Special Gift Offer

Can I Cut a Tree Root Without Killing the Tree?

By: Jennifer HowellJennifer Howell
If you think your tree's roots will cause problems, here's how to cut them without killing the tree.

When can you cut a tree root?

Most trees have four to seven major anchoring roots that flare out horizontally from the trunk, with only a couple of deep tap roots. Cutting even one of those roots can remove up to 25% of the root system of the tree and seriously compromise its stability. Only a professional arborist should cut those large roots when absolutely necessary.

If you have a small tree whose major anchoring roots look like they might cause problems later, you might be able to cut those yourself.

Here’s how to know whether you should cut a tree root:

  • Only cut tree roots that are smaller than 2 inches in diameter or you will compromise a tree’s health and stability.
  • Cut no closer to the tree than three times the diameter of its trunk. For example, if the trunk is 6 inches in diameter, cut roots off at least 18 inches away.

If in doubt, get a better look at the root to be sure you need to cut it: Carefully scrape the soil away or wash it out with a high-pressure stream of water. And always make a clean cut with a pruning saw, loppers or pruners to prevent disease or pest infestations.

You Might Also Like
Must-Have Tools for Pruning
DIY Spiral Topiary
How to Root Prune Container-Grown Trees
How to Plant a Tree in 4 Easy Steps

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.


Related Tags

garden q and a how to issue 167 september october 2022 special techniques trees

Related Articles


You Might Also Like…

| How To…

Weed Watch: Multiflora Rose

This invasive plant can form a dense thicket in a few years as its thorny, arching stems take root. Here's how to get multiflora rose under control.