How far away can trees safely be planted from a house?

4 Jan 2016

Trees are often blamed for subsidence or for roots rampaging through drains and services underground. In my experience most of these problems are caused by shrinkable clay soil types but a tree close by is an easy visible target to take the flack and give instant gratification for the insurance industry.

Having said this it is not wise to plant a tree that has the capacity to grow to beyond 20 feet within 10 metres of a building. Tree roots want an equal blend of both oxygen and water in which to thrive and colonize. Some large trees like Robinia pseudoacacia (False Acacia) and Populus alba (White Poplar) are a nightmare for sending up adventitious sucker growth from their extended root systems and have even been known to thrust up through your floorboards if the situation allows!

However, you can box clever on this! Sometimes it is nice to have trees growing close to buildings to soften the hard landscape as well as giving the opportunity for evergreen screening and privacy. There are two ways of achieving this without future ramifications. The first way is to keep a tree tamed. Tilia euchlora (Aphid Resistant Lime) has the capacity to grow to 60 feet tall by the same across and generally speaking a root system matches the trees canopy to anchor it and provide the water and nutrients to support its crown. You can keep a mature tree such as Tilia euchlora to a mere ten to fifteen foot high by routinely pruning back to the same point every winter, so reducing its need to produce a problematical root system to sustain it. This is sometimes referred to as pollarding. Alternatively you can pleach or espalier the crown back each year to a one dimensional frame for screening or formal aesthetics which gives you the same effect. The drawback is that your tamed tree will want to revert back to normal size whenever it gets the opportunity to do so! Tree taming requires routine yearly maintenance every winter!

The second way to safely plant trees close to houses and buildings is to choose trees with the capacity to grow no more than 20 feet at maturity. To achieve this you need a range of tree that is half shrub and half tree such as Photinia Red Robin, Ligustrum lucidum Variegata or Ligustrum japonicum. These small garden trees are excellent for screening as they are also evergreen. They can be put within a few metres from a house without causing future damage and have even been approved by building controls to do so. They will still need routine pruning to keep bushy and dense but the scale of this is nothing like having to tame a large woodland tree to the same size.


Choosing the right tree for its location is paramount and that’s where we come in! We have a wealth of experience top pick the correct choice, just e mail us a photo to of where you want to plant and we will come back with suitable suggestions.

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