The Q&A Archives: Japanese Maple Root Systems

Question: I will soon be planting a Japanese Maple but I have concerns about the root system. Are these types of maples as invasive to foundations and incoming water pipes as a sugar or silver Maple? Thanks for your assistance.


Japanese maples tend to be shallow rooted with roots near the soil surface. They are smaller trees than the two potentially very large types of maple you mentioned so their roots would not be likely to range as far. Although the maples are notorious for causing problems with pipes and so on, it is usually due to an existing imperfection in the pipe or foundation that is then exploited by a tree root, this in turn makes the problem worse and it can eventually be pretty serious requiring substantial work to repair or replace and this often causes great harm to the tree as well.

All in all, I would not anticipate problems from a Japanese maple to the extent potentially possible from one of the larger maples but nonetheless it is always a good idea to avoid planting on top of (or under or right next to) utility lines and/or overly close to a building.

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