Cherry blossom trees are famed for their beautiful spring flowers. Their unique flowering spectacle draws huge crowds across the world every year. But if you’re thinking of planting a cherry blossom tree, you may be wondering – are their roots invasive?
These ornamental trees have long been fears over whether their roots damage structures like sidewalks or pipes. So are cherry blossom tree roots troublesome or even invasive? Or can they be planted safely in most landscapes? Keep reading to find out.
What Makes a Tree’s Roots Invasive?
First, we need to understand what classifies a tree as having an “invasive root system”. Tree roots are opportunistic and seek out sources of moisture and nutrients. But some trees have more aggressive roots that can damage infrastructure and spread beyond their canopy width.
Invasive vs Aggressive Tree Roots:
- Invasive – Roots that grow over long distances, well beyond the tree canopy width. They aggressively compete with other plants for water and nutrients.
- Aggressive – Surface roots that may lift sidewalks and cause damage, but do not spread far from the tree itself.
Trees renowned for invasive root systems include:
- Black Locust
- Silver Maple
- Evergreens like Spruces and Firs
Their roots can spread over 50 feet from the trunk, emerging anywhere they can access moisture and nutrients. They vigorously compete with other plants as well.
Meanwhile, trees with more aggressive surface roots that don’t invade far underground include:
So where do cherry blossom trees fall on the spectrum?
Are Cherry Blossom Tree Roots Invasive?
Cherry blossom trees do not generally have invasive roots. Their roots tend to be more aggressive surface rooters.
Cherry blossom tree root facts:
- Root Depth – 1 to 3 feet deep
- Root Spread – Typically spreads 2 to 3 times canopy width
- Root Structure – Dense but shallow fibrous roots
Therefore, while cherry blossom tree roots seek moisture and nutrients, they tend to spread laterally more than vertically underground.
Their roots don’t grow as deep or aggressively as truly invasive species. But they may still lift sidewalks and driveways if conditions are right.
Cherry Blossom Tree Root Growth Habits
To understand why cherry blossom tree roots may disturb surfaces despite non-invasive tendencies, we need to look at how they grow.
Cherry blossom trees have a relatively shallow, fibrous root structure. These roots fan out close beneath the surface of the soil.
- The bulk of the cherry tree root system exists in the top 12-18 inches of soil.
- They need loose, nutrient-rich, well-draining soil to establish deep roots.
- Poor soil conditions lead to more aggressive surface rooting.
While ornamental cherry tree varieties only grow 20-30 feet tall, their roots may spread 2-3 times the branch/canopy width.
For example, a cherry blossom tree that is 20 feet diameter will likely have a root spread of 40-60 feet diameter.
This exposes more surface roots, especially on uneven or sloped terrain. Roots then emerge seeking moisture and nutrients from the air.
Additionally, cherry blossom trees prefer consistent moisture and lots of sun.Insufficient water and nutrients causes them to develop shallow surface roots.
What Root Problems Can Cherry Trees Cause?
If given the right growing conditions, the smallish roots of a cherry tree itself are usually not invasive.
However, they can still lead to issues if proper siting and tree care isn’t practiced:
Surface Root Damage
- Lifting sidewalks – shallow roots spreading underneath concrete can crack and buckle surfaces
- Damaging foundations – roots seeking moisture can intrude foundation cracks
- Displacing underground pipes/cables – rapid early root growth needs room to expand properly
Moisture & Nutrient Seeking
- Encroaching on other plants – dense surface roots soak up moisture/nutrients needed by nearby vegetation
- Emerging at the surface – air pruning leads to new roots emerging from the soil
This is why proper siting and preparation is vital before planting your cherry blossom tree.
Where to Site Cherry Trees to Prevent Root Issues
Cherry blossom tree roots can cause issues, but this is usually preventable with good siting:
- Allow at least 6-10 feet spacing from driveways, patios, or foundations
- Space trees 20+ feet apart if planting several
- Leave over 30 feet between any buildings, pools, or underground utility lines
This gives fibrous cherry tree roots ample room to spread out naturally.
- Plant in spaces allowing at least 200-400 cubic feet total soil volume per tree
- Prevents root congestion forcing them to surface
- Install vertical root barriers along foundations, borders, or driveways to redirect roots down
- Stabilize surfaces like sidewalks with structural cells giving roots space underneath
Barriers and stabilized surfaces prevent cherry tree root damage while still encouraging deep growth.
Caring for Cherry Trees to Reduce Root Issues
Proper care and maintenance of your cherry blossom tree can also prevent invasive roots:
Watering & Fertilization
- Water 1-2 inches per week during first 2 years for strong establishment
- Fertilize in early spring and fall to encourage deeper root growth
- This prevents surface rooting due to dryness or malnutrition
Good Pruning Practices
- Prune only in late winter before spring growth starts
- Never remove more than 1/3 of total tree canopy per year
- Keep the center canopy open to allow light and air movement
- Apply 2-4 inches organic mulch around root areas
- Avoid tilling or soil compaction via landscaping equipment
- Monitor for signs of stressed roots like fungal growth or root girdling
Following these best practices minimizes problematic cherry tree roots.
Conclusion – Are Cherry Tree Roots Invasive?
While they may occasionally cause surface damage, cherry blossom tree roots are generally not invasive. Their roots don’t travel long distances underground competing with other vegetation like truly invasive species.
However, their dense fibrous roots do need proper space and care. This keeps them growing down deeply rather than lateral surface rooting.
By allowing ample room for the root structure to develop, and tending properly, cherry blossom trees make beautiful additions to most landscapes.
Their shallow but spreading feeder root system is a small price to pay for gorgeous spring blooms!
Now that you know what causes cherry tree roots to misbehave, as well as tips to prevent it, you can confidently plant these ornamental spring superstars.