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