A Root Awakening

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.

– Joyce Kilmer

Trees maintain an important role in San Diego commercial landscapes. They provide shade and add a vertical element to a horizontal design. Properly maintained trees are beautiful but their roots can be another story.

invasive tree roots

The root system of the tree pictured above is interesting, visually stimulating and unique. Fortunately for the community that it resides in, the tree was placed far enough away from the nearby sidewalk. Three feet closer and the sidewalk would look more like a mountain range.

How to prevent tree root damage:

Avoid certain trees:

Some trees are more prone to invasive and above ground roots.

Here are some of San Diego’s biggest violators:


invasive tree roots



California and Brazilian Pepper trees. 

commercial landscaping

Install root barrier at time of planting:

Root barrier should be installed at the time of planting. Root barrier can be made out of heavy plastic or metal and is installed between a tree and the nearby hardscapes.

commercial landscape maintenance

Bio Barrier is a form of root barrier that includes root inhibitors:


Proper Irrigation:

Proper irrigation is crucial. Trees should receive periodic, deep watering, versus more frequent, shorter in duration, surface watering. Trees planted in turf areas have different irrigation requirements than the surrounding turf. Watering tubes should be installed to deliver water further down into the soil. This will encourage deeper root growth, which can help prevent damage to hardscapes and toppling trees.

Some trees, like ficus, will find their own water if not properly irrigated.

tree root damage


On some occasions, an offending root or roots can be severed, but if it’s a mature tree, removal is most likely the only option. The tree will need to be removed and its stump ground.

To summarize, prevention is the key to avoid tree root damage: 

  • Choose the correct trees
  • Plant trees far enough away from hardscapes and pavement
  • Use root and bio barrier
  • Install deep watering pipes at time of planting
  • Long, slow, deep irrigation is crucial

If you’re experiencing tree root damage on your commercial property or any other landscape related issue, contact Heaviland Landscape Management today or complete the web form on the right side of this page. 

John Gelhard

John Gelhard

New Business Development at Heaviland Landscape Management
Seasoned commercial landscape professional with over twenty years of sales and marketing experience. 2005 San Diego County Apartment Association Vendor of the Year. BOMA, IFMA and CAI SD member.
John Gelhard

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