Gardening Landscape design Planting Trees

How Far Should You Plant a Tree from a House?

Trees should be planted well away from any house, not right up against it. Source: uglyhousephotos.com

There are several reasons why it’s best to plant a tree at a certain distance from a house or other structure.

  • Tree roots can dry the soil out too much during a severe drought and thus weaken the building’s foundation;
  • Branches can damage the walls or roof by rubbing against them;
  • The tree’s symmetry can be negatively affected by the proximity of a structure, as it will tend to lean to one side rather than grow straight up;
  • If the branches protrude above the house, there’ll be constant litter from fallen leaves and dead branches that can clog the gutters.

On the other hand, the belief that the roots will “attack” and penetrate the foundation is largely a superstition. Tree roots, in fact, tend to travel away from foundations, much too dry for their taste.

20181009B gardening.stackexchange.com
In general, the spread of tree roots will exceed to at least some degree the diameter of the tree’s crown. Source: gardening.stackexchange.com

Logically, therefore, it’s wise to place the trees a certain distance from the house. But how far exactly?

Here is a calculation that usually works well:

Tree Height at Maturity

Distance From the Building

0–25 feet (0–8 meters) 10 feet (3 meters)
25–50 feet (8–15 meters) 15–20 feet (4–6 meters)
50+ feet (15+ meters) 30–50 feet (10–15 meters)

Normally, you’ll find the mature dimensions of your tree (including the height) on the label it bears at the time of purchase.

Trees with Invasive Roots

There are exceptions, however, including trees with extra-long, invasive roots. For these species, mainly poplars (Populus spp.) and willows (Salix spp.) as well as silver maple (Acer saccharinum), always plant them 50 feet (15 meters) from any structure.

My tree is Closer to My House Than You Recommend!

No need to panic! That a tree is growing nearer to a house than it should is not usually a major problem and there’s a lot you can do to alleviate any complications that might or do arise. Read When a Tree Grows Too Close to a House to get a better picture of the situation.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “How Far Should You Plant a Tree from a House?

  1. Ann Williamson

    I purchased a tabuluia (poui) plant …after purchase I was told the roots spread and will grow under the foundation of the house …how far should I plant this tree away from the house

    • Tabebuia. What kind of foundation do you have? A basement? A crawl space? At any rate, unless there is some sort of leak (very unlikely) dripping from underneath the house, tree roots will not be likely to grow under any foundation. The soil will be dry there and they avoid dry soils. Still, you don’t want the branches to rub against the house or grow over the roof, so you’d to best to plant it at least 15 feet from the building. And beware of people warning about foundation damage due to trees. In most cases, they really don’t know what they are talking about.

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