plant at the right time of year.

Fruit trees with non-invasive root systems (Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

  • Adams crabapple (zones 4-8): A vibrant burgundy-colored apple tree that’s notably resistant to common apple tree diseases, like fire blight and apple scab
  • Cornelian cherry dogwood (zones 4-8): A slow-growing plant that can be grown as a small tree or large shrub and has bunches of delicate yellow flowers
  • Pawpaw (zones 4-8): A tropical tree with large green fruit that tastes like banana or peach
  • Kousa dogwood (zones 5-8): An ornamental tree that produces pinkish-red fruits and grows clusters of white leaves in spring that look like flower petals

Shade trees with small root systems (Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

  • Amur maple (zones 3-8): A small shade tree with fiery red fall color
  • American hornbeam (zones 3-9): A birch tree that’s native to Chicago and grows well in shady landscapes
  • Trident maple (zone 5-8): A slow-growing shade tree that’s ideal for patios or curbside locations and tolerates a wide variety of soil types
  • Chinese pistache (zones 6-9): A mid-size plant with dark green leaves and small flowers that grows well in drought conditions
  • Southern sugar maple (zones 7-9): A short-spreading maple tree with yellow fall color and clusters of small hanging flowers
  • Red tip photinia (zones 8 and 9): A red-leafed shade tree with a shapely round canopy and white flowers that also tolerates heat and dryness

Shrubs and curbside trees with non-invasive roots (Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

  • Crape myrtle (zones 3-8): A brilliant pink flower tree commonly found in the South – which can be grown as a small curbside tree or large shrub
  • Skyrocket juniper (zones 4-9): A tall, skinny evergreen with blue-green foliage that’s low-maintenance and tolerant of hot and cold climates
  • Japanese maple (zones 5-8): A popular scarlet-red maple that will grow in shade or sunlight and is ideal for a patio or curbside location
  • Hollywood juniper (zones 5-9): A fast-growing evergreen shrub that is tolerant of salt, drought, wind and cold
  • Fraser photinia (zones 8 and 9): A full, busy shrub with apple-red leaves

Ready to plant? Use this step-by-step guide to plant your new tree or shrub!


  • The Tree Doctor September 4, 2018 >Hi Karen, I am hesitant to recommend a tree because I am not familiar with the species or any pest issues that could be problematic in your area. General guidelines would suggest using a tree native to your region because they tend to be the best adapted. I suggest you visit a local nursery and discuss your site and wishes to the staff there. They should be able to provide some suggestions for trees that will fit your needs. Best of luck to you, Karen.
  • Karen Walden September 2, 2018 >Hi Davy. I live in rural Andalusia, Spain and have a small patio with full sun. I need a non invasive root tree to provide shade....any ideas? The patio is concrete and approximately 7mtrs x 10mtrs. Flowering or non flowering-l don't mind sweeping up the mess. Many thanks, Karen.
  • The Tree Doctor May 30, 2018 >Hi Shelly, Here are some links to University recommendations for trees to suitable and unsuitable for planting on septic fields. Hopefully this helps! Here if you have any more questions, Shelly.
  • shelly stawicki May 28, 2018 >I've purchased a home that has the septic in the front yard. Is there a tree recommended that I can plant in the front yard that won't be invasive and spread to the septic?
  • The Tree Doctor May 21, 2018 > Hi Donna, Here are some University sites that make recommendations for trees suitable for septic fields. Hopefully, this helps! Here if you have any more questions, Donna.
  • Donna Bender May 18, 2018 >I'm looking for a tree with none invasive roots to put in my from yard which of course is where my water main and sewer out are. I live in Southern California amd it would get direct sun. I would like something with come color to it. Recommendations please.
  • KURT DITTSCHLAG May 15, 2018 >fast growing dezice resistand shade tree with non invading root system
  • The Tree Doctor February 12, 2018 >Hi there, Sandra. It is important to match the number and size of the trees you select to the space available. Based on your description, smaller, ornamental trees would likely be the best option. Hope this helps, Sandra.
  • Sandra Fisher February 6, 2018 >Hi there how are you today? I have a question my daughter would like to put 3 trees in a grassed area close to a concrete drive what sort of trees should she be looking for that are non avasive. Thank you for your time kind regards Sandra
  • The Tree Doctor January 9, 2018 >Hi there, Wyatt. We would recommend a Zelkova or Honeylocust. Surface mulching with wood chips can also help reduce the development of surface roots and we would recommend planting the trees as far away from the actual playing field as possible. Hope this helps, Wyatt. Good luck!
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