Trees & Space Constraints

Tree Size

An important thing to keep in mind before planting a tree is that a tree’s size at planting time is vastly different from the size it will become at maturity. Be sure to always research the species you are considering planting. Find out about:
  • The shape of the tree’s canopy
  • The size of the tree’s root system (generally wider than the canopy spread)
  • The tree’s canopy spread
  • The tree’s environmental requirements
  • The tree’s mature height
  • The tree’s potential for surface roots

Tree Form

Once you know size characteristics about the species, compare the tree to the planting space. Does the available area above and below ground provide enough room for the tree to become mature without compromising its natural form?

Much like the form or shape of a tree can influence the kind of benefits derived from it, tree form can also conflict with space limitations. Consider tree form in addition to tree size as it relates to available space.

Interference Issues

Planting a tree in a space that will provide enough room for it to grow can keep a person from running into interference problems with other infrastructure. Some issues can be remedied through pruning, but if excessive pruning can be avoided, the tree may be healthier. Some interference issues include:

Trees Growing Into Overhead Utility Lines

  • Branches growing over utility lines create risk for power outages due to branch failure or fires and damage caused by branches coming into contact with energized wires.
  • Excessive pruning of trees shortens the tree's life span. This can be avoided by considering available tree space.
  • Trees growing into lines create hazards for people climbing or trimming them.

Lifting of Pavement

  • Planting a tree too close to a paved surface, regardless of species, can lead to problems.
  • Trees with surface roots can damage house foundations, sidewalks, driveways, and streets.

Interference/ Damage to a House

  • Branches against windows or siding can scratch them.
  • Branches growing on top of roofs can damage shingles, and leaves can clog the gutters.
  • Trees planted directly next to windows can block views.
  • Trees planted too close to a house can cover up a chimney, which can be a fire risk.
  • Trees planted too close to houses live in a stressed environment due to rooting area lost on one side because of the house blocking oxygen and water resources.

Blocking Views/ Damaging Infrastructure

  • Trees placed too close to vegetable or full-sun flower gardens can cast shade across the gardens, reducing yield and bloom.
  • Trees planted next to street lights can block street light illumination, which causes dark street areas.
  • Trees planted on top of or too close to underground utility lines, drainage pipes, sewer lines, or septic tanks can cause expensive damage from roots entering the infrastructure.