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Can Removing Above-Ground Roots Harm the Tree? (2023)

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will removing tree roots above ground kill the treeDo you have a tree on your property with roots growing above the ground? This not only looks unsightly but can also lead to further issues. Before taking any action, it’s important to understand if removing these roots will harm the tree.

In this article, we’ll explore whether or not removing above-ground roots is safe for trees and what other solutions are available if necessary. We’ll look at potential risks of root removal as well as guidelines for doing so safely and alternative options like covering exposed roots with soil or creating a mulched garden bed around them.

Finally, we’ll discuss why speaking with an arborist may be beneficial before trying any DIY techniques yourself and how proper care and maintenance can help keep your trees healthy in the long run.

Key Takeaways

  • Factors such as poor drainage, water availability, and structures can lead to the development of surface roots in trees.
  • Removing above-ground roots can pose risks and consequences to the health of the tree.
  • Proper care and maintenance, including mulching, root pruning, watering, and fertilization, are essential for maintaining tree health.
  • Alternative solutions to root removal, such as soil cover or creating a mulched garden bed, can help preserve the tree’s health while addressing the issue of above-ground roots.

Can Removing Above-Ground Roots Harm the Tree?

Can Removing Above-Ground Roots Harm the Tree
When considering the removal of above-ground roots, it’s important to understand the potential risks involved. Removing tree roots above ground can pose harm to the tree, potentially leading to its death or destabilization.

Additionally, various factors can lead to surface roots, such as water availability and nearby structures or landscape alterations.

Potential Risks of Removing Above-ground Roots

Removing exposed roots willy-nilly can destabilize your tree, so be careful. Pruning large anchoring roots too close to the trunk jeopardizes its stability. Damaging the root system impairs the tree’s ability to take in water and nutrients, leaving it stressed and prone to decline.

Excessive root loss upsets the balance between roots and canopy, preventing the tree from supporting its full leaf mass. This imbalance strains the tree as it tries to maintain vital functions, weakening its defenses against pests and disease.

When removing surface roots, limit removal to small diameter roots outside the tree’s drip line and avoid cutting main support roots near the base. Know your tree’s anatomy to prevent harming its health and jeopardizing its safety when removing exposed roots.

Factors Leading to Surface Roots

You’ll see tree roots at the surface when the soil is poorly drained. Water availability plays a significant role in determining whether roots come above ground or stay below. If the soil doesn’t drain properly, excess moisture can accumulate, causing roots to seek oxygen near the surface.

Additionally, nearby structures and landscape alterations can disturb the natural root growth patterns of trees, leading to surface roots. It’s important to consider these factors before undertaking any tree root removal or cutting activities as it can impact both tree health and structural integrity if not done correctly.

Guidelines for Safe Root Removal

Guidelines for Safe Root Removal
When removing tree roots, follow specific rules such as not removing roots within 5 times the tree’s diameter, limiting root removal to 25%, and breaking root removal into 4 quadrants. Carefully assessing root diameter and maintaining a safe distance for pruning roots is crucial for maintaining tree health, as is properly refilling the hole with soil after root removal and monitoring the tree afterward for any signs of decline.

Specific Rules for Removing Tree Roots

Follow guidelines when you’re pruning roots: don’t remove those within 5 times the tree’s diameter, limit removal to 25%, and break it into 4 quadrants.

Adhering to these specific rules is crucial for maintaining safety and ensuring the survival of your trees. By not removing roots within a certain distance from the trunk, you preserve the structural integrity of the tree.

Limiting root removal to only a quarter of its total mass prevents excessive stress on the tree. Breaking up root removal into four quadrants allows for balanced pruning while minimizing damage.

It is essential to monitor your tree’s health after pruning and consult an arborist if any decline signs appear.

Considerations for Maintaining Tree Health

Nurture the health and vitality of your beloved trees by carefully considering their maintenance needs. Proper care for tree roots is crucial in maintaining overall tree health. One important consideration is mulch benefits, as it helps retain moisture and regulate soil temperature around the roots.

Additionally, root pruning should be done cautiously to avoid damaging the tree’s stability.

Watering techniques are also essential to ensure adequate hydration without overwatering or creating waterlogged conditions that harm root systems. Tree fertilization provides necessary nutrients for healthy growth, while soil aeration promotes oxygen flow to the roots for optimal functioning.

By taking these considerations into account when maintaining your trees, you can help them thrive and flourish in their environment.

Alternative Solutions for Exposed Roots

Alternative Solutions for Exposed Roots
To address the issue of exposed tree roots in your lawn, there are alternative solutions you can consider. One option is covering the exposed roots with a thin layer of soil and seeding the area, although this may not provide a long-term fix.

Another solution is creating a mulched garden bed around the tree roots, which not only covers them but also benefits both your lawn and local pollinators by planting ground covers and perennials in that area.

Covering Exposed Roots With Soil and Seed

Throwing a blanket over exposed roots provides temporary relief, but nurturing their need for air cultivates lasting tree health. Simply covering roots with too much soil deprives them of oxygen. A thin layer under an inch provides temporary exposed root protection without suffocation.

Creating mulched garden beds with native ground covers transforms trouble zones into beneficial pollinator habitats. Flowers and sedums thrive atop the nutrients from pruned roots. With this symbiotic system, the lawn and trees both prosper long-term.

By understanding and tending tree requirements, instead of concealing them, you enable strength. By adjusting the sentence length, structure, and flow, the edited paragraph reads smoothly while conveying key information.

Creating a Mulched Garden Bed

You’ll want to remove sod around exposed roots and create a mulched garden bed instead. This alternative not only covers the exposed roots but also provides benefits for both your lawn and local pollinators.

Planting Choices: With a mulched bed, you can choose ground covers and perennials that thrive here.

Soil Depth: Ensure the mulched bed’s deep enough for healthy root growth. Aim for at least 4-6 inches of quality soil.

Maintenance: Regular maintenance’s crucial for success. Watch for weeds or invasives threatening health, and address promptly.

By choosing a well-designed mulch bed over simply covering exposed roots with soil, you can create an attractive feature while supporting biodiversity through suitable plants.

Consulting an Arborist for Expert Advice

Consulting an Arborist for Expert Advice
You need to be very careful when cutting tree roots near the surface, so it’s wise to consult a local arborist before attempting any do-it-yourself root pruning. An expert can assess the overall tree health, recommend proper techniques and safe distances for root removal, and provide guidance to avoid causing long-term damage or decline.

Importance of Seeking Professional Guidance

You’d better consult an arborist before cutting any tree roots, as professionals know best practices for root pruning without damaging the tree’s health. An arborist’s advice ensures root removal is done safely while preserving your trees’ health.

Arborists have extensive training and experience in:

  • Assessing trees’ condition
  • Identifying potential risks or issues
  • Recommending appropriate solutions

Their professional advice helps:

  • Evaluate risks
  • Preserve tree health
  • Identify problems

By consulting an arborist about root cutting, you get specific tips on maintaining trees with exposed roots.

Working with an arborist guarantees:

  • Safety during removal
  • A comprehensive plant wellness approach
  • Something self-directed efforts can’t replicate


Arborist Benefits Professional Advice Expert Consultation
Extensive training Assessing needs Evaluating risks
Experience Identifying issues Preserving health

DIY Root Cutting Precautions

You can tackle DIY root cutting, but be careful when measuring and assessing the root system. It is crucial to prevent root damage to ensure the health and longevity of your trees. Before you start, familiarize yourself with safe tree pruning practices to preserve as much of the root mass as possible.

Take the time to carefully measure and assess the diameter of each root before making any cuts. Maintain a safe distance from the trunk and follow guidelines for pruning roots without jeopardizing stability.

Remember, proper refilling of soil after removal is vital for maintaining tree health in DIY root care endeavors.

Proper Care and Maintenance for Tree Health

Proper Care and Maintenance for Tree Health
Proper care and maintenance are crucial for ensuring the health and longevity of your trees. It is important to be aware of potential risks, such as over-mulching near the trunk, which can harm the tree if not done correctly.

Importance of Proper Tree Care

Properly maintaining and caring for your trees is crucial to ensure their long-term health and strength. Regular pruning of both branches and roots is essential to promote tree vigor and remove potential hazards.

When pruning roots, be very cautious, only removing those outside the critical root zone.

Proper mulching around trees provides multiple benefits like retaining moisture, improving soil nutrition, and protecting roots.

Monitoring your trees for signs of decline like sparse foliage, dying branches, or cracks is also key. If you notice any issues, consult a certified arborist right away for an expert opinion on preserving your tree’s health through proper care.

Attentive maintenance keeps trees thriving for years to come.

Potential Risks of Over-mulching Near the Trunk

Volcano mulching can actually damage trees, so be sure to spread mulch evenly over the area, not piled high around the trunk.

When mulch is mounded up against the tree trunk in a volcano shape, it keeps that base area too moist and encourages root rot. Piling mulch against the trunk also creates an environment ideal for disease and pest infestations.

The excessive mulch prevents oxygen from reaching the roots beneath and suffocates them. It also invites rodents to burrow and nest in the mulch right up next to the tree trunk, causing damage.

Spread mulch out evenly in a thin layer.


As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s important for homeowners to be aware of the potential risks of removing tree roots above ground. Cutting tree roots too close to the trunk can create instability, and the wrong removal technique can kill the tree.

Factors like water availability, poorly drained soil, and nearby structures can also lead to surface roots. It’s important to follow specific rules for safely removing tree roots and to consult an arborist for expert advice.

Alternative solutions, like covering exposed roots with soil and creating a mulched garden bed, are also recommended. Taking the necessary precautions will help ensure that your tree remains healthy and strong, and will also prevent any potential harm to the tree from removing above-ground roots.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.