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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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  • This reply was deleted.
    • 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?


      • This reply was deleted.
        • 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 

  • PRO

    Get a copy of The Landscape Architect's Pocket Book (small book format - always have my copy in the Truck) or take a read : https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=225

    Trees near buildings / RHS Gardening
    Most trees growing near buildings cause no damage. But in some cases, subsidence and structural damage can be linked to tree roots. Blocked drains an…
    • This reply was deleted.
      • PRO

        Hi John,

        This particular one is Phyllostachys aurea, which I understand is classed as a clumper but will send out runners that can be troublesome.

        Do you know of any straightforward solutions for containing them in the ground in areas of dimension of 0.6-1.2m? Angling the barriers inwards at the bottom, without fragmenting them, seems to be impossible.


This reply was deleted.

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