Questions to Ask Before You Plant That Tree

Spring is here! With it, many homeowners begin to shift their focus to outside projects. Trees and other landscaping can add shade, function, and curb appeal – ultimately increasing the value of your home.

But before you head over to the nursery, there are several things to consider. Certain trees have root systems that can spread quickly and invade sewer lines, causing blockages that require expensive repairs.

To avoid potential root intrusion into your sewer line, ask yourself these three questions before you plant a tree:

1.) Is it the right place?

The first step is to locate your sewer lateral, which is the sewer line that runs between your house and the main line in the street. Houses are supposed to have one near your foundation wall and another within 13 feet of the curb. If you find these two reference points, you can visualize where your sewer line runs underground.

If you can’t find these, see if you have access to land survey documents where lines may be marked. If not, call your local Water and Sewer department, and they will mark your underground pipes and connections for free. (Remember to call Florida 811 before you dig to avoid damage to utility lines of any kind!)

Avoid planting trees within at least 10 feet of sewer lines to prevent future root intrusion issues. The further away, the better. If there are already trees near your sewer line, call a professional plumber for an inspection to prevent a costly repair in the future.

2.) Is it the right kind of tree?

When you are planting anywhere near a sewer line, it’s best to select a “sewer safe” tree. These species are slower growing, shorter trees with smaller root ball. Options in Florida include:

  • Holly
  • Fringe tree
  • Sweet acacia
  • Spicewood
  • Many types of palms
  • Many species of fruit trees

On the other hand, avoid tall fast growing trees with expansive root systems, such as:

  • Cypress
  • Elm
  • Mahogany
  • Oak

Research the type of tree to learn its expected height, size and shape of its root system, and water needs. When in doubt, ask an expert. Keep in mind that you may need to replace faster-growing trees every 8-10 years to prevent root overgrowth.

3.) What can I do now to prevent problems later?

You can also take some steps now to avoid future root intrusion. In general, tree roots will go wherever the best nutrients can be found. Therefore, create an optimal root environment for trees where they grow so they aren’t tempted to invade your sewer lines.

  • Dig a large, wide pit when planting your tree so that it has room to grow.
  • To improve drainage, loosen the soil before planting.
  • Add fertilizer to provide optimal nutrients for root growth.
  • Water regularly during hot, dry weather.
  • Be sure to follow proper mulching techniques.
  • If you install new sewer lines at any point in the future, consider placing root barriers around them.

If you answer these questions correctly, you can save yourself a lot of time and money in the future! Always be on the lookout for potential plumbing issues. If you notice signs of a leak or blockage, be sure to call a plumbing professional right away!