Will Cutting Tree Roots Harm Trees?

will cutting tree roots harm tree

Without roots, trees and plants wouldn’t have a way to sustain themselves. We don’t give much thought to root systems most of the time – until those roots grow up into unwanted spaces.

You might be wondering, will cutting tree roots harm the tree? The answer is complicated, but in many cases, you can safely cut back roots if they are in places that could be considered hazardous.

If you’re looking for help safely pruning your tree roots, our experts are here to help. Call today for tree service in Fairfax by Woods Tree and Landscaping.

Can You Trim the Roots of a Tree?

There are a few different factors that will determine if you can safely trim the roots of a tree. The first and most important factor is the size and location of the tree. The larger the root, the better off leaving it to be. A good rule of thumb is to avoid trimming more than two-inch wide roots.

In most cases, it is best to leave tree roots be unless they risk causing damage to a structure like a home or even a sidewalk. While you can carefully trim tree roots where it’s necessary, you should avoid cutting tree roots whenever possible.

Can You Cut Too Many Tree Roots?

Since the roots are how your mature trees absorb nutrients, it is dangerous to cut too much back. Cutting roots is always unsafe and can cause permanent and sometimes fatal results for the tree. You should never cut more than 25% (ideally, 20%) of the root system on a tree to reduce the risks.

Reasons to Trim Roots

Sometimes, trimming is the only option. Two reasons to trim roots are because they are growing too close to the foundation of the property or coming up through the sidewalk.

However, if your tree’s roots are merely an eyesore, you shouldn’t cut roots for purely aesthetic purposes. Roots extend far from the tree itself, but you should still make sure the roots you want to cut are a safe distance from the tree trunks.

Tips for Trimming Tree Roots

Below are a few considerations when trimming a tree root is the only option:

  • Don’t cut roots that are more than two inches
  • Don’t cut more than 20-25% of the roots
  • Start cutting a minimum distance of 3-5 times the trunk diameter

Does Pruning Roots Damage Trees?

 Any time you cut tree roots, there is no guarantee that you won’t harm your tree. The root system comprises both structural roots and feeder roots, and both are essential to keeping your tree healthy. Structural roots are more extensive roots closer to the trunk and get thinner as they grow away from the tree. On the other hand, feeder roots are small and fibrous roots that soak up nutrients to feed the tree.

Both types of roots are essential to keeping your tree healthy. But understand that cutting the roots poses a risk even if it’s a seemingly safe distance from the tree itself. However, you can prevent some risks, like trimming roots in late winter or early spring when the risk of dehydration is lower.

After cutting your maximum 25% of tree roots, you will need to give it 2-3 years at least before trimming roots back again. Waiting that long gives your tree all the time it needs to heal properly.

Is Root Trimming a DIY Project?

It may be tempting to ask, “Will cutting tree roots harm trees?” and “Can root trimming be a do-it-yourself landscaping project?” But while you can handle many tree-related concerns on your own, in this instance, it’s usually better off involving the professionals. After all, you want to give your tree the best chance of survival.

Call us at Woods Tree and Landscaping today to learn more about tree removal services in Fairfax.


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