Pine Tree Roots

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

Pine Tree Root Systems

Pine tree roots are known as having a taproot system where a seedling will sprout a main root or primary root which is the largest root component, from which secondary roots form laterally. Quite similar to other root systems.  

As the pine tree develops and grows, it will produce two different types of root systems, depending on the stages of the tree’s development.

The primary function of the pine roots is to anchor the tree and allow it to grow with stability. The roots absorb moisture and other nutrients which feed the tree and allow it to grow. They are crucial for plant development.

There are many species of pine trees and most of these species have the same pine tree tap root structure

Fine Roots

Fine roots are usually what the pine tree produces in the first 12 months of its development. They grow in the top layer of the soil and, usually within 6 to 7 inches of the surface. These shallow roots are soft in character and usually quite thin and fragile, developing into coarse roots as the tree develops and ages.

Coarse Roots

This is what becomes the main root system of the pine tree. As the coarse roots gradually replace the fine roots, they grow into a full pine tree root system and become the primary roots. The primary root becomes thick and strong and the lateral roots will grow wider and bigger. The deep-set coarse root system will be alive as long as the tree is.

How Deep Do Pine Tree Roots Grow?

First the myth.

We’ve all heard someone say that the root systems of a tree grow as deep as the tree grows tall. This has always been, and remains, a myth.

There are a few recorded cases of this happening. However, the trees were ancient. A tree’s roots growing so deep is definitely not the norm.

If you want to gauge what the size of the root system will be, it is important to check the surrounding conditions and try to estimate the age of the tree.

The below facts will help you there.

Fact is.

The depth of the root growth depends on a number of factors and does not necessarily depend on the age of the pine tree, but more on how it was planted and under what conditions it has been growing.

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Having said that, age does also play a role here as well. Young pine trees will have a root system usually between 5 and 15 feet deep, whereas older pine trees can have a root system that stretches all the way up to between 70 and 75 feet.

The growth of the pine tree will also depend on it’s access to water, how well the roots are receiving oxygen and how compact and dense the soil type is.

If the aforementioned conditions are not met, root system growth will be slow and the pine tree may not grow as large as quickly. However, if the pine tree is well watered and is planted in loose, sandy soil with a high oxygen content, so that the pine tree roots have a good air intake, the tree roots may spread fairly widely and grow up to about 6 meters in depth. Densely compacted soil types such as clay soil will hinder deep roots from growing.

Can Pine Tree Roots Damage a Concrete Foundation?

As said before, pine tree roots are constantly in need of a good air supply and loads of water, so it is very unlikely that the lateral roots will spread to places where these conditions can not be met. All types of tree roots need oxygen supply and water.

The main taproot of pine trees generally grows straight down, so does not pose a threat to foundations.

If your foundation is damaged or full of cracks or there is a lot of water and moisture under your foundation, the root system may grow into existing cracks.

As roots grow into the cracks of your foundation, they might cause damage.

This can also be a common problem if you have an old plumbing system and your pipes are brittle and made of ceramic materials, they may be at risk from invasive root systems with a large root spread.

Recommended Distance Between a Pine Tree and Your House

As a general guideline, you can use the following an estimated indication:

Large trees (75 feet tall) – 20 feet

Medium trees (45 feet tall) – 15 feet

Small trees (15 feet tall) – 8 feet

If you follow this guideline when planting pine trees around your home, you should be fine, even from a tree with a large expanding root system.

However, apart from the obvious tree root damage larger pine trees can cause, there are other dangers when you have a big overstory tree growing right next to your home.

If the branches grow wide enough to reach over the roof of your house, these branches could damage your roof in heavy winds and harsh climate.

They could also break off and a branch falling onto your roof could cause some serious damage. Additionally, the needle-like leaves and pine cones that the tree sheds could clog up your rain gutters, which is annoying.

Make sure you know what tree you are planting and what the growth habits of this tree are.

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Removing Some Invasive Roots

You might want to consider pine tree root removal for trees that have grown above ground, or become too invasive, or possibly a shallower root that has started growing topically. Cutting pine tree roots is a good way of controlling the spread.

In the case of pine trees, it’s always good to know more or less how far the root system has spread. The best way to ascertain this is by checking the diameter of the tree trunk.

Measuring the tree trunk diameter from about 5 feet off the ground and multiplying that number by six, should give you your root radius, depending on the conditions the tree is growing in. If the tree needs to go in search of water, the pine tree’s root structure might extend further and additional root trimming may be required.

There is no harm in uncovering the root system and moving soil away to see how far they stretch. Once you are ready to cut, it is not advised to cut more than twenty five percent of the lateral roots from the tree. Much more of this could put the tree in danger of dying.  

Make sure you do not cut out the roots in such a way that they affect the stability of the tree, this could cause the tree to topple if there is strong wind.

Be sure to leave the big root structure intact and that your calculation around the root radius to trunk diameter is correct.

You can also consider some landscape features around the tree, to cover the exposed roots.

How Can You Limit or Control Pine Tree Roots From Growing?

When tree roots start damaging your property and threaten your foundations and plumbing, it may be a good time to do something about it.

There are several ways of discouraging growth in certain directions, although they are not easy to implement, they may save you some money in repairs to damaged property. We will be discussing these now.

Root Barriers

Root barriers are a good way of controlling the spread of roots and protecting your foundation and pipes. If this is the way you want to go, there are two types of root barriers, a physical root barrier, which is a tarp that stretches around the roots of your pine, at least partially, to keep your tree’s roots from growing too close to your foundations.

The other option would be a chemical root barrier that kills off the root systems, and the way it works is that a chemical agent is applied around a certain portion of your pine trees. This chemical will kill off the roots that come into contact with it, without harming the health of the tree.

Either way, both methods will keep your surrounding foundations and plumbing safe and are effective against deep tap root systems. However, I would suggest using a physical root barrier, as chemical root barriers are not usually the best for the environment.  

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Chop it Down

We know it seems like a bad thing to do, but if it comes down to it, and you are at risk of serious damage from a tree that has massively invasive root growth or is not rooted strong enough and might topple at any time, it is the better option to cut the entire tree down. Cutting pine trees down, however, particularly when fully grown, is a daunting task.

We recommend you contact a specialist to take care of this for you, as it requires the right equipment, excellent weather conditions and a fair bit of experience. Even though pine is not the best firewood, you can use it for bonfires in the garden.

How Likely is it That Will Pine Trees Fall Over?

The likelihood of your pine tree falling over, may depend on several factors. For that reason, it is good to be safe rather than sorry, and plant the tree a good distance away from your home. If the pine trees have been there since before you moved in then you should be paying attention to a few things.

  • Deep Roots

If the tree has been growing in good conditions and the type of soil is favorable, pine trees should be well rooted.

However, if the deep taproots initially fail to get through the first 2-3 feet of the upper layer of the soil because the soil compaction level is too high or the ground is too hard, and you have shallow pine tree root growth, this may be an issue.

Alternatively, if the variety of soil is too soft, and you have sandy or loamy soil, the ground might not offer enough support to hold the tree indefinitely.

  • Harsh Weather

If you are living in a part of the world that has constant strong winds, it is a good idea to make sure that growing conditions for good root depth are met when planting a pine tree.

Moist soil and adequate water as well as soil particles that are not too compact nor too loose are favorable soil conditions. Keeping in mind, to plant the tree a fair distance from any structures or driveways.

  • Mature trees

If the pine trees on your property are already mature trees, it would be good to check for wood or root decay. A tree that has a lot of dead branches may be a sign of a dead or dying tree, and needs to be cut down.

Trees that suffer from these problems are extremely susceptible to strong winds and toppling.

So, there you have it, a guide to pine tree root systems. Hopefully, this has helped with your questions!

References:

https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/root-growth-depth3.shtml

https://www.jstor.org/stable/20113133