Planting Trees with Short Root System - Knowledgebase Question

Yonkers, NY (Zone 6B)
Avatar for elliedangel
Question by elliedangel
March 6, 2007
I would like to plant a tree in a sunny portion of the backyard (Yonkers, New York 10704) that is supported by a 15 foot retainig wall. Would the roots of a Maple or White birch damage the stone supporting wall? Which tree would you suggest?
Thank you!

Answer from NGA
March 6, 2007
Both maples and birches tend to have shallow roots, however they are also very large trees when mature with the root spreading much wider than the branches. Whether or not this would be a good choice really depends on how much space you have to work with -- they are much too large for most residential yards. Whether or not the roots will damage the wall also depends on the condition of the wall -- if there are imperfections underground the roots can exacerbate them. If you have a truly limited space you might look into very small trees and larger shrubs that can be grown in tree form such as smaller varieties of crabapple tree (say in the 12 to 15 foot range) or perhaps the lovely shrub Hydrangea paniculata which can be grown in a tree form, or perhaps one of the smaller growing varieties of Japanese maple. Your local county extension and/or professionally trained nursery staff may have other suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the growing conditions, the space available, and your overall design goal. Good luck with your planting this spring!

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