The Q&A Archives: trees good near side walks

Question: I was wondering if the American sweetgum would not affect the side walk cement as a maple would? If so, could you tell me some large shade trees that would be good for this type of area.

Answer: Generally speaking, large shade trees will outgrow that narrow space between the walk and the curb. Over time as the tree grows, the base of the trunk or the flare expands in circumference and the large achor roots grow thicker, and feeder roots search widely for air and moisture as well. This means it will both push outward and upward and will heave and/or crack the walk. So it is really better to look at smaller trees for planting in that location, trees with less aggressive root systems, and suitable to the site -- be it hot and sunny, shaded, dry, windy, and so on.

Your local town or city may have a street tree commission or equivalent with a list of suggested trees. Or your local county extension may have suggestions based on the soil where you want to plant, the overall space for the tree to grow, and possibly also on your design preference.

A few trees you might consider, depending on the above factors, might include disease resistant crab apple trees (some of these grow to 30 feet which is technically speaking small for a tree), Kousa dogwood, hornbeam, flowering pear, and the Liquidambar styraciflua 'Aurora' (a compact cultivar of sweetgum.)

I hope this gives you some ideas.

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