Even though cherry trees are for the most part easy to care for, sometimes what you should be worried about is not what’s above the ground but what’s underneath. The cherry tree roots can be more than a nuisance with their invasive nature and aggressive growth habits.
Do cherry trees have invasive roots? The roots of cherry trees are quite invasive. They grow close to the surface and spread aggressively underground and clog plumbing pipes, wreak havoc with structures, and can even disrupt patio slabs. Sucker shoots grow upright out of the shallow roots, which causes damage to fences and foundations.
Before you plant your cherry tree, you need to carefully consider its location. Read more to find out about the root system of cherry trees and how to protect your landscape from the invasive roots.
The Root System of Cherry Trees – What To Know
The problem with the invasive roots of cherry trees is that they grow under the surface, so you won’t know how invasive they are until it’s too late. It helps to know in advance more about the root system of the tree, how far it spreads, and how deep it goes.
How Deep and Wide Do Cherry Tree Roots Spread?
The roots of the cherry tree stay close to the surface and tend to spread horizontally rather than vertically. That’s because the cherry trees need oxygen, which is more abundant near the surface of the soil.
While the trees have a taproot to anchor them, the majority of the root system spreads far and wide. A mature full-sized cherry tree will have a root system spanning 33 to 39 feet in diameter.
As for depth, the roots wouldn’t grow beyond 3 feet deep. Dwarf cherries have a smaller root system that spans 10 feet wide and 1 foot deep.
Problems Caused by Invasive Cherry Tree Roots
The main problems caused by invasive cherry roots have to do with their location, whether it involves planting a tree close to a building, wall, or fence or building a new structure right in the path of a developing cherry tree.
Either scenario spells disaster for the structure in question. As the roots keep spreading in search of water, oxygen, and nutrients, they will disrupt the foundations of the structure.
If you don’t have enough space on your lawn or garden for a full-sized cherry tree, you might consider planting a dwarf cherry variety instead.
Dwarf cherries need about 10 feet of space for their roots to fully develop and don’t tend to disrupt structures and foundations as aggressively as full-sized cherries.
Will Cutting Roots Kill a Cherry Tree?
Cutting the roots of the cherry tree will not kill it as long as the roots are far enough away from the base of the tree. But how far is far enough?
You’ll need to measure the trunk of the tree and multiply it by 5 to get the safe distance where you can cut the roots without harming the tree.
If a cherry tree trunk is 3 feet in diameter, then you can cut roots 15 feet away from the trunk of the tree without killing the tree or impacting its intake of moisture, nutrients, and oxygen.
Cherry Tree Root Suckers
Sucker shoots are the cherry tree’s way of claiming new territory and starting up new trees.
The suckers grow out of the shallow roots and increase the invasiveness problem of the cherry roots. The damage the suckers cause to structures is even worse if you don’t deal with them right away.
How To Deal With Cherry Tree Root Suckers
The best way to deal with suckers is to mow the area where they spring out of the ground regularly. This will not prevent new ones from growing, but it will keep the suckers at bay until you have time for a more permanent solution.
Another option is to cover the area under the cherry tree drip line with soil and seed it with grass. The grass will practically smother the suckers and prevent them from growing.
However, this solution has a downside as the roots of the grass would compete with the shallow roots of the cherry over resources.
A more drastic solution would involve monitoring the growth of the suckers to zero in on the exact root that shoots the suckers. More often than not, suckers will grow out of a single root. Dig out that root, and cut it without disturbing the rest of the roots.
How Close to Your House Can You Plant a Cherry Tree?
You should keep the cherry tree away as far as you can from the house or any structure in the yard. Since the root system of the full-sized cherry tree grows to about 39 feet wide, plant the tree at least 40 feet from any structure in every direction.
How Much Space Does a Cherry Tree Need?
Cherry trees need a lot of space to grow and develop. Even if the canopy is not that wide, the root system of the tree spreads way beyond its drip line. Allow 40 feet between each cherry tree.
Favorable Root Conditions for Cherry Trees
The main reason cherry tree roots spread far and wide is that they search for nutrients, moisture, and abundant oxygen. If they have all of these resources close to the tree trunk, the roots wouldn’t spread that far.
So, make sure the soil is loamy, well drained, and well oxygenated. Amend compact soil with perlite or coarse sand to improve drainage. Mix in plenty of organic compost to give the tree a good start.
How To Remove Cherry Tree Roots Permanently
The best way to remove cherry tree roots permanently is to spray them with herbicide. Here’s how to do it.
- Dig up the soil around the trunk of the tree to uncover the shallow roots of the tree. You’ll need to uncover as much of the roots as you can, but focus mainly on the 15-foot area around the trunk.
- Use a shovel to cut through the bark protecting the roots. Make sharp cuts in the bark to reveal the inner roots.
- Spray the cuts on the roots with a herbicide. Follow the instructions on the package, and use protective gear while spraying it.
- Cover the whole area around the tree with a tarp, and weigh it down with cinder blocks.
- Spray the roots again with the herbicide one week later, and cover them with a tarp.
- Check on the roots regularly, and remove dead ones. Spray the live ones until they die.
What Are the Worst Trees To Plant Near a House?
Trees with invasive roots should not be planted near a house. These include silver maple trees, southern magnolia, willow trees, hybrid poplar trees, sycamore trees, and Japanese knotweed.
What Are the Most Common Cherry Tree Diseases?
Root and crown rot, powdery mildew, and cherry blight commonly affect cherry trees.
Cherry tree roots are quite invasive and aggressive in their growth habits. The roots stay close to the surface as they suffer from oxygen deprivation in the deep soil. Avoid planting cherry trees near walls, structures, or fences to prevent damage to these structures.