How Close is Too Close? (Part 1)

Authored by Sheldon Falk - Owner
Dec 14th, 2021
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Today’s commonly asked question is “How close can I plant a tree to my house?” That depends, what kind of tree are you planting? If you’re talking Cottonwoods, Poplars, American Elm, Siberian Elm, Large Willows or Maples the answer is as far as possible. You should not be closer than 50-60 ft. Tree roots can cause damage to the concrete structure as well as the weeping tile. And yes, even the skinny poplars have wide roots. The other issue can be large branches falling off and onto a building during a storm. This is more of a problem with the softer trees like Silver Maple, Manitoba Maple, and especially Poplar, Cottonwoods, and Willows. Elms have less issue because they have a stronger structure.

Ash roots are not as invasive but I would still stay a minimum of 20-30 feet away to be safe. This does not mean you cannot plant trees close to your buildings. Just choose small, non-aggressive trees. The list of these is quite extensive: Amur and Tatarian Maple, smaller Flowering Crabapples, Japanese Tree Lilac, Ming Cherry, Muckle Plum (we prefer to call it Pink Glow Plum), Princess Kay Flowering Plum, Maackia, Hawthorn, as well as all fruit and evergreen trees. All these varieties are relatively safe to plant within 10 to 15 ft., some even as close as 6-8ft.

Large shrubs like Lilacs, Ninebarks, Mockorange, and Honeysuckle will have more problems with branches being too close to walls then their roots to the foundation. These larger plants should be given enough space to spread out, probably 4 to 7 ft. Once you’re into the small shrubs, like Roses, Potentilla, Spirea, Hydrangea, Dwarf Lilacs and Dwarf Ninebark, 2-3ft away from the foundation shouldn’t give you any trouble. I am more concerned with small shrubs being too close to the south or west side of a building because of the extra heat and drought conditions that can occur. The small plants need about 2-3 times as much water near a building on the south or west side. Even the east side can dry out quicker during the longer days of summer when the sun is hot enough.

Stayed tuned for part two! There is still so much more I want to share with you about the distances needed between plants and other objects, like your neighbours fence!

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