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Maple Tree Root System [Everything to Know Before Planting]

Maple trees possess wide-spreading roots that can cover an area three times as wide as their branch circumference. A maple that has reached its maximum size can produce roots that extend up to 100 feet (30 meters) from the trunk. Most maple roots are shallow and exist in the top 24 inches (60 cm) of the topsoil. While most maples do not have aggressive roots that can damage your home, species such as Silver Maple and Norway Maple are known to have invasive root systems.

Maple tree root system

How Deep do Maple Tree Roots Go?

Contrary to popular belief, the roots of maples and other trees do not delve deep underground. The majority of maple roots are in the top 12–24 inches (30–60 cm) of the soil. Although maples may have a taproot that extends 3–4 feet (1 meter) straight down beneath the trunk, most of their roots are fairly shallow.

  • Most maple roots are only 12–24 inches (30–60 cm) deep.
  • Maples may have a taproot that delves downward below the trunk 3–4 feet (1 meter), but the majority of roots are shallow and spread outward.
  • Some species of maple, such as Red Maple, Silver Maple, and Norway Maple, have even shallower roots.

While Japanese Maple and Sugar Maple trees have slightly deeper roots, maples of the Red, Silver, and Norway varieties are known for their shallow roots that often break the surface.

How Far Do Maple Roots Spread?

Maples are known for their far-spreading roots. Typical maple roots spread three times as wide as the tree’s canopy of branches. Maples that grow to be 50 feet tall (15 meters) can have roots that reach over 100 feet (30 meters) from the tree.

  • Maple roots spread 3 times wider than the branch canopy.
  • The roots of some maple varieties reach over 100 feet (30 meters) from the parent tree.
  • In most varieties of maple, the far roots are a network of hairlike fibers.

Just because the roots of a maple extend far from the tree doesn’t mean they are the same sort of thick roots you see close to the tree’s trunk. These far-flung roots are typically thin and designed to collect water and nutrients from the soil.

Do Maple Trees Have Invasive Roots?

Silver Maples and Norway Maples are known for their invasive roots. Silver Maples roots in particular have the potential to destroy foundations, sidewalks, and driveways. Both Silver and Norway Maples should be planted at least 100 feet from your home. Sugar Maples, Red Maples, and Japanese Maples are not known to have invasive root systems.

  • Silver Maples and Norway Maples have extremely invasive roots.
  • Silver Maple roots can crack foundations and buckle concrete surfaces.
  • Norway Maple roots are less powerful than Silver Maples but can still pose a threat.
  • Sugar, Red, and Japanese Maples do not have invasive roots.

Before planting any maple tree, make sure you know the species. Norway Maples are not native to North America and are considered invasive trees. Not only are their roots dangerous, but they can claim territory and threaten native tree populations.

Can Maple Tree Roots Damage Your Foundation?

Any tree planted too close to a home has the potential to damage the foundation. This includes maple trees. Before planting, make sure you check how far to plant your maple tree from your house. The optimal distance from your home depends on the species of maple you are planting.

  • Maple tree roots can damage your foundation if the tree is planted too close to the home.
  • The best distance to plant a maple tree from your house depends on the species being planted.
  • Small maples, such as the Japanese Maple, can be planted 10 feet (3 meters) from your foundation. Large varieties of maple should be planted 30 feet (9 meters) or more from the house, depending on species.
  • Maple roots do not have to physically invade your foundation to cause damage.

A common misconception is that tree roots have to burrow into your concrete foundation to damage it. This isn’t true. Roots damage foundations by pulling all the water from the soil nearby. This dries out the soil, which in turn pulls moisture from the foundation and causes it to crack. Soil that has been robbed of moisture by invasive tree roots will also settle, causing the house to sink on the side closest to the tree.

Do Maple Trees Have Surface Roots?

Because of their relatively shallow root systems, all maple trees have the potential for growing roots that break the surface. However, species such as Silver Maple, Norway Maple, and Red Maple are the most notorious for surface roots. Maples are most likely to develop surface roots in compacted soils with low oxygen content.

  • Silver, Norway, and Red Maples are known for shallow roots that commonly break the surface.
  • Norway Maples are the most notorious for surface roots. Their extensive networks of surface roots prevent grass growth under their branches.
  • Sugar Maple and Japanese Maple are less likely than other varieties to develop surface roots.
  • Clay soil, rocky soil, or compacted earth increase the likelihood of your maple tree developing surface roots.
  • Prevent your maple from forming surface roots by regularly aerating and fertilizing your yard. This will add nutrients and oxygen to the soil.

Your maple tree’s roots break the surface in order to gather the oxygen the tree needs to live. Compacted soil or heavy clay soil does not contain enough oxygen for the tree. Aerating your lawn once per year helps battle surface compaction and helps oxygen enter the soil. This yard maintenance can discourage your maple from forming surface root systems.

Will Cutting Roots Kill a Maple Tree?

Cutting any roots that are within the branch canopy of your maple can cause serious damage to your tree or even kill it. Refrain from cutting surface roots, as this can weaken your tree’s support system, leading to disease or causing the tree to fall. Instead, cover the roots with 2–4 inches of mulch or topsoil.

  • Whenever possible, avoid cutting maple roots that are within the branch-span of the tree.
  • Do not cut surface roots. This can weaken or kill the tree.
  • Cover surface roots with 2–4 inches of mulch to keep them out of sight.
  • Rather than mulch, cover roots with 2 inches of topsoil and then seed with grass to reclaim part of your lawn.
  • It is acceptable to cut maple roots outside the tree’s branch-span when necessary.

Cutting some maple roots is inevitable when roots spread so far from the main trunk. As a rule, your maple can quickly recover when roots beyond the spread of its branches are cut. These thin roots will bounce back if you have to cut them to install a drainage ditch or a lawn sprinkler system.

What Kind of Soil Does a Maple Tree Need?

Maple trees are generally adaptable plants that can thrive in many environments. However, they do best when planted in moist soil that receives plenty of water. While some varieties, such as Sugar Maples, can withstand drought, species such as the Japanese Maple do not.

  • Maple trees prefer moist soil that receives plenty of water.
  • Soil pH between 5.0 and 7.0 is best for maples. This is the same pH where grass thrives, making maples great trees for your yard.
  • As long as moisture and pH are correct, maples can thrive in sandy, loamy, clay, and even rocky soil.
  • While many larger species can survive periods of drought, Japanese Maples struggle in drought conditions. If drought strikes, water your Japanese Maple.

In most places, maples thrive with little to no specialized care. maples occur naturally from North America to Europe, Africa, and Asia. In warm climates, some species of maples even retain their leaves year-round, making them excellent shade trees.

What Kind of Roots Do Maple Trees Have?

Maple trees develop shallow, wide-spreading root systems. The majority of maple roots are in the top 2 feet (60 cm) of the soil, with many just below the surface. The roots spread up to three times the circumference of the tree’s branch canopy. Most maples do not have invasive roots, but Norway and Silver Maples do develop invasive root networks that can damage foundations and paved areas. Because maples are shallow-rooted, their roots may break the surface. To combat this, plant Sugar Maples and Japanese Maples, which have deeper roots than other species.

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