Will Cutting Roots Kill a Tree?  

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Will cutting roots kill a tree? As seasoned tree removal experts in Virginia Beach, we’ll discuss scenarios where you may have to cut tree roots and whether cutting them will cause problems.  

The Importance of Roots

Before you answer the question, “Will cutting roots kill a tree?” you need to understand the role roots play in a tree.

A tree’s root system serves two critical purposes. It feeds the tree and provides structure.  

The smaller fibrous roots absorb water and minerals crucial for the tree’s survival. Removing or cutting fibrous roots will harm the tree, as will root compaction from heavy foot traffic and construction.  

The larger structural roots begin close to the trunk and flare out. Experts refer to this as the root flare. Roots closer to the tree play a more crucial role in stabilizing the tree, so cutting them may lead to instability.   

There may come a time when you need to cut tree roots to prevent tripping hazards, protect your home’s foundation, stop damage to your sidewalk, do construction, protect your septic tank or sewer line, or for any other reasons, including the need to get rid of tree roots that are causing problems in your landscape.

Does a Tree Die When You Cut Its Roots?  

So, will cutting roots kill a tree? The short answer: it depends. Factors that determine the tree’s survival include the location and size of the roots.  

Cutting or removing large roots may make a tree unstable. Such a tree may struggle to absorb the nutrients necessary for its survival and face the risk of dying. How you cut the roots will also affect the tree’s overall structure and lifespan.  

So, cutting roots may or may not kill a tree. Not to mention, several years may pass before a tree to show signs of tree root damage. That said, tree experts recommend cutting tree roots only when necessary.  

Safe Root Pruning Guidelines  

Safely cutting tree roots without killing your tree requires planning and patience. The following guidelines will help you do the job properly and minimize potential tree harm:  

  • Younger trees can handle root-cutting better than mature trees.
  • Consider cutting roots in early spring or late winter when most trees become dormant.
  • Never cut more than 25% of the root at once.
  • Sterilize your cutting tools.
  • Exercise caution as you brush away the soil with your hand or trowel. 
  • Replace the soil after cutting the roots.
  • Observe the tree closely after cutting the roots.

When examining trees after tree root cutting, look for tips of the limbs dying over time, small, pale-colored leaves, or leaves shedding early or turning brown on the edges.  

Trust Your Local Tree Experts  

When you need a tree care service that understands the individuality of every tree and offers specialized solutions tailored to client needs, choose Arbor Experts. We provide various tree care solutions and services, including expert advice on whether it’s safe to cut down a tree near your house.

  • Tree removal  
  • Tree trimming and pruning  
  • Stump grinding  
  • Land clearing  

Call Arbor Experts of Virginia Beach, VA, at (757) 500-TREE for answers to the question, “Will cutting roots kill a tree?” or to learn about the tree laws in Virginia Beach.  


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