How to Deal With the Problem of Exposed Tree Roots

Arborists in Los Gatos, CA Share Information About Exposed Tree Roots

Are Exposed Tree Roots a Problem?

Homeowners with large trees on their property may come across exposed tree roots in their lawn, landscaping, sidewalk, or driveway. The discovery begs the question: are exposed tree roots bad for the tree? The short answer is yes, exposed tree roots can be a problem. The way to handle it depends on the location of the roots and the severity of the exposure.

Read on to learn what causes exposed roots, how they can affect the tree, and the dos and don’ts of dealing with them.

What Causes Tree Root Exposure?

Tree roots always seek the path of least resistance, which means that in heavy clay soil the main roots of a tree grow outward instead of down. The majority of a tree’s roots tend to be only a few inches beneath the surface. Those few inches of soil can, over time, be eroded away by wind and water runoff, leaving the roots exposed.

In addition, tree roots will seek to grow around obstacles, such as concrete foundations and sidewalks, forcing them to the surface. This is why exposed roots are common in parks and cities.

The Effects of Tree Root Exposure

The biggest problem with exposed tree roots is that they are susceptible to damage, such as being cut by lawn mower blades, or worn down by being driven over and walked upon. Any tear or cut in the root’s protective bark is a weak spot for disease. A tree with weak roots is overall more vulnerable to illness and destruction.

The Dos and Don’ts of Caring for Exposed Tree Roots

When you find exposed tree roots on your property, there are a few simple things you can do to care for the tree, ensuring it stays healthy for years to come. Here are some tips:

DON’T attempt to cut or trim the roots. You may be cutting off vital nutrient gathering systems and creating vulnerabilities to infection.
DON’T bury the roots with more dirt. Tree roots need a certain amount of oxygen, and burying them in soil could smother the tree.
DON’T mow over the roots. Damaging the roots could kill the whole tree. Instead of ignoring the problem, attempt a solution as described below.

DO cover the roots with mulch. Spread a layer of shredded wood mulch or wood chips 2 to 3 inches thick over the exposed roots. Extend the mulch in a wide circle around the tree, but do not pile it up against the tree trunk. Unlike soil, mulch will allow the necessary water and air to get to the roots, while protecting them from damage.
DO save fallen leaves. Similarly, fallen dead leaves can be shredded and spread over the exposed roots. This will create a natural layer of defense.
DO call a professional arborist for tree services. An experienced arborist will be able to evaluate the total health of your tree, offer advice on tree care, and provide tree services such as trimming, pruning, or removal.

Consult ArborWorks, Inc.

Los Gatos, CA has been a Tree City USA for 40 years; for the same number of years, ArborWorks, Inc. has been taking care of trees. Their arborists offer expert advice on tree care, as well as tree services such as trimming, pruning, cutting, and removal. ArborWorks is licensed, fully insured, and Diamond Certified by the American Ratings Corporation.


Anyone who really cares about their trees knows how hard it is to find a good tree trimmer. I’ve used both major name brands, and self employed tree trimmers, and have never been very satisfied, until now. ArborWorks trimmed my trees as carefully as I would have, if I knew how to climb trees!Don McIntyre, owner, responded within two days of my call, and his estimate was fair and thorough. He personally brought the foreman of the crew to my site to go over the job the evening before the crew would actually arrive. Don also visits the site as the work is performed, to make sure everything goes smoothly.If my trees could vocalize, they’d sing about the space created for light to enter the crown, and how good it feels to have the weight off the ends of the limbs. Even neighbors have come by to complement me on how good the trees look. “Best ever”.I only wish I had known about ArborWorks sooner. It took me 32 years to find them. I hope my trees will forgive me for taking so long…
Karen K. Mountain View, CA


Arborworks Inc. Diamond Certified


Gloden Shovel Standard