5 Trees with few roots

Creating a garden is a challenge that involves putting all our talents into practice. Not only does it require exquisite taste to be able to decide on the right and harmonious combination of plants for the garden, taking into account colours, heights and shapes, but it also requires the ability to plan for the future. Planting trees is an investment whose fruits (literally and metaphorically) will be seen with the passing of time.

Choosing the species of trees to be cultivated requires the ability to think that in the future this small tree can reach its maximum dimensions, both the part we see, the trunk and the crown, and that which we do not see: the roots. The roots are made to expand and develop, which can sometimes be incompatible with the surrounding constructions. For this reason it is essential to find species that can establish a respectful relationship with the environment and vice versa. For small gardens, with nearby buildings, it is necessary to find trees with few roots, such as these 5 species that we suggest.

Types of roots

We are used to looking up and delighting in the varied foliage of the trees around us and all the life that unfolds around them. But what we are not often aware of is that there is a world developing beneath our feet. Root systems can be deep, shallow and not very aggressive. It is precisely trees with these characteristics that are suitable for planting in small gardens, near pavements and walkways or next to walls and buildings.

The roots of trees serve different purposes. They not only support the tree and absorb nutrients, but also allow the soil itself to gain some stability and prevent soil erosion. A tree has several types of roots: the main roots, which are the thickest and largest. These roots provide stability and are often able to store water and carbohydrates to nourish the plants.

Secondary roots are more numerous, thinner and more tangled. They are the ones that absorb water and minerals from the surface to be processed. Tap roots are the largest roots, which go straight down from the trunk to the substrate, although not all trees are capable of developing this type of root.

When it comes to roots, it is important not to go by appearances. While larger trees may have proportionally extensive root systems, these roots do not have to be invasive or dangerous; just as there are more modest trees that have very aggressive roots, capable of extending deep and causing serious damage to pipes and buildings.

For example, willow trees are beautiful and not so massive in size when young, but the root system is quite extensive and being a species that needs a lot of water, it will always be on the lookout for more moisture so will not hesitate to make its way into pipes or a swimming pool. In contrast, a Japanese Maple is beautiful, shady and large, but has a fairly compact and unobtrusive root system, making it an excellent choice for living areas or places with little space.

How to choose a tree with a small root system

Choosing a tree requires a slightly larger investment of time than you have spent on plants, as it takes up a significant amount of space and can become the main plant in the garden, around which the rest of the plants will be planned. In addition, a tree is a long-term commitment, to which you will devote time and effort to see it fully developed and fulfilling its function in the space. There are many aspects to take into account.

First you have to evaluate the space where it will be located. Take the measurements of the place and take into account the orientation, as this will depend on the way the sun hits the space. This information will also be very useful when you buy the rest of the plants. Then it is important to think about the purpose of your tree, i.e. do you want something ornamental? shade? to offer privacy? cover an unpleasant view? fruit-bearing? do you want just one or several?

You also have to take into consideration the environmental circumstances (maximum and minimum climate during the year, whether it gets a lot of wind and sun, among other things). It is also worth knowing the type of soil: whether it is normal, acidic or alkaline. All these things can give you an idea of which tree you can plant or which things you should change to adapt to the tree of your dreams.

Another point to consider is the final size it will reach, as well as how long it will take to get to that point. It is difficult to predict 100% the size your tree will reach in the particular conditions of your space, because it is not the same to plant a tree that requires an acidophilic soil like a maple in an alkaline soil. It may survive, but it will not grow as much as one that has been planted in a suitable substrate; but it is necessary to investigate how much the tree grows, its spread and of course, the type of root it has.

It is a good idea to visit a park or garden where there is one or more specimens of the tree you want, so you can see more or less what shape it has, the branches, if it makes too much mess and even if it causes allergies. For example, plane trees are trees with few roots that are very widespread in the peninsula, because they grow very fast and provide shade, but not everyone knows that during their flowering period they produce a lot of irritating pollen that is very annoying for allergy sufferers. It is also necessary to know if its flowers or fruits attract any annoying insects, as some fruits attract wasps, or if its flowers or falling leaves can be annoying to sweep or if they fall into a nearby swimming pool.

There is no one perfect tree for everyone, as every space and every person has different needs, so it is essential to think seriously about all these variables and gather as much information as possible about the species you like best. This way you will be able to find that one species that goes perfectly with your garden, complements your home and makes you happy every time you look at it.

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low-rooted trees

Trees with few roots don't have to be plain or boring. In this small selection I have prepared for you, I have included small trees, trees with flowers and little roots, as well as trees with little roots that provide shade. With them you can add colour, texture and shade to your space without sacrificing the integrity of your plumbing system or foundation, and some can be potted, so those of you with terraces and balconies could also get your hands on some of these specimens.

- Lilacs - Syringa Vulgaris

If you want a small tree that will fill your garden with flowers and a delicious fragrance, then Lilacs or Syringa Vulgaris is the species for you. This tree barely reaches 7 metres in height, it can be grown in pots although it will not reach its full height. It is a deciduous type (its leaves fall in autumn and winter), it can have a single trunk or branch out into several. It has simple green leaves, which make the tree look bushy and handsome even when it has no flowers.

The lilac tree prefers full sun, although it can tolerate semi-shade. As for the substrate, a neutral or alkaline one can work very well as long as it has excellent drainage. It requires moderate watering (2 to 3 times a week in the warm season) as it does not tolerate drought. Pruning is not necessary, but it is necessary to remove the flowers as they dry out. It is advisable to fertilise once a week in spring, using a mineral fertiliser. In autumn you can make the last fertiliser of the year using an organic fertiliser to prepare it for winter and flowering in the following season.

- Brush - Callistemos miminalis

What this tree lacks in size, it makes up for in size and beauty. Callistemos minimalis is a perennial plant, native to Australia, noted for its drooping foliage and red flowers that resemble a round brush, which is why it is often given the popular names of "Broomstick", "pipe cleaner" or brush tree. The inflorescence is actually a spike of many red flowers.

They are very easy to care for and can be grown in full sun. They prefer warm temperatures, although they can survive in places where the winter temperature does not fall below 7°C. Watering should be moderate and reduced in winter. The substrate should remain moist, but wait for it to dry out before watering again.

Pomegranate tree - Punica Granatum

This fruit tree is small in size, reaching a height of only 5 metres. It has deciduous leaves in subtropical climates and persistent leaves in tropical conditions, as well as producing a delicious fruit. Its red flowers appear between April and June, to give way to the fruits that will reach maturity in autumn and winter. It is easy to care for, undemanding to the soil and prefers warm climates, although it can tolerate temperatures as low as -12°C.

The pomegranate tree is a very hardy plant, which can withstand drought very well, but in order for it to reach this degree of resistance it is important to water it every week during the first year. After that it will be able to stand on its own, even when it does not rain often. This tree can be planted in a large pot if you want to take advantage of its beauty and usefulness on terraces and balconies.

- Plumeria - Plumeria Rubra

Plumeria is my favourite flower. It has beautiful, delicate colours and one of the most incredible scents. It looks beautiful in almost any kind of garden, is very easy to care for and has few roots. This small tree, which grows up to 6 metres tall, is native to Mexico and Central America, making it perfect for places with warm climates and/or very mild winters. The plumeria withstands temperatures between 40° to 4° C, so if the winter is more severe in your region, then you should take extra precautions to protect it.

It is not very demanding with the soil, as long as it is well drained, as its roots and stems rot easily. It prefers to be in full sun (at least 6 hours a day) for maximum flowering. Watering should be moderate, especially in the warmer months, and gradually reduced in winter. If you want it to always be full of flowers, you can use organic fertilisers every couple of weeks during its active growing season (spring and summer). Be very careful with excess humidity, as this plant prefers drier climates.

- Contantinople Acacia - Albizia julibrissin

Of Asian origin, this beautiful tree can reach up to 15 metres in height. It is prized for the shape of its canopy, which takes on the shape of a parasol and is great for shading spaces, as well as its pretty white and pink inflorescences. Don't be fooled by its popular name, because the Albizia is not an acacia. It is fast-growing and deciduous and is another species that is easy to grow in almost any type of garden.

Albizia is not at all demanding on the soil, it only requires it to be well-drained and loose and light. It requires moderate watering, once a week will suffice in the cooler season and twice a week in summer. It benefits from fertilisation with organic fertiliser once a year, but in the flowering season it would appreciate mineral fertiliser once a month. Temperature wise it can withstand temperatures as low as -20°C and loves full sun.

About the author
Ame Rodríguez

Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.