With thick pipes that run deep throughout the yard, septic systems bring up lots of questions about what you can plant–and where.

A Davey blog reader from Washington State asked, “I would like to create an evergreen hedge to hide a new commercial neighbor. Would the skyrocket juniper be invasive to my septic?”

Below, find out if the skyrocket juniper works well and get tips on the best plants and trees to plant.

Landscaping Ideas Around Septic Tanks: What to Plant Over a Septic Tank

Regardless of what you’ve heard, this isn’t out of the question! In fact, the right kind of plant or tree can help the system keep water running smoothly and avoid erosion.

Plants that work best typically have soft, green stems and are well-adapted to your area’s rainfall. So, we’re talking about annuals, perennials, wildflowers, bulbs, or grass.

Trees can work, too, if you choose one with shallow roots and plant it far away from the tank itself.

Can I plant oak trees, Japanese maples or fruit trees near a septic tank?

It can be done, but it’s tricky! Tree roots are programmed to follow water. So, if you plant trees or shrubs too close to your system, they could pry into the pipes and clog them, which damages the system and your home’s water flow.

The plants we mentioned above are usually a better option for landscaping near the tank. In fact, you can plant flowers like those (or even grass) right over the system.

But, when planted carefully, trees with shallow, non-invasive roots are OK to use. That means both white oaks and crabapples are suitable options. You’ll probably want to skip the Japanese maple, though! Maples are notorious for clogging pipes.

Other fruit trees aren’t a good match either. Any vegetation planted near your septic tank may be at risk from bacterial or viral contamination. Think about it.

What trees are safe to plant near a septic system?

Getting back to the reader who got this conversation started, yes, you can plant skyrocket junipers because of their shallow roots.   

But there’s a caveat with that and all the other candidates below. You should plant as far away from the system as the tree will be when it’s fully grown. So, since skyrocket junipers typically grow 20 feet tall, plant it at least 20 feet away from the system.

Now without further ado, here are other trees and shrubs to plant near a septic system:

  1. Hemlock (zones 3-8): A good-looking evergreen that can get up to 80 feet tall
  2. White pine (zones 3-8): An evergreen with beautifully-colored needles that can reach heights of 80 feet
  3. Boxwood shrub (zones 4-9): An evergreen that’s a favorite for hedges and typically tops out at about 10 feet tall
  4. Dogwood (zones 5-8): A spring-flowering tree that typically grows about 30 feet high
  5. Ornamental cherries (zones 5-8): A gorgeous flowering tree that usually grows between 30 and 50 feet. Bonus: there are tons of species and cultivars to choose from!
  6. American holly (zones 5-9): An evergreen with bright pops of berries that usually grows about 50 feet tall
  7. Needle palm (zones 5b-11): A multi-stem palm that grows about 6 feet tall
  8. Lady palm (zones 8-11): A unique palm that can look like a shrub and tops out at about 10 feet tall
  9. Pygmy date palm (zones 9-11): A super-easy, pint-sized palm that grows about 12 feet tall

Want a local arborist to plant your tree to keep your septic system safe? Start here.

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