Can Apple Tree Roots Invade and Damage Property?

Can Apple Tree Roots Invade and Damage Property?


Can Apple Tree Roots Invade and Damage Property?

Apple trees are one of the most popular fruit trees in the United States, and although they can be grown in most climates, many people are afraid that the roots will become invasive and cause damage to their property if they are planted near their home.

In light of the above, are apple tree roots invasive, and are they safe to grow in your backyard?

The root systems of apple trees are neither invasive nor aggressive, and they lack the strength to cause foundation damage or to infiltrate sewage systems. 


However, if they are allowed to grow in confined locations, they have been known to force paving stones upward. Understanding the root structure of an apple tree is essential for successfully directing its roots.

Apple tree roots have the potential to develop to be twice the size of the canopy and compete for nutrients, water, and oxygen with the tree’s canopy.

 It is common for apple trees to have a few deep, vertical roots that grow straight down into the earth. These roots help to anchor the tree, thus it is important to understand how the roots develop.

So, what is the process through which apple tree roots grow?


What is the growth pattern of apple tree roots?

Growing apple trees has a variety of benefits, like the pleasure of eating apples that have been produced in your own backyard, the feeling of accomplishment that comes from growing your own, and so on. However, not everyone is aware of how they develop.

Appletree roots may grow up to three times the height of the tree and may be as long as 25 feet in length; dwarf apple trees, on the other hand, are shorter than this, with roots that can extend as far as 15 feet. One of the most important roles of an apple tree is to spread out and absorb water, oxygen, and nutrients from the surrounding soil.


When apple trees are grown from seed, a taproot emerges, which serves to stabilize the plant’s delicate position in the soil. Eventually, the embryonic taproot dies and the root structure develops into a fibrous root system with just a few vertical, deep anchoring roots remaining after many years.

It forms a cluster of fine roots with no obvious tap root at the base of the plant. There are three distinct forms of apple tree roots, and recognizing the differences between the three types of apple tree roots may aid in determining the progress of the tree’s development.

Apple Tree Roots Can Be Divided Into Three Types

Fruit trees establish their root systems in a way that is distinctive to each season: spring, summer, fall, and winter (Figure 1). The three roots of an apple tree are composed of a deep taproot, lateral fibrous roots, and feeder roots. The deep taproot and lateral fibrous roots are accompanied by smaller feeder roots.

Roots that go deep

When apple trees are young, they frequently have a few vertical, deep roots that go deep into the ground. As a result, these deep roots have the ability to reach the moisture stores that reside deep beneath the soil and provide support for the tree during times of drought and nutrient scarcity.

When severe weather conditions like as storms and Cetra occur, they also serve to anchor the tree to the ground. The production of vertical roots up to 20 feet in depth by a full-sized standard rootstock is possible in three years under ideal soil and moisture conditions.

Roots with a fibrous texture

Developing radially and horizontally from deep roots, fibrous roots of apple trees penetrate the ground in all directions away from the plant in search of moisture and nutrients. These organisms are often found in the top three feet of soil, close to the surface (1 meter).

Feeder roots sprout from the fibrous roots to take up water and nutrients from the soil at the surface, branching out four or more times to produce fans of mats of hundreds of fine, short, non-woody tips ranging in diameter from 0.2-1mm and in length from 1-2mm. Feeder roots are a type of root that grows from the fibrous roots to take up water and nutrients from the soil at the surface.

These feeder roots are responsible for the vast majority of the apple tree’s water, nutrient, and oxygen uptake.

Fertilizer Roots Fertilizer roots arise from the fibrous roots and often extend into the top few centimeters of the soil profile.

Because apple tree feeder roots compete with neighboring plants and turf for water and nutrients, it is critical to mulch the base of young apple trees to conserve moisture and prevent shallow-rooted turf and weeds from growing at the foot of the apple tree and stealing nutrients from the feeder roots. For more information, see Apple Tree Feeder Roots.

Grass and weeds that grow at the base of young apple trees might impede the growth of the apple tree at a time when it is most required, such as during the first few years of root development.

The Root System of an Apple Tree and How It Works

Similarly to the carrot, which also has a taproot system, the apple tree’s lateral fibrous roots extend about twice as far as the tree’s canopy, and the taproot system is identical to that of the apple tree. Fine feeder roots grow from lateral fibrous roots to capture nutrients from nearby surfaces when soil conditions are good, but the spread may be controlled by favorable soil conditions.

During extreme weather conditions, such as a drought, the taproot may reach deep moisture reserves, which helps to maintain the tree’s life. Apple tree rootstock influences the size and shape of the mature tree, as well as the rate at which it bears fruit and the size and shape of the root mass. Some rootstocks are more compelling than others in terms of growth and fruit production.

So, what is the performance of the roots throughout the various seasons?


Root growth accelerates throughout the spring when both fibrous and feeder roots expand, collecting water and nutrients to aid in the promotion of apple tree flowering. Once the budding process is complete, their growth will come to a halt.

A tree’s whole nutrition and energy is directed toward the development of buds, leaves, and fruits on its branches. Because it will concentrate all of its resources and energy to creating a strong root system, a newly planted tree will not bear fruit for many years after it has been planted.


During the summer, apple tree roots are responsible for delivering water and nutrients to developing fruits, and hence the tree’s roots do not grow. Trees that do not have a well-established root system are particularly vulnerable to stress at this time. Moreover,

Beyond the summer heat, the additional weight of the apple puts additional pressure on the tree and its root system.


The apple tree enters a state of dormancy after the harvest. Many feeder roots are killed as they prepare to anchor themselves down for the next windy days. Side branching fibrous roots, on the other hand, begin to sprout as soon as the apple tree’s stored energy is released; root growth throughout the autumn season assists in the establishment of a stable anchoring.


The fibrous roots that started to emerge after the harvest continue to develop until the soil temperature reaches a certain degree, at which time the rest of the apple tree turns dormant and the apple tree is no longer productive. The formation of roots is slow but continuous, and it continues until the earth freezes solid in the winter.

In contrast to other plants or turfgrass, root development during the winter months is not hindered by competition.

Is it possible for the roots of an apple tree to get large enough to cause damage?

Apple trees do not have aggressive or invasive root systems that might cause structural damage to foundations or sewage lines, which means you can plant them next to your home without worrying about root damage to the structure.

The practice of planting directly over any subsurface plumbing or piping is not recommended since it increases the likelihood of having to dig up or remove the tree to access the system if the system should ever need repair or replacement in the near future.



In contrast, planting in close proximity is not an issue at all. The root system of an apple is weak, and so it will not cause harm to pipes or plumbing if the piping is structurally solid (no cracks, etc.).

Vertical tree roots are rare; horizontal tree roots are more common, and the bulk of tree roots may be found in the upper 12-16 inches of soil. A planting hole that is 2-3 feet deep is likewise much too deep for a tiny apple tree, or for any other kind of tree for that matter.



While the planting hole should be somewhat broad – about 2-3 times the width of the rootball – it should not be deeper than the depth of the current rootball. When you dig a planting hole that is too deep, the soil settles and the tree is planted too deeply in the ground.


While planting apple trees roughly 6-8 feet from the house’s wall is not always a good idea, it is sometimes a good idea, particularly on south-facing walls that are shielded and somewhat warm. 

Fruit tree training that involves trellising the branches so that they rest flat against the wall in a fan shape is known as ‘espalier’ fruit tree training.


Choosing the Most Appropriate Location for Your Apple Tree

The most effective strategy for achieving success is to plan ahead of time. To begin, let us discuss the location: What kind of strategy do you have in mind for where you’re going to put your new apple trees?


 Cross-pollination may be avoided by taking into account all of the elements of the planting place. You can also prevent countless future troubles by examining the surrounding area for light and adequate soil, using your space efficiently, and creating room for future plants.



Is there a pollinator variation that is suitable with this plant? Fruiting performance of an apple tree is dependent on cross-pollination by a different variety (such as Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, and so on) of the same kind of tree (apples to apples) during the fruiting season.

In most cases, apple trees produce poorly or do not bear fruit because there is a dearth of a pollinator variety that is compatible with the apple variety. For successful cross-pollination, apple trees and their pollen partners should be planted as near as possible to one another – within 50 feet of one another – to allow insects and the wind to move pollen from bloom to blossom across the trees.



On the lookout for Sunshine and Good Soil

Apple trees thrive in full sunlight and in well-drained, productive soil conditions, according to the USDA. The definition of full daylight throughout the growing season is at least six to eight hours of sunlight.

When deciding where to plant your new apple trees, keep in mind that light is essential for fruit production and quality, as well as for the prevention of fungal illnesses in the future.



In order for apple tree roots to remain healthy, the soil around them must be well-drained, and strong roots are the cornerstone of every healthy tree. Unless you observe that your natural soil is a thick clay that retains water during periods of heavy rain, you should consider relocating your apple tree.

Similarly, if your region has fast-draining, sandy soil, your apple tree may suffer from water-related stress (similar to that experienced under drought conditions) and may need more frequent watering.



If you want your apple trees to flourish at their best, we do not recommend planting them on rocky or heavy pure-clay soils. If you are unable to relocate your apple trees, you may want to consider fixing the soil at your planting spot before establishing your orchard.



The process of amending the soil is very dependant on your individual location; thus, contacting your local county cooperative extension is a good place to start your search.


 In general, you may add coir, such as our Coco-Fiber Growing Medium, to the planting hole of your apple tree to help with water distribution, or you can mix one-third sphagnum/peat into the soil when you plant your apple tree.



Build a bottomless raised bed (at least 12-inches deep and 3- to 4-feet wide) in which to put your apple tree if you do not want to deal with the soil where you are planting it. You may also plant apple trees in containers, starting with a big pot large enough to sustain the current root system of each apple tree and growing from there (with room to grow).


Most young apple trees may be started in a 5-gallon container, and as they get older, you can transplant container-grown apple trees into larger containers as they become more mature. You shouldn’t lose heart if your yard isn’t in the greatest possible condition.


As a result of their versatility, apple trees grow in a variety of soil conditions and react well to soil amendments such as compost or fertilizers, allowing them to survive even in nutritionally poor soil. Just keep in mind that you should avoid planting in areas with heavy soils and poor drainage as much as possible.

Keep an eye out for your surroundings.

Apple trees may also be utilized as a landscaping element, so keep this in mind when choosing a spot for your planting. Pretend your new apple tree is a fully-grown tree, and go over all it has to offer:



Is there anything in the way, such as wires or other obstacles?

Is there anything, such as cables, pipes, or other lines and utilities, that you should be careful not to bury?
In the vicinity of your apple tree’s mature spread, is there a sidewalk or a concrete foundation?
Was it possible that your apple tree, when fully grown, would impede your view of whatever you want to see?


Will the neighboring trees impede or otherwise impair the passage of sunlight to your apple tree as it grows?

Even a year or two after planting, it may be difficult to successfully transplant an apple tree, so take the time to ensure that it is planted properly the first time around.

It’s Important to Use Proper Spacing.

When it comes to planting distances for apple trees, growers usually ask about keeping the trees away from patios, sewer lines, water pipes, and other buildings, which is a good question. Patios are often not a source of worry since the soil underneath them is dry and compacted….

It is preferable to plant at least 8 to 10 feet between these structures and your apple trees so that the roots are not encouraged to flourish in this area of the landscape. A reasonable distance is defined as a distance that is more than the expected maximum spread of your apple tree.

It is about the same height as the mature height of the apple tree you wish to transplant (for example, Dwarf, Semi-Dwarf, Standard). The following section contains recommendations on the amount of space between trees and other structures.



In part, this is due to the fact that sewage and water lines are buried so deeply that you would not anticipate apple tree roots being drawn to them and growing around them if an apple tree is placed too near to them. Apple tree roots, on the other hand, will be drawn to sewage and water lines because they are moist, and they will grow around them if the tree is put too near to them.



Planting apple trees at a sufficient distance from these items can help you prevent problems in the near or distant future.

Consider the amount of space available for the following plants.

Starting with a small number of apple trees is recommended if you are new to apple tree planting or are planting apple trees in a new location. In the future, particularly after experiencing the advantages of growing your own apples for the first time, you may decide to expand your home orchard.

Making arrangements for more apple trees and other fruit trees, as well as berry bushes and garden plants, ahead of time might be a good idea if you have the space. Thus, the future planting sites will be ready when you are, without interfering with the current apple trees in your orchard or vineyard.



Concluding Remarks
Apple trees are friendly trees if they are grown in the proper conditions and with the proper planting configurations. 

Fortunately, once planted, they will not kill everything in their path, as invasive trees do; instead, apple tree paths will humbly attempt to find their way around obstacles throughout the year, even throughout the autumn months.



Don’t be afraid to experiment with growing apples the next time you get your hands on a tree and decide it’s something you want to do. However, as previously said, do not attempt to grow it over any water or drainage lines or systems.

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