Industry News: Root and Soil Concerns

Q: Will pruning a bush stop its roots from growing?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016  

Q: I have some shrubs and trees that I only want to get to a certain size. So I am trimming them every year to hold back their size. My question mostly concerns a shrub--If I keep this cut back and to a certain size, will the roots that I can’t see also stay small and not grow any larger in diameter or deeper? And for trees also? In my situation, the place where I moved put a couple of bushes right next to septic drain lines. I would have never done that, but I assume they did it to try to hide the vent pipe coming out of the ground. I worry about the roots from the shrubs doing damage. All your thoughts would be great with the answer to my roots question.

A: The quick answer to your question is, the tree and shrub roots will continue to grow despite your pruning efforts, albeit slower due to depleted energy reserves. However, a common misunderstanding with roots is that they are highly invasive. Generally speaking, roots from shrubs tend to not be an issue for infrastructure, whereas, tree roots can cause damage to pipes, concrete, and other infrastructure depending on the type of trees, the proximity to the pipe or other object to the tree, the types and condition of materials used, and the original construction practice (poor construction procedures and less robust materials tend to offer less resistance to breakage of any kind).   

Instead of heavy and consistent pruning which will eventually lead to other problems within the landscape, you may want to consider replacing the larger growing shrubs with smaller growing shrubs.

Responder: Jason C. Miller, RCA #526, Cinnaminson, NJ