Tree Care

Will Cutting Tree Roots Kill the Tree?

Will Cutting Tree Roots Kill the Tree.png

Tree roots, often hidden beneath the surface, are crucial to a tree's health and stability. They act as anchors, securing the tree against strong winds and storms, and also absorb water and nutrients from the soil. But what happens when these vital roots encounter construction projects, sidewalks, or other obstacles? Can cutting tree roots kill the tree?


Understanding Tree Roots and Their Importance


Before delving into the effects of cutting tree roots, it's crucial to understand the role roots play in a tree's life. Roots anchor the tree, absorb water and nutrients from the soil, and provide stability. They also store energy reserves essential for the tree's growth and survival. In essence, the health of a tree is deeply interconnected with the well-being of its roots.


Does Your Tree Die When You Cut the Root?


The Short Answer: Not always, but it depends.


Cutting a few small roots won't be fatal for a healthy, mature tree. However, the extent of the damage and the tree's resilience will determine the potential consequences. Let's delve deeper into the factors at play:


The Severity of the Root Cut:


  1. Minor Cuts: Removing thin, hair-like feeder roots typically won't harm the tree significantly. These roots are primarily responsible for absorbing water and nutrients, and the tree can readily compensate by growing new ones.
  2. Moderate Cuts: Severing thicker secondary roots can be more impactful, but the tree may still be able to cope. However, it might experience slower growth, reduced stability, and increased susceptibility to stress or disease.
  3. Significant Cuts: Removing large structural roots, especially those anchoring the tree deep within the soil, can be devastating. This can significantly compromise the tree's stability, nutrient uptake, and overall health, potentially leading to decline and even death.

The Tree's Age and Health:


  1. Young and Healthy Trees: With their vigorous growth potential, young trees can generally tolerate minor to moderate root cutting better than older trees. They can adapt and regenerate new roots more readily.
  2. Mature and Weaker Trees: Older trees, especially those already weakened by disease, stress, or environmental factors, are more vulnerable to root damage. Even minor cuts can significantly impact their health and survival.


The Timing of the Root Cutting:


Avoid cutting during active growth periods: Ideally, avoid severing roots during the tree's busy growth season, typically spring and summer. This is when the tree is most stressed and less able to recover from the injury. Late fall or winter, when the tree is dormant, is generally a safer time for root pruning.

Are There Safe Ways to Cut Roots Without Killing the Tree?


In some cases, carefully planned and executed root pruning may be necessary. For example, strategically removing a portion of the root might be unavoidable when a root directly conflicts with a building foundation or sidewalk. However, this should only be done under the guidance of a certified arborist who understands the tree's species, health, and root system.


Contact Strobert Tree Services - Leaders in Tree Care in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey


When deciding to cut tree roots, it's essential to prioritize the health and well-being of the tree. Strobert Tree Services is a reliable partner in tree care, serving communities in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. Our team of experienced arborists is committed to providing expert advice and services that ensure the longevity and vitality of your trees.


While cutting tree roots above ground can have consequences for the tree, it doesn't necessarily spell its demise. With careful consideration, professional guidance, and selective pruning techniques, it's possible to address root issues without compromising your cherished trees' overall health and stability.


Read our other blog posts

Sep 7th, 2023

My Tree is Dying

Spotting a dying tree? Learn the 6 warning signs and expert tips for saving your tree's life. Discov...
Sep 2nd, 2023

Pruning a Japanese Maple

Learn the art of pruning a Japanese Maple for beauty and overall health. Expert tips and guidance by...
May 24th, 2023

Can I Cut Tree Limbs That Hang Over My Property?

Have you ever found yourself staring at those overhanging tree limbs from your neighbor's property, ...