The Q&A Archives: Planting Trees Near A Septic Drainfield

Question: I am planning the landscape around my septic drainfield and would like to plant a privacy screen between my home and my neighbor. I had selected trees including cupressocyparis, cupressus glabra, pinus vanderwolf, thuja plicata, sequoiadendron, and cornus mas. How close to the drainfield can I safely plant these trees and are they appropriate for planting with 20 - 30 feet of the drainfield or do you have any other tree suggestions? Thank you.

Answer: Planting near septic tanks and drain fields is always a concern, and plant selection should be made with caution. Tree and shrub roots naturally seek out water and will grow toward the source. You certainly wouldn't want them to invade your drain field. In general terms, tree roots will extend out one and one-half times the diameter of the canopy. Planting trees that are small at maturity, and keeping them as far away from the septic system as possible will keep your system reasonably safe from invasive roots. Of the trees you mention, Cornus mas, Cupressocyparis leylandii, Pinus flexilis 'Vanderwolf', and Thuja plicata are the best choices. Their mature sizes indicate root spread of less than 30'. Just for good measure, plant them as far away as possible from your septic system!

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