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Elm Tree Root System – Are Elm Tree Roots Invasive?

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Are you looking for some ornamental tree that needs to be big and low–maintenance? Elm trees are the right pick for you. But wait, will planting the tree affect your garden or nearby structure? Are elm tree roots invasive? 

We researched a lot, and here is the answer with some related information you may need to know.

Elm Tree Root System Explained

Elm tree roots grow 3-4 feet deep and a little wider than their crown, and they are not invasive in general. But when they grow older, there is a chance that their roots can become invasive. It is okay to cut down some non-major invasive roots, but not too many.

Elm trees are from the Ulmaceae tree family, and there are about 35 species. Elm species can be big to mid-size, but they all have similar types of roots. Elm trees can live 150-300 years, and even older elm trees exist.

Elm trees are one of the most popular trees in America, and they were widely planted in many cities in the 19th century. Because of its adaptability and low maintenance, it is one of the best trees to plant in urban areas.

The roots of elm trees are shallow at their young age, and the root can spread wider with time. But in a nutshell, generally, their roots are not invasive, but an old and large tree elm can cause some problems. 

Elm roots grow 3-4 feet deep, which is relatively shallow compared to other big trees. Their roots can grow a bit wider than their crown. So, although their roots are not known to cause problems, you should give the tree enough space so it can grow comfortably.

If you are making a garden, plant an elm tree at least 6-8 feet away from other trees. But keep the tree 15 feet away from any structure. Elm trees should be 15 feet away from the buildings. 

Elm roots do not cause problems for concrete foundations, but any structure like that can hurt the tree’s natural root growth.

Elm trees grow the best in full sun. That’s another reason why they should be planted away from your house. Your house can block the sunlight for a considerable amount of time.

We will discuss this in more detail in the latter part of the article. For now, let’s find out different types of elm trees and if their roots can be invasive.

Chinese elm tree: 

A Chinese elm tree can be 40 to 50 feet tall, and the old tree can grow invasive roots occasionally.

Allee elm tree: 

Allee elm trees can grow up to 60 feet long and 50 feet wide, so they need a large space to grow freely. Adult allee elm root can be invasive sometimes.

American elm tree: 

American elm trees can grow up to 100 to 120 feet and have invasive roots if they don’t have enough space.

Drake elm tree: 

Drake elm trees can be 50 feet tall, and their roots are not prone to be invasive.

Cedar elm tree: 

Cedar elm trees are one of the popular elm species, and they can grow about 75 feet tall. They can grow invasive roots occasionally.

Golden elm tree: 

Golden elm trees can grow 40-50 feet tall, and their roots are not usually invasive.

Siberian elm tree: 

Siberian elm trees can grow 50-70 feet tall and 50 feet wide and are not known to be invasive.

Lacebark elm tree: 

Lacebark elm trees are smaller elm species, and they can grow 35-40 feet tall. Their roots are not invasive.

Princeton elm tree: 

Princeton elm trees are 60-80 feet tall, and their roots can be invasive sometimes.

Frontier elm tree: 

Frontier elm trees are one of the smaller elm trees of elm, and they grow 25 tall and suitable for small gardens. Their roots are not invasive.

Evergreen elm tree: 

Evergreen elm trees grow about 35 feet tall, and their roots are not invasive.

Does Elm tree have deep roots?

Elm trees do not have deep roots. Their roots are pretty shallow and spread a few feet wider than their crown. However, their root depth can depend on some factors. 

They don’t grow deep roots in tight soil with lots of clay. Their average root depth is 3-4 feet. But in sandy soil, they produce 5-6 feet tap root. Trees need to grow deeper roots in the sand to get stronger and reach the water.

However, elm trees are highly drought resistant. They can withstand dry seasons without issues, but that does not mean they prefer dry soil. They need the proper amount of ground and a sound drainage system.

Too much water in the soil can be dangerous for them. As they have shallow roots, they are prone to root rot disease. Root rot fungus often strikes on the trees that have shallow roots. 

That happens because almost all the soil microbial communities live in the upper portion of the earth.

Watering once a week is enough for elm trees. They also need at least 8 hours of full sun for optimum growth. They will not grow in shaded places as in a sunny area.

How Deep Are Elm tree Roots?

The roots of elm trees can grow 3-10 feet deep, depending on the species and soil type. Larger elm species naturally grow deeper roots while smaller species have shallow roots. But compared to their size, they all have swallow and noninvasive roots.

They are good drought-tolerant trees and don’t rely on deep soil water for their necessary water. But if the water is scarce in the soil, they may try to grow deep roots to find some.

Soil type also has a connection with the root depth of elm trees. Usually, they grow deeper roots in sandy soil (most trees do that) and less deep roots in clay soil. 

Usually, their roots are not damaging and do not cause any harm to structures, but older trees can grow large and invasive roots.

Do Elm tree spread or multiply?

Elm trees do not spread or multiply with their roots. They reproduce primarily with seeds; you can also use cuts to grow elm trees. For collecting elm seeds, you must have 15 years or older elm trees. 

The seeds usually fall under the tree. Collect the seeds and dry them for two days; the seeds are ready to germinate and multiply. 

Elm trees are prone to Dutch elm disease, bark beetles, and other fungal diseases. Make sure to provide them with the proper sun, water, and fertilizer so they can grow healthy and be immune to diseases.

Elmwood has a unique ability to resist water, so they are used to make boats, homes, and furniture. But it is more popular as an ornamental shading tree and is widely planted for landscaping.

Are Elm tree Roots Invasive?

Elm tree roots are not generally invasive, but older trees can sometimes be invasive if there are nearby trees or structures. Elm trees have shallow roots, and the roots are not totally invasive at a young age. 

But when the tree gets older, its roots also grow in number and size, and some of them may become invasive.

More giant species of elm trees have broader and larger roots, and they are more likely to be invasive. That’s why it’s essential to choose the suitable species of elm trees depending on your garden size and how much space you have. 

If you have extensive size gardens, Chinese and allee elm trees will be suitable for you, while frontier and evergreen elm trees will grow well in small gardens.

Can Elm tree roots damage foundation or pipes?

Elm roots are not prone to be invasive, although they can become invasive on rare occasions. But even if invasive, they do not usually damage any concrete foundations and pipes. Concrete and pipe are solid materials, and trees avoid them almost all the time.

Concrete and pipes have no nutrient or water source, so tree roots do not have anything to do with concrete foundations and pipes. However, if a line or foundation is cracked and water leaks, the root can damage the pipe or foundation. 

Sometimes elm trees can damage thin sidewalks or driveaway if the tree is too close to the root.

Final Thoughts

The root system of elm trees is not invasive in general, but it can cause some issues if there are other trees or structures in the range of its root system when they grow older. Plant elm trees at least 15 feet away from buildings and 6-8 feet away from other large trees.

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