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Hi All,

I periodically get asked the question "Is this planted too close to the house?". I can rarely give an authoritative answer, and usually say it is a specific area of expertise and it may be best to contact the local council.

Am I missing a trick here? Does anyone know of any definitive references for this? Should I just do a multiple Google search and combine the result I find? Yes, I know, that sounds terrible. I'm just looking for the realities of it. I'm trying to make life easier for my customers if possible. If there are good real-life answers, then I want to give them. I can always say, "That is the general rule, there may be exceptions, if you want the official answer, please contact so-and-so official person."

Thank you Folks,



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  • PRO

    I dont know of any specific rules but an interesting question . 

    Some newly planted shrubs and trees are probably okay planted close to a property but as they mature over the years will be unsuitable . 

    some with roots which like to explore such as willows , laurels , conifers should be perhaps avoided . 

    Leylandii for instance planted ten years ago when just a foot high 5 metres from a property caused major problems for one customer when the property started to subside and they had to be removed , yet some which were planted 12 metres away and same height were regarded as safe by the surveyor which meant repair work could start on the property although they were removed as a precaution . 

    Westeria popular next to property caused problems for another customer and  a yew tree planted in another customers patio 9 metres high its roots have lifted the entire patio and root balls broke through and blocked the sewer pipe Yet i live next to a woodland full of mature ash ,sycamore, horse chestnut trees with no signs of root damage but there is a risk a tree could fall on my property but somehow experts on the ground can reassure me they are perfectly safe which is reassuring but who can say for sure and based on what evidence .

    • PRO

      Thank you John, That is all really interesting. Really!

      I have done a cursory Google search for it. But time is precious and always compressed, so I have not done one of my hours-long in-depth searches yet.

      I agree with your 3-plant list except I think it's pretty well established that conifer roots don't stray VERY far from the trunk, or have you found different?

      I have driven past an ancient Wisteria next to someone's house for many years and did not notice it causing any problems, but maybe I should actually stop and take a proper look.

      A broad spread of accurate data for all this would be really useful for us, wouldn't it?


      • PRO

        Hi Karsten 

        The leylandii problem was diagnosed by the clients insurance companies surveyors report , I was told due to drought conditions the tree's had taken the moisture out of the soil leading to the property needing under pinning but a different property with different foundations may not have been affected in the same way meaning every situation will be different . 

        Are you concerned about any liability as a result of advising that a particular tree or shrub you recommend will not cause  damage to a property when a customer puts you on the spot ??  

        I like to have all areas covered too but i dont know of any rules which relate to planting near to property other than the obvious species we know about and would not recommend because of their growing habits , the course their roots take over time is unpredictable . 

        If a client is nervous about having a tree or shrub close to their property recommend one which they can grow in a container . 

        surveyors could possibly provide some useful information .

        • PRO

          Thanks again John,

          I just recently got concerned because a new enquirer asked me about their laurel hedge that went around the property and ended very close to the corner of their house. I said I'd never seen this causing a problem. I also told them this is a whole area of expertise in itself, and they should probably contact the local council for a definite answer. I'm thinking a fair answer might be, if the hedge is kept small, the root system will/should correspondingly stay small.


  • PRO

    There are a few guides that I have seen that show how far roots can travel based on tree type. These guides will tell you which trees have more harnful roots and which are fine too. Try landscape architecture books rather than gardening. If I remember where I saw them I'll post it. But from what I remember its generally 5m away and up to 12m for Sycamore which is one of the worst offenders.

    The problem is that its in no way precise. There are too many variables such as ground type, as in sandy vs clay vs solid granite and the underground construction/drainage can make a big difference, like french drains around a house will encourage roots towards them or two areas of hard standing with soft between are much more likely to have roots in the soft and travelling further. 

    The diagnosis is down to experience, in particular earthworks rather than landscaping or structural engineering. The structural engineer who designs footings is not the same as an earthworks civil engineer, which is what you need. Or they shouldn't be at least unless they are chartered. A property surveyor won't really know either. A land surveyor or chartered civil engineer who works on highways is the most appropriate. Conservation surveyors and engineers can be very knowledgeable in this area too.  

    If you want to plant near buildings just use a root barrier, the design for how they are used is available in a google image search, and its pretty simple. Nor is it really very expensive. Basically dig a larger hole than normaL, line the edges with the root barrier and put an agri pipe/drain in to water it when necessary.

    Hope this helps Corin.

    • PRO

      Thank you Corin. Some useful information there which I will take note of. And now I have 2 reasons to look for root barriers, I need some for bamboo also! But I do wonder about the depth of these things. I mean, how deep would an effective root barrier for sycamore need to be?

      • PRO

        Honestly don't know if you could with the local variety. I think you'd need to box it off completely. I usually go for 600mm set 100mm below ground level and i've not had problems. This is for trees/hedges along boundary walls like hornbeams or next to patios. To redirect the roots more than anything. When i have installed in hard standing inner city areas its more like a 1000mm. Its dependant on the tree variety too, as i'm sure you know that roots grow to different depths.

      • PRO

        not very deep for a sycamore, even large species of field maple barely get to lower than 1meter 

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