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Before I buy my peach tree, I’d like to locate a proper site to plant it. The bad news is that I heard some trees have invasive roots and can cause damage to structures such as foundations (costing upwards of $27,000). To help avoid this, I did some research to find out if peach trees really have invasive roots. Here’s what I found.
Generally, peach trees don’t have invasive roots, but they can cause damage depending on how close they are to a structure. This risk can be reduced if you choose less invasive rootstocks and plant them at least 25 feet away from construction. Avoid structures such as foundations, fences, pipes, and fire hydrants.
So, while peach trees aren’t normally invasive, just how far and deep do their roots grow, and where should you be planting them for the least amount of risk? Let’s take a closer look.
How Far Do Peach Tree Roots Spread?
Peach tree roots often extend to the drip line of the tree, which is about 25 feet long. Dwarf peach trees are shorter than this, usually having roots that spread to 15 feet. As a general rule, it’s best to keep peach trees at least 25 feet from structures such as fences, walls, and foundations.
The distance that peach tree roots can grow depends on many factors, such as:
- Oxygen levels in the soil
- Water levels
- Loose soil
All of the above qualities are important for peach tree’s growth. Roots need adequate amounts of oxygen, water, nutrients, and space to grow. Even if one of these is missing, the tree’s roots might be stunted.
In the search for these resources, peach tree roots tend to develop horizontally. If the soil is heavily compacted or lacking the proper nutrients, the roots will spread beyond the drip line until they find what they’re looking for. If they run into any obstacles, the roots will grow around the object and continue in their original direction of growth.
This makes construction sites a bad environment for them since the ground is usually compacted.
With optimal resources, the root system of a mature peach tree can reach up to three times the height of the tree. For a full-sized tree, this equals a spread of 25 square feet or more, while dwarf peach trees have root systems that are closer to 10 square feet.
Because of this, if you’d like to limit your peach tree’s horizontal root growth, there are a couple of things you can do.
- Install root barriers
- Keep the tree potted
Root barriers can be used to redirect roots deeper into the soil and away from fences or foundations. This mechanical device protects your property as well as the peach tree. On the other hand, planting the peach tree in a pot will naturally bind the roots.
If you’d like to get an idea of a good root barrier you can use, check out this root barrier on Amazon.
Keep in mind that peach trees grow an average of 36 inches per year, so they can quickly outgrow their root barrier or pot. Because of this, it’s best to provide potted peach trees with a new, larger pot every 3-5 years. If you feel comfortable, you can also prune the roots during this time to slow the tree’s growth.
How Deep Do Peach Tree Roots Grow?
Peach trees typically have shallow roots, with 90% of the roots found in the first 2′ of soil. Other, deeper roots can be found in 12-16″, with some reaching up to 3′ deep. While many factors contribute to the depth of peach tree roots, the main factors are the soil’s water, nutrients, and space.
Although the majority of the root system spreads out laterally to seek nutrients in shallow soil, some roots grow deep into the soil to provide support and feed on the deeper nutrients.
Dwarf rootstocks feature an effective feeding root depth of 1-2’, while full-size trees probe 2-3’ deep.The University of California, Santa Cruz, Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems
Peach tree roots grow to different depths depending on environmental conditions such as:
- Soil packing and quality
- Water content
If the peach tree’s roots encounter unfavorable conditions, they’ll stop growing and turn horizontally or retreat back towards the surface
For example, their roots will only grow a few feet in waterlogged, peaty soil due to the lack of proper aeration. On the other hand, if the soil is loose with good airflow, the tree’s deepest roots can reach over three feet.
Can Peach Tree Roots Damage Structures?
Peach tree root systems are more likely to destabilize the ground than directly cause any structural damage. This is due to the shallow root systems that spread laterally just under the surface. Ground that’s loose or has a high water content are more likely to be destabilized.
While unlikely, peach trees that are planted close enough can damage:
- Fire Hydrants
If there is water under the foundation, roots can dry out shrinkable clay soils. This indirectly causes damage by contributing to the depletion of soil moisture which can cause the foundation to recede into the ground. However, this situation is uncommon and old age is a more likely culprit in foundational damage.
In the book, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben busts the myth that the tree’s roots are attracted to water pipes due to the water. He mentions that the more likely case is that they’re attracted to the loose ground to allow for more air and space for their root growth.
If there isn’t enough space in your yard, a dwarf peach tree is a good option that doesn’t require as much space as its full-sized counterpart.
Additionally, using a rootstock that’s less aggressive will help prevent any potential damage.
How Far Away Should You Plant Peach Trees From Structures?
As a general rule, peach trees should be planted at least 25 feet away from fences and foundations. This will avoid any potential damage to pre-existing structures from the tree’s roots or branches. It will also ensure that the plant has enough space to grow and find sufficient nutrients in the soil.
Along with keeping a minimum distance of 25 feet from structures, aim to keep peach trees within 50 feet of other flowering trees and plants. This will boost the pollination effects from other fruiting trees and flowers such as companion plants. Any farther than 50 feet and the chance the pollinators will visit both a nearby flower and your peach tree’s flowers is significantly reduced.
In short, plant peach trees at least 25 feet away from structures and other trees, but no more than 50 feet from other flowering trees and plants.