One of the most beautiful parts of designing a garden is thinking about the trees you can plant, because they are an investment in the future. That little sapling that looks so flimsy today will at some point grow and be able to offer shade, flowers and perhaps fruit. For this reason it is important to choose trees not only for their aesthetic appearance, but also for their function, how they will grow and how they will develop their roots.
If you are looking for trees that improve the temperature of the space with their shade and with non-invasive roots, to protect buildings and pipes, then you are in luck because we will mention the most beautiful species with these characteristics, as well as the basics of their care and why you should prefer them.
why should we take roots into account?
A few years ago we started having problems with pipes at home. After breaking the ground and pulling out the pipes we discovered the source of it all: the roots of one of the trees in the garden had broken the pipe. The saddest thing is that, in addition to paying a lot of money for the repairs, we had to get rid of the tree. It sounds like a simple anecdote, but the truth is that it is essential to know which species of tree is the right size for the space and whether its roots are aggressive or not. Remember: it is not the fault of the poor tree, but of the humans who planted it without investigating whether it was the right thing to do.
Root systems have two functions: they are an anchor to the soil, allowing them to withstand winds and storms, but they are also the tree's way of absorbing and transporting the water and nutrients it needs to stay alive. Roots usually extend over an area similar to the size of the tree's crown, although in many species they can exceed these dimensions. In fact, when we consider the whole tree as an individual, the crown would only represent 30% of its total volume, 70% of the tree is underneath and grows in proportion.
There are two types of roots in trees. Extensive roots, which are about the same thickness, spread out to the sides like the crown of the tree and have a very good grip on the soil. They are the most damaging to structures, because they are the ones that invade spaces. Pivoting roots are characterised by a main root that is thicker. They grow downwards, deeper into the soil and have less anchorage. This makes them a bit risky in case of strong winds or storms, as they can fall more easily.
It is important to consider the type of roots of the trees you choose for your garden, especially if they are going to be very close to the house or other structures. Roots have an instinct to seek water incessantly, which is why they bore through pipes or seek to penetrate other terrain, destroying entire underground plumbing systems, invading swimming pools or breaking the ground in the best of cases. That said, it is important to avoid tree species such as eucalyptus, willow or poplar, which are thirsty little guys and will not stop until they find a continuous source of water with their highly developed and invasive roots.
trees with few roots
For some strange reason we think that the size of the roots is proportional to the size of the crown, and nothing could be further from the truth. Believe it or not, there are giant, towering tree species that are perfect for planting near buildings, as their roots are shallow and shallow. In addition, many of these trees have a leafy canopy that spreads out to provide shade, so these species are ideal for gardens that are close to home or on small tracts of land that have a building nearby. Some species more suitable for the Iberian Peninsula are:
- Bauhinia or Orchid Tree
The most characteristic feature of this tree is its lobed leaves, which resemble the hoof of a cow or camel. They are native to Asia and can grow to a height of 6 to 7 metres. They produce a white or pink flower that resembles small orchids. They have a very dense canopy and are ideal for planting close to the house because they have no invasive roots and their parasol-like shape provides incredible shade.
Bauhinias enjoy living in full sun and require little watering. Believe it or not, they are able to withstand light frosts as low as -7°C. The flowers are not very fragrant, but they are a blast and attract birds, so you will spend hours enjoying their song and colours. While they are deciduous (i.e. they lose their leaves in the cold season), they are not trees that have fruits or seeds that stain the ground or litter the garden too much.
These are deciduous trees, which do very well in temperate areas of the earth. This condition is very important, as they do not do well in warm places and prefer environments with differentiated seasons and winters reaching 0°C.
There are many varieties of maples, so you need to pay attention to see which variety is right for you. If you have limited space, you can look for the acer negundo which grows up to 15 metres, the campestre which grows up to 10 metres or the pensylvanicum which ranges from 5 to 10 metres.
- tree of love
I must confess that I am an inveterate fan of trees with flowers and colours, so the Tree of Love, Judas Tree, Cyclamen or Cercis Siliquastrum has always been on my wish list and it is impossible not to fall in love with this lilac-coloured flower festival that transforms the tree in spring. It is not very tall, growing up to 6 to 12 metres, but it is fantastic for shading the garden.
The Judas tree has deciduous leaves, which means that they are lost in the cold season, but instead of appearing in spring, the tree fills up with flowers and then the leaves return. It can withstand the cold, up to 18°C, so it is perfect for those regions with extreme climates.
- Shade Banana - Plátanus hispanica
One of the most widely planted native species in the whole peninsula, the shade plane tree is an ornamental deciduous tree, which grows quite fast and is distinguished by its large size, reaching 30 to 40 metres in height, which makes it very shady. It is easy to grow in full sun, very leafy, long-lived and although it prefers temperate regions, it can grow almost anywhere.
It is important to note one thing: this tree is very allergenic. If you suffer from allergies, sinusitis and similar conditions, it is best to stay away from this species, especially in spring, when it releases a large amount of pollen that can affect your respiratory tract.
- Prunus: cherry and plum trees
The trees of this genus are a real treat. There are a lot of varieties, but the ones that have the sparsest roots and are best for shade are the varieties prunus mahaleb, prunus serrulata and prunus cerasifera. They are deciduous trees that can reach a maximum height of 12 metres. They are characterised by their beautiful white or pink blossoms in spring.
have you seen Japanese cherry trees? They are prunus cerasifera. But they are not only beautiful, they are also perfect for extreme climates as they can withstand temperatures as low as -18° C. They are easy to care for, but they need to be seasonally differentiated (with cold winters) in order to be able to flower and complete their cycle.
- Citrus fruit
Lemons, oranges or mandarins; any of them can be a beautiful tree that not only provides shade but also delicious fruit. They are evergreen, so they keep their foliage all year round. The flowers smell delicious and also have a nice shape. They can withstand temperatures as low as -7°C, although they should be protected from severe frosts. If you fertilise them from spring to autumn, you will have incredible fruits. For me it is one of those species that we should all have in the garden if the environmental conditions are right for it and depending on the variety, they can start to bear fruit in their first year.
It is a deciduous tree, whose green leaves change to a beautiful yellow colour in autumn. In spring it produces beautiful white flowers that have a delicious aroma. It grows up to 12 metres, although ash trees have been reported to be 40 metres tall. The Ash is a great tree for those places where there is plenty of shade and it tolerates frost very well, but they do not like excessively hot climates at all, so avoid them if your region has mild winters and oppressive heat.
An oak tree can live up to 200 years. Known throughout the world for its wood, it is of European origin and deciduous. There are a lot of species that grow very well all over the peninsula. For example, Quercus Pyrenaica is a protected species in Andalusia and does very well there, while Quercus Faginea is ideal for the Mediterranean region.
Oaks are trees that can grow up to 25 to 40 metres high. They prefer humid, temperate climates with distinct seasons, but with temperatures ranging from 40° to -15°C. The most beautiful thing about these trees is their autumn transition, with deep and beautiful colours that will decorate your garden.
- jupiter tree
Also known as Indian Lilac, the Lagerstroemia indica L is a very beautiful tree that covers itself with pink, red or white bunches of flowers every summer until autumn. From spring onwards, it adorns itself with its shiny green leaves and at the end of flowering, it changes to golden or purple tones. Quite a spectacle.
The Jupiter tree prefers drained soils, moderate to little watering and plenty of light. It is important to prune it at the end of winter so that it can sprout vigorously in spring. It should be fertilised every 15 days with a good organic fertiliser, preferably liquid so that the flowers appear with much more vigour.
Care of shady trees with few roots
Choosing the right tree is only a small section of the responsibility you have taken on. Most of the species we have suggested are very low maintenance, but you will need to take some care of them during their first few years of life, because they are just starting to grow. This includes protecting them from frost, as when they are young they can be affected.
Even though these trees are small-rooted, it is important to give them enough space to extend their root system. Try to keep them at least one metre away from any construction (walls, tarmac or similar) to prevent them from affecting these structures over the years. Remember that it is not the fault of the tree, but of the people who planted it and did not take adequate precautions.
It is necessary to water the tree according to its particular needs, but also take into account environmental conditions. If it is very hot or the sun is shining directly on the soil where they are planted, you will probably have to increase the frequency of watering. Rainwater is ideal, but if you are not lucky enough to live where there is regular rainfall, you can fill a bucket with tap water and let it stand for at least 24 hours to allow the chlorine and other substances that can affect the health of your trees to evaporate.
If you want trees with lush branches, stunning flowers and magnificent growth, you need to enrich the substrate with organic fertilisers. Use them as recommended for your species, usually during the growing season from spring to early autumn. Find out if the tree needs to be pruned and in which season to prune it. This will make it grow vigorously and in a short time, turning the garden into a fresh and delightful space.
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.