The Q&A Archives: Trim Tulip Poplar Tree Roots That Are Above Ground

Question: I have a 15 year old tulip poplar that is about 20 feet away from a cement patio. I noticed this spring that there are many roots extending past the tree's branches. Can they be trimmed back. I am worried about the roots damaging the patio and also getting into the septic system.

Answer: Unfortunately, tree roots usually do extend well beyond the branch spread, sometimes twice as far. Tulip poplars are very large trees at maturity, and consequently are not usually recommended for residential use due to their size. You may be able to trim back some of the roots, but this will be an ongoing problem as the tree continues to grow and the roots reach farther and farther in order to sustain the tree.

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