Cutting Tree Roots: Understanding the Consequences

Is your sprawling tree in danger of hitting a nearby structure? Does it already wreak havoc on the surrounding landscape? For many, cutting tree roots is one possible route that may ease some of the problems associated with invasive growth, but the process isn’t so simple.

As long-serving tree service professionals in Alpharetta, we have encountered too many property owners who haphazardly hack away at their plants without knowing the risks involved. Don’t make the same mistake; learn more about the potential effects of this practice, so you can make an informed decision.

Roots 101: A Critical Component for Trees

Before we jump into the consequences of root-cutting, you should understand why they’re so important. Primarily, they support a plant’s strength and stability. Trees need their roots to carry water, anchor themselves firmly in the ground, absorb nutrients from soil, and prevent erosion. Furthermore, many species also rely on their root systems to store energy for future blooming and leaf production. Thus, any activity that weakens this part can cause the following:

Reduced growth

The most obvious consequence of cutting tree roots is the weakening of their overall vitality. Common symptoms include:

  • Yellowing foliage
  • Prematurely falling leaves
  • Branch Dieback

Infections and Infestations

Since this practice stresses out the organisms, they become more susceptible to pests and disease. From fungal attacks like rots and wilts to insect infestations like borers, it can quickly snowball into a major problem that affects the rest of your landscape.


Removing large roots or chopping too close to the trunk can weaken a tree’s structural integrity and make it more likely to blow over in high winds or heavy rain. Larger, taller specimens may even endanger nearby buildings and people!

Practice Proper Root Pruning

We generally discourage DIY-ers from engaging in this activity, as the risk is too high without the necessary knowledge. The last thing you want is to kill the tree you have spent so much time nurturing.

If you still want to move forward with the pruning, then consider following these basic steps:

Make Measurements First!

If the diameter of the problem root is less than two inches and removing it won’t result in more than 15% loss of surface roots, then it’s likely safe to cut.

Next, get the trunk’s circumference four feet above the base with a measuring tape and divide it by 3.14. As a good rule of thumb, you can trim any growth up to five times the value you get. You should avoid pruning young trees because they’re more susceptible to damage!

Cut Cleanly

Mark the area you want to prune, dig a hole to completely expose the root, and use a sharp saw to remove the root safely. Refill the same area with soil.

Regularly Check Your Trees

Watch out for the following alarming symptoms, and reach out to an arborist the moment you notice them:

  • Rancid odors
  • Widespread discoloration of leaves and bark
  • Excessive branch death

Why Take Any Chances?

Whether you need help cutting tree roots or removing large trees, Georgia Tree Company is always ready to provide the necessary assistance. Call our expert arborists at 404-990-0010 today!

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