How invasive a fig tree’s roots are depends on the variety of the tree. Large fig trees can have very invasive roots that damage foundations, paved surfaces, and fences. Medium-sized fig varieties have less invasive roots. Meanwhile, dwarf fig trees do not have invasive roots at all. By choosing the right variety of fig tree and planting it in the proper location, you can avoid damage from these trees’ invasive roots.
What Fig Varieties Have Invasive Roots?
Large fig tree cultivars that grow to a height of 30 feet (9 meters) have invasive roots. The roots of these figs stretch up to 20 feet (6 meters) from the trunk in all directions. Common fig varieties with invasive roots include:
- Black Mission
- Purple Smyrna
Before planting a fig tree in the ground, first, determine what variety the fig tree is. Next, ask the grower for information on the mature size of the tree. If you do not want to deal with invasive fig roots, avoid varieties with a mature height of 30 feet. Instead, look for a smaller variety.
What Figs Do Not Have Invasive Roots?
Medium-sized fig trees that reach a mature height of 12 to 15 feet (3.5–4.5 meters) have much less invasive roots than their smaller cousins. However, these varieties can still cause damage to foundations or pavement if they are planted less than 10 feet (3 meters) from a structure. Some good mid-sized fig varieties are:
- Desert King
- White Genoa
- Violette de Bordeaux
Dwarf fig trees do not have invasive roots. They are so small that their root systems cannot truly damage concrete. They even pose little-to-no risk to fences and garden walls. So, you can plant dwarf figs right beside your home or fence with no worry. Some of the best varieties of dwarf figs are Celeste, Fignomenal, and Little Miss Figgy.
How Deep Do Fig Tree Roots Go Down?
The deepest roots of a fig tree will reach depths of 3 feet (90 cm), but most of a fig’s roots are in the top 18 inches (45 cm) of soil. This may seem rather shallow, but this depth is enough to grow under a home foundation or driveway. As the roots continue to grow just below the structure, they can cause the concrete to shift, crack, or buckle.
- Some fig roots reach as deep as 3 feet (90 cm).
- Most fig roots are 18 inches deep (45 cm) or shallower.
- Fig roots have a wider spread than the tree’s branches.
Fig tree roots spread further than the branch canopy. A good rule to follow is that the radius of a fig’s roots is two-thirds of the height of the fig tree. So, a 15-foot fig tree will have root growth spreading out 10 feet from the trunk in all directions.
Will Fig Tree Roots Damage the Foundation of Your House?
If it is planted too close to your home, any fig tree larger than dwarf-sized can cause foundation problems. In addition to burrowing under concrete, which causes upheaval and cracking, the fig’s roots will also drink water from the surrounding soil. This actually causes the ground near the fig tree to sink as the water is pulled out of the ground. As the ground sinks due to fig root activity, your foundation may crack and your house may lean toward the tree.
- Fig roots will cause foundation damage if the tree is planted too close to your home.
- Dwarf fig trees are an exception—their roots won’t cause damage.
- Full-sized fig trees can cause a foundation to buckle, crack, or tilt.
- Removing trees that are damaging a foundation can cause new problems.
Removing a tree that is too close to the house can cause surprising foundation problems. So, it is best to avoid tilting, cracking, and upheaval by choosing the right spot for your fig tree. This way, your tree can grow uninterrupted without causing any property damage.
How Close Can You Plant a Fig Tree to Your House?
If you are growing a fig tree that reaches a mature height of 30 feet (9 meters), plant it at least 20 feet (6 meters) from your home. If your fig tree’s maximum height is 15 feet (4.5 meters), choose a planting location at least 10 feet from your home. If you’re growing a dwarf fig tree, you can plant it as close to your home as you desire. Alternatively, you can grow dwarf fig trees in pots so you don’t have to worry about roots at all.
- Plant figs with invasive roots 20 feet (6 meters) from your home.
- Medium-sized fig varieties can be planted 10 feet (3 meters) from your house.
- Dwarf figs can be planted right next to your house.
- Plant figs a safe distance from paved areas, walls, and fences, as well as your home.
Your home isn’t the only thing you have to protect from invasive fig tree roots. Use the same distance rules to avoid planting your fig trees near paved surfaces and other structures. This includes driveways, sidewalks, garages, and garden sheds. Your fig tree may only be a few feet tall when you first plant it, but some mature trees in the fig family can reach immense heights.
How Do You Restrict Fig Tree Roots?
Although it is possible to use root barriers or other tools to prevent fig root growth from invading foundations, this is a lot of work for very little reward. Roots are very stubborn, and methods for stopping roots from growing under your house can take a lot of time and effort to implement. Additionally, restricting root growth does not lead to healthy, beautiful trees. A fig with restricted roots may struggle, produce little or no fruit, and may even die.
- You can use root barriers and other methods to stop fig root growth.
- Restricting fig roots is labor intensive and can kill or weaken the tree.
- Instead of restricting growth, choose the right size fig for your yard.
- Larger trees can be grown in big areas, but small figs are best if the tree must be planted near your house or driveway.
Instead of restricting the growth patterns of your fig roots, choose the right variety of fig for the space you have available. In a large backyard, a fig tree with invasive roots can be planted a safe distance from your home. In smaller yards, mid-sized figs perform well. If you don’t have a large area where your fig will receive adequate sunlight, consider growing dwarf figs instead of a full-sized tree. Dwarf figs can still produce a large harvest of delicious fruit.
Are Fig Tree Roots Damaging?
If you’re planning to plant fruit trees near your home and are considering figs, keep in mind these facts about fig root systems:
- The roots of mature fig trees can be invasive.
- Fig roots can ruin foundations, driveways, and sewer pipes.
- Fig roots spread wider than the branches of the tree.
- Large fig varieties that grow to 30 feet tall (9 meters) have the most invasive roots.
- Medium-sized fig trees that stop growing at 15 feet tall (4.5 meters) have much less damaging roots.
- Dwarf fig roots are not invasive at all.
- Plant large fig trees at least 20 feet (6 meters) away from your home and paved areas.
- Smaller figs can be planted closer to your home without risk.
Instead of attempting to restrict fig roots, it’s best to choose a variety that fits your planting area. This makes growing easy for you and prevents any home damage in the future.