Adding some fertilizer will help keep your tree healthy and prevent the ground cover plants from using up too many valuable nutrients. Following the package directions, sprinkle a little or NPK fertilizer over the exposed root area. Plant a shade-loving ground cover plant around the base of the tree. In general, the best times to plant ground cover plants are early spring and late fall.
Growing Things: How to handle exposed tree roots | Edmonton Journal
Method 3. Select only 1 or 2 surface roots to trim. Cutting or removing surface roots can harm or even destabilize your tree. Only trim surface roots if you absolutely must e. For example, if a root is pushing up part of your driveway or foot path, remove the part of the root that is extending under the path. If you must trim back multiple surface roots, space out the removals over a period of a few years, if you can.
This will give the tree time to heal and grow new roots. Clear the soil around the root you want to cut. Carefully remove the soil adjacent to the root, taking care not to scrape or damage the root more than necessary. For the health and stability of the tree, you will need to preserve as much of the root as possible.
Make a clean, vertical cut through the root. Use a sharp blade in order to keep the cut as clean as possible. Remove the problem root after you have cut all the way through it. If the root has a diameter of 1 inch 2.
Leave the cut exposed to the open air for days. This will give the cut time to heal and seal itself off from potential infections. Use a root barrier to prevent regrowth. If you anticipate that surface roots in the area where you made the cut might continue to be a major problem in the future, consider installing a root barrier. This is a solid barrier that you install beneath the soil surrounding the tree, discouraging roots from growing in a certain direction.
Method 4. Avoid planting shade trees too close to buildings and paths. Surface roots mainly become a problem when they interfere with footpaths, sidewalks, and structures such as house foundations. Try to plant shade trees no closer than 6 feet 2 meters from sidewalks and pavements, and 15 feet 5 meters from house foundations.
Plant tree species that are less prone to root exposure. Root exposure problems are often associated with fast-growing shade trees, such as Arizona ash, silver maple, poplar, and willow. When selecting trees to plant on your property, consider choosing slower-growing species instead. Take measures to prevent soil erosion on your property. Tree roots are often exposed by soil erosion. If your property has serious erosion problems, you may need to bring in a landscaping expert to install erosion barriers.
Other measures you can take include:  Covering bare patches of soil with mulch or ground cover plants, especially on slopes. Not over-watering your plants so that you do not wash away too much soil. Using jute netting or coconut fiber mats to keep soil in place until cover plants can become established. Putting a layer of mulch around the bases of newly-planted trees to prevent erosion as the tree grows. Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered. Already answered Not a question Bad question Other.
Why You Shouldn't Put Soil Over a Tree's Exposed Roots
Shade-loving ground cover plants, such as violets, vinca, or Asiatic jasmine. Edit Related wikiHows. They can also disrupt sidewalks, causing them to crack. So, how do you deal with surface roots without jeopardizing the health of your tree?
What actually causes them? Some trees are simply predisposed to having shallow roots. And any large tree can develop surface roots after a certain age. Still, other factors play a part. Contrary to popular belief, tree roots usually do not grow very deep unless they are in loose and sandy soil. Surface rooting is most common in compacted or clay-based soil often found in urban areas.
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When the roots within the first few inches of soil get large enough, they break through the surface. Gradually, rain and wind erode the soil around them, further exposing them. Roots need oxygen. In compacted soil, they must grow up to the surface in order to get enough oxygen to keep the tree alive. In many cases, trees with surface roots are struggling to breathe and are doing their best to adapt to an environment that is less than ideal.
If you have a tree or trees with surface roots, there are a couple of things you can do. Cutting them can provide an easy entry point for diseases and harmful insects. This can lead to dieback in the canopy or complete death of the tree. To help deal with surface roots, mix equal parts topsoil and compost. Then, apply two inches of the mixture around the base of the tree. Sow the area in late summer with shade-tolerant grass seed, keeping it well-watered.
Caring for Air Roots
If the roots are still prominent within a year, you can add another two inches of the mixture and reseed. Never add more than four inches of soil to the area beneath an existing tree! Otherwise, you risk suffocating it. Instead of grass, you could plant drought-tolerant groundcover under the tree. This would save you the trouble of having to mow in that area—or, you could mimic nature and consider using moss as groundcover! Your best bet is to put down four inches of mulch —preferably wood chips—underneath the tree.
This will help level out the area while keeping roots cool and moist and allowing them to breathe.
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If you have compact or clay soil, your tree will inevitably have some surface roots. Still, some trees are way more likely to develop them than others. Steer clear of notorious surface rooters like aspens, beeches, river birches, certain maples red, silver, sugar, Freeman, and Norway , pin oaks, spruces, sweetgums, tulip poplars, and willows.
These trees have inherently more shallow roots and are more likely to pose a problem in your landscape. Some trees have deeper root systems.