Roots stretch far and wide to give our trees a stable foundation. But what happens if they grow a little further than we’d like?
One of our readers, Paul, recently asked, “How can I get rid of the roots from my tree that have grown into my front yard and are killing the grass?”
Dealing with roots can be tricky—an improper cut could affect the tree’s water flow or cause it to fall in a storm. That’s why it’s important to take a safe approach.
Read on to learn if you can prune above-ground tree roots, how many tree roots you can cut at once and how to safely prune tree roots at the best time.
It all depends on the size and location of the tree root.
As a guideline, avoid pruning roots more than 2 inches wide. Removing large tree roots can make the tree unstable or unhealthy later on. If large roots are removed, the tree may not be able to get enough nutrients and water. Also, don’t remove roots close or fused to the trunk since these are critical to the tree’s structure.
If you choose to cut or remove tree roots, winter and early spring are the best time of year to do so.
Never remove more than 20 percent of above-ground tree roots at once. Then, wait two to three years to make sure your tree fully recovers. Only then can you safely consider cutting more tree roots.
Again, if you cut tree roots, there is never a guarantee that it won’t hurt or eventually kill the tree. We only recommend removing tree roots when they are damaging or infringing on a nearby structure – not for aesthetic reasons.
For the best chance of your tree surviving, consult with your local arborist before removing tree roots. Or see if your arborist can prune the roots for you.