The Q&A Archives: Pistachia Tree - Root System

Question: I am considering planting this tree. The location would be near a retaining wall. I would like to know about the root system of the tree. Would you describe it as very aggressive (i.e., possibly causing the wall to break up)?? Or would you say it's system is normal to less than normal. Are there any other trees you can recommend for shade in Tucson that would have an appropriate root system for this location. We are trying to shade a bathroom window and, because of the retaining wall, the area to plant the tree is somewhat limited and close to the house.

Thank you for your advise.



Answer: I assume you are referring to Pistacia chinensis, Chinese pistache. From your description of the planting area, I think this tree is too large. It grows 25-35 feet wide at maturity. You always want to choose a plant based upon allowing sufficient space for its mature size. Otherwise you have to prune it back, which is unhealthy for the tree as all those pruning cuts are open wounds for pests and diseases to enter, generally not very attractive, and a waste of time and resources. The most important things when choosing plants are determining what sun exposure (full, partial, shady) they will thrive in and how much space they need to grow to maturity (both vertically and horizontally), and then comparing that with what your landscape offers. Without more detail on the planting site, it's difficult to make a recommendation, but another good tip for tree selection is to choose an overall tree shape that fits your space, i.e., if it is a narrow space, choose a tree with a narrow, columnar shape. If there is plenty of room, and you want shade, choose a tree with an umbrella canopy shape, etc. Use Monrovia?s Plant Finder to come up with a list of plants you might be interested in. You can focus the type of plant category (tree) and attributes (summer flowering, hummingbird attraction, etc.) that you want. Enter your zone. A list of possible plants will come up, then go to the plant?s webpage for more detail. Good luck!

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