Is Root Pruning Necessary?

unruly roots

Keeping tree roots under control

When you think of pruning a tree, it probably isn’t tree root pruning that you’re thinking about. In fact, you’re probably wondering why would you prune tree roots and Is tree root pruning safe?  Unless you’re an arborist or expert landscaper, you may not realize that tree root pruning is sometimes necessary when transplanting a tree. 

Tree root pruning is done to prepare a tree for transplanting, it minimizes any damage to the root system during the process. Without tree root pruning, or if is not done correctly, the excavation can damage the root, causing great harm and affect the tree’s health and structural stability. 

We are going to look into the process of tree root pruning in this article, but first, do you know Why do tree roots come to the surface? After all, they’re supposed to be underground, right? Well, there are as many reasons tree roots come to the surface as there are trees, well almost. 

Poor soil conditions is the most common reason, especially for some types of trees like poplars and ornamental cherries. A heavy clay or soil that compacted and lacks air and moisture will force the roots to surface in search of air and moisture. No, adding soil on top of the tree roots isn’t the answer. Too much soil, the tree will suffocate. Tree root pruning is the only solution, but if not done properly, it can kill the tree.  

So, is tree root pruning safe?

Dealing with tree roots is tricky because one improper cut can affect the water flow of the tree or weaken the tree and it falls during a high wind or storm.  The following is a recommended guideline on safe tree root pruning: 

  • Do not prune tree roots that are wider than two inches. This can affect the tree’s health or make it unstable because it isn’t able to get enough of the moisture and nutrients it needs. 
  • Never remove any tree roots that are next to the tree or fused to the tree trunk. These are critical to the structure of the tree.
  • Tree root pruning should be done in the early spring or winter. 
  • Never do tree root pruning more than twenty percent of tree roots that are above the ground. 
  • Wait 2 to 3 years between tree root pruning to allow the tree to recover. 

Will pruning a tree stop growth?

When done correctly by a professional arborist, no, pruning a tree will keep the tree healthy and in good condition. Tree pruning conserves the energy a tree needs and manages the shape and size of the tree, keeping it looking neat and tidy. A regular tree pruning is essential for a tree to have optimum health.

How do you cut a tree root without killing the tree?

We love having trees as a natural ornament for the lawn and the shade they provide. They block the wind and provide birds, critters, and more a refuge. So keeping trees healthy and growing, we need to care for the roots too. That is where tree root pruning comes into the care of trees.

The downside of trees is when the roots are active and strong, they invade underground utilities, house foundations, and tangle up with other tree roots and vegetation. Tree root pruning will prevent the roots from causing these problems, but it has to be done correctly with care so that the tree itself isn’t compromised.  

If you can’t hire an arborist for your tree root pruning, the following steps will help you DIY: 

  • Step One: Water around the tree too thoroughly to dampen the ground, making it soften. Let the water to seep in and then wait for the soil to partially dry where it is still damp.
  • Step Two: Loosen the top layer using a hand trowel to overturn it, feeling for the roots as you go so that you don’t stab them with the trowel blade.
  • Step Three: By hand, remove the soil and set aside, scooping out along the sides and under the tree roots. If the soil is compacted, use the trowel with care. 
  • Step Four: Cut the tree root ends with clean cuts, using a root saw, getting no closer than 3 times what the tree trunk’s diameter. Stop when the roots is the diameter of your fist and larger and only remove one-third of the roots.
  • Step Five: Dig a trench in front of the tree roots you prune, and implant a root barrier made of concrete, metal, or strong plastic. 
  • Step Six: Return the soil you set aside to the trench and cover the remaining tree roots and the root barrier you just implanted. If the soil around the tree is unhealthy, mix the soil you set aside with compost and peat. In six weeks, add fertilizer and compact the soil to ground level and water thoroughly.

How do you prune a tree for transplanting?

When you transplant a tree, it requires interfering with tree roots and there is a lot of responsibility that comes with this process. If the tree roots aren’t cut right, the tree can be damaged or even kill it. Root Prep: Because you can’t transplant a tree and keep all of the roots, tree root pruning is required, but in a way that will create a root ball.  Here are the recommended steps to safely do the required tree root pruning for transplanting:

  • Measure the tree’s diameter with a measuring tape, four feet above tree’s base and divide that by 3.14. Generally, a tree that is 3 feet in diameter, you should do tree root pruning no closer than nine feet. 
  • Do not cut tree roots that are bigger than two inches wide or two inches in diameter. Call a professional for tree root pruning for any roots larger. 
  • Plan your tree root pruning by when you’re planning to transplant the tree. If your transplant time is between October and November, your tree root pruning should be done after the leaves have come out during the summer. For springtime transplanting, your tree root pruning should be one in the late fall or early winter. Six months is the optimum waiting period between tree root pruning and the transplanting.

The tree roots pruning steps:

  • Determine the new root ball size – typically is ten to twelve inches to each inch of the tree’s trunk diameter.
  • Draw a circle around the exterior of the tree that is the size of the root ball.
  • Twenty fours prior to the plan tree root pruning, water the soil around the tree.
  • Using a sharp spade, cut one foot deep into the ground along the circle you drew.

Can you damage a tree by pruning it?

Tree pruning can be as tricky as tree root pruning. So, before you do any tree pruning, you need to understand the principles of tree pruning and tree growth. Keep in mind that with every cut, the tree is wounded. However, with correct tree pruning, the tree will seal the wound, preventing disease and insects from infiltering the interior of the tree. 

Here are some things that professional arborists and tree pruning experts warn you to avoid: 

Even one branch cut wrong will reflect a poor pruning job. These are examples of bad cuts: 

  • STUB CUTS: Leaving a branch stub that won’t allow the tree to seal and keep disease and insects out.
  • FLUSH CUTS: This is when you remove the branch collar, an area that is little bit larger around the branch base and prevents the tree from sealing up, thus creating a callus.
  • HEADING CUTS: This is when the branch end is taken off at a random point and leaves the tree open to disease and insects.
  • TOPPING:  This is the worst thing you can do to a tree because it requires some cutting of the main trunk, the most important part of a tree. In response, the tree will put out “water sprouts” branches as a natural response to being stressed. This results in an ugly tree.
  • LARGE BRANCHES: Pruning tree branches that have a diameter more than  4 inches can cause wounds on the tree that it can’t seal and heal. Instead, to remove a tree branch with a large diameter, cut it to the trunk.
  • TAILING: This results in a lot of interior branches visible and foliage growing at branch ends. 
  • The CROWN: It can be tempting to over prune a tree when it hasn’t been pruned in a long time. Prune just a little at a time, not a bunch all at once. 
  • TREE BARK: Damaging the bark while pruning a tree can be fatal for the tree. Avoid dropping or tossing branches through the crown and use only proper tree pruning tools and methods. 

What is the best tool for cutting tree roots?

You’ll need some type of saw for tree root pruning process, especially larger roots. You can use a chain or manual operated saw that can cut through any size after digging out around the root with a shovelA reciprocating or sawzall will work  and won’t require any digging around the tree roots. 

Root bundle of knocked over tree

Does pruning a tree stop root growth?

This is a question that supports the advice of arborist and landscapers, anyone that is going to do tree pruning or tree root pruning must know how to do tree root pruning and tree pruning. Yes, pruning a tree will affect the root growth some, it is a live tissue. A tree loses some of its ability to produce food when active branches are pruned, so care must be implemented when pruning a tree just as when you do tree root pruning. 

Tree root pruning and tree pruning should be done by a knowledgeable person. You wouldn’t let just anyone cut your hair, right? Think of tree root pruning and tree pruning as the hair on your landscape. Hiring a professional is well worth the expense. Call 817-882-6499 today for tree root pruning in Fort Worth, TX.