5 Trees with Small Root Systems
As spring approaches, gardeners and aspiring green thumbs are preparing their seeds and their soil and putting together a watering schedule. With good planning and dedication, they may revel in the good results. Forethought and planning with growing veggies and flowers doesn’t actually differ that much from planting trees. Whether you have sprawling acres of property or a compact yard, there’s always something that can be planted to bloom and develop and be your own.
There are several things about planting trees to be aware of, and perhaps the most important is the part of the tree you do not see. Underneath our feet is a whole other world of sprawling and deep, or superficial and nonaggressive root systems. Trees with small root systems, also called shallow, noninvasive, or nonaggressive are prime candidates for small yards, placement near sidewalks or walkways, or in any space where less-imposing roots can take hold.
A tree’s ability to thrive depends on several factors, including the quality of the soil, growth care, and pruning. There’s a great interactive map that details the planting region of Portland (and the Willamette Valley) and can be helpful to peruse.
Portland is also blessed by gardeners and growers with specific experience with trees. Mr. Tree’s certified arborists are both knowledgeable and helpful and can provide insight to trees that will benefit from the weather, planting location, and early care techniques. Don’t hesitate to contact them with any questions about the best places to plant your shallow-root trees.
If you’re on the hunt for fruit trees with shallow roots, there are a few varieties available that would be good choices for the Portland area. Remember, choose a tree that will grow well in your zone and plant it at the correct time of year for the best results.
Adam’s crabapple is a nice choice if you’re looking for a deciduous tree with a thicker, rounder, and fuller appearance. It’s a colorful tree with bright pink to burgundy flowers and likes moist soil, so long as there is proper drainage. It’s known for its resistance to some of the more common apple tree diseases, such as apple scab and fire blight. Bounding and fragrant in the spring, the tree matures in the fall and winter. The roots of the crabapple tree enjoy a noninvasive or nonaggressive form that won’t burrow down and then burst cracks in sidewalks, nor will your home be threatened by roots on the search for water.
The trident maple is a strong and sturdy tree that does well in urban environments, although it’s a little slower in its growth. It can tolerate much of what an urban landscape has to throw at it, including air pollution, wind, salt, and drought. It’s also able to take root and grow in less-than-ideal soil. It does need good drainage, however, but even with longer-term droughts, the leaves of this tough tree stay green and full. It should be planted in full sun or partial shade and is a good choice for yards or property with enough sunlight.
Kousa dogwood, or Japanese dogwood, is an ornamental tree that grows a pinkish-red fruit and will blossom with bursts of white leaf clusters. These clusters appear to be flowers, but they’re actually leaves. It has a smaller roots system and is a tree that can grow in the Portland area. With several varieties, including the “Gold Star,” the “Satomi,” the “Stellar Pink,” and the “Moonbean,” the Kousa dogwood can come in various aesthetics. It likes a loamier soil and an average amount of moisture but is also a bit like the trident maple in the sense that it’s more drought-resistant. For a more detailed look at growing and caring for this small-root tree, there are gardening tips available.
Japanese maple is another maple tree that does well at this latitude and that can accent any yard, landscape, or business storefront. It’s really a good tree for the cooler growing zones above the 45th parallel. The Japanese maple has amazing burnt-amber-colored leaves that appear a bit wispy.
They prefer moist, well-drained acidic soil with a healthy dose of organic material. If it’s planted in a warmer environment, the leaves will lose their red or purple color and go green. When it comes to the roots of Japanese maple, it’s important to know that it “self-stunts.” That means, if the roots cannot expand wherever it’s planted, it will cease upward and outward above-ground growth.
Cape ash is another great species that would do well as a choice if you’re looking for something with a nonaggressive roots system. It grows quickly and creates a thick, wide crown. It’s often used along sidewalks and in places like shopping centers that landscapers want to look good without having to tend too much to. Because of how quickly it grows, it’s one of the top choices for people who want to create some shade in a hurry.
Although it does well all over the Portland area, one thing to take into consideration is that Cape ash does tend to grow wide and big, with the potential to grow over 30 feet high. It’s not well-suited for smaller yards or gardens where space is minimal or confined.
There are many other choices out there, whether you’re looking for a nice fruit or flowering tree or shrub, or a tree that provides ample shade. There are choices that come in all shapes and sizes, so sprucing up your yard or property with a few different nonaggressive or smaller-root trees can bring a lot of new color and life to your outdoor space.
If you have any hesitations or want a second opinion about your tree choice and the growing location in the Pacific NW, Mr. Tree is here to assist you. We want your yard to look great and are happy to be your go-to for all your tree needs in Portland and the surrounding area.