How deep are the roots of fruit trees? (2023)

There are a multitude of common beliefs about tree roots. For example, many people have learned that a tree's root system is much like its trunk and branches. However, the truth is much more nuanced.

There is no single, simple answer to the question of how deep the roots of fruit trees are, because several factors influence how deep the roots will grow. With that being said, there are some important guidelines worth noting:

The roots of fruit trees are very shallow, often reaching depths of just one meter underground. In fact, they will only grow as deep as they need to find enough water. The breadth of its root system is much more important and extensive.

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You'll also be surprised to learn that all fruit trees, including apple, stone fruit, and citrus trees, have the same depth and width of the root system when planted in the right type of soil and cared for properly.

Root system depth

A common misconception about tree roots is that they go as deep as the height of the tree.The truth is, very few tree roots extend more than 18 inches below the ground.(fuente).

In fact, the trees can grow in just 18 inches of soil; however, fruit trees planted in such shallow soil will be stunted (fuente).

Trees have two types of roots, tap roots and fibrous roots.The main roots grow vertically and can become quite large and trunk-like. Tap roots not only stabilize tree growth above ground, but are also essential for a tree to bring water.

Non-fruit trees generally have only one or two taproots, reaching depths of 30 feet or more.However, many fruit trees do not develop deep roots.(fuente).

There are exceptions based on the type of fruit tree, rootstock, soil quality, and how high or low the water table is in your area. In general, however, fruit trees do not need to have very deep tap roots when planted in good soil with sufficient water and nutrients.

In essence, the drier the soil, the deeper the roots have to grow to get water..

root system width

Fibrous roots, on the other hand, make up the bulk of a tree's root system. They spread horizontally from the base of the tree and thrive primarily in the top 12 inches of the soil, where nutrients are most abundant.(fuente).

Fibrous roots cannot grow and thrive in oxygen-deficient soil. This is mainly the reason why they grow so close to the surface.The deeper the soil, the less likely the roots are to find the oxygen they need.

Fruit trees in the Rosaceae family, such as apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, and plums, are especially dependent on the oxygen they receive from their fibrous roots (fuente🇧🇷 This means that when healthy and thriving, the roots of these types of trees are more likely to have significant width rather than significant depth.

(Video) Most Tree Roots Actually Look Like This…

Don't be fooled by the term "stringy."While some fibrous roots are small, less than an inch in diameter, the main fibrous roots of the tree can be from 1 to 4.5 meters in diameter near the trunk.(fuente).

When a tree is healthy, its fibrous root system is likely to be enormous.In fact, a tree's root system can reach a circumference four to seven times the circumference of its branches.(fuente).

Factors Affecting Root Depth

The factors that most influence the depth of the root are:

  • soil conditions
  • water availability
  • pruning practices
  • Selection of rootstocks

soil conditions

Ideally, for your tree to be healthy and produce fruit, your soil should meet the following conditions:

  • A pH level between 6.0 and 7.0 (slightly acidic)
  • Clay or sandy consistency
  • good drainage

Under these conditions, most of your fruit tree's roots will develop in the top three feet of the soil.

You can also contact your local extension agent or soil specialist to have your soil tested. Alternatively, you can do it a soil test online(link to Amazon). This will let you know the pH level of your soil, as well as the nutrients you may need to supplement.

Additionally, your fruit tree's root system will need plenty of space to grow without competing with other fruit trees for nutrients and water.You can calculate the amount of space needed by the total potential height of the tree. If you expect your fruit tree to be 25 feet tall, don't plant another tree within 25 feet of it (fuente).

solo types

Sandy loam or marl is ideal for trees because it holds moisture, but not excessively, and allows enough oxygen to flow freely in the first few feet of the soil.🇧🇷 Unfortunately, not all growers are blessed with perfect soil.

Tree roots generally thrive in sandy soil due to the availability of oxygen in the sand.🇧🇷 However, the disadvantage of sandy soils is that they drain quickly, sometimes too quickly to meet the needs of the tree. If you have sandy soil, plan to water and fertilize your tree regularly.

If your home is new construction, chances are your backyard is made of "manufactured" dirt.“Done” soil is a term that refers to soil in landscapes that have recently been under construction.Due to grading, compaction with heavy machinery, and mixing of soils from various locations, tree roots will have difficulty establishing themselves in "done" soil (fuente).

The main problem with "manufactured" soil is oxygen loss from compaction, which may require vertical mulch, amended soil, and the help of an arborist to fix.

Clay is extremely problematic for root systems because it is heavy and often soggy.Oxygen does not flow freely in clay soil, so roots cannot grow freely either. Before planting in clay you will need to doI just get ready.

Salty soils are also difficult environments for tree planting.Salts can burn tree roots, but in addition, salty soils often coexist with high water tables, which can lead to rotting of existing roots. Fruit trees are unlikely to thrive in salty soil without much mitigation (fuente).

If the soil in your area is poor, consider planting your fruit tree in a pot (see below).

(Video) How to Plant Fruit Trees for MAXIMUM Growth and Fruiting

water availability

Fruit trees require large amounts of water to produce fruit.In fact, a single well established peach tree can use approximately 45 gallons of water per day in the height of summer (fuente).

The problem, of course, is that your roots won't make it.just flooded.

So if you live in an area with good rainfall or a high water table, you probably don't need to water your fruit trees.In fact, watering trees in wet weather is simply not a good idea. To seethis article on the signs of excessive watering of plants.

If you don't know how high your water table is, check theUS Geological Survey National Groundwater Monitoring Network.

During dry periods and in dry areas, fruit trees will need to be watered, but only occasionally.Water young trees every 10-14 days and mature trees every three to four weeks. This occasional watering will encourage your tree's roots to grow deeper toward the water table.

pruning practices

It may seem counterintuitive, but pruning your tree's branches will also affect its root growth.

It is common knowledge that roots and branches pass water and nutrients to each other. However, they also transmit growth hormones (fuente).

When trees are pruned to encourage the growth of new branches, growth hormones in the branches and root system are stimulated.Essentially, as new branches grow, so do new roots.

It is critical to note that this will only happen when the trees are pruned to the appropriate time and degree.

Excessive pruning can lead to a marked decrease in root growth and function.This leads to more health problems for the tree, as it won't be able to absorb as much water and nutrients.

verCan pruning kill a plant? Critical mistakes to avoid

When pruning a newly established sapling, avoid pruning more than 50% of its foliage at one time. Middle-aged trees should not lose more than 25% of their foliage in a single cut, and mature trees should not lose more than 10% of their foliage (fuente).

Don't be afraid to prune your trees, becausepruning promotes healthy branch and root development.Just be careful to prune responsibly to avoid triggering an irrevocable stress response in your tree.

Selection of rootstocks

Rootstocks comprise the lower part of the tree, including its root system. The top of the tree, the sapling, is grafted onto the rootstock. Stone fruits, pears, and apples have different rootstocks that growers can choose from (fuente).

(Video) Greenhouse Notes: Rooting Fruit Tree Cuttings

Rootstocks control a few growth variables, such as height, yield, and lifespan.Proper rootstock selection is also a good way to control the size of your fruit tree's root system.🇧🇷 This is especially advantageous for growers with limited space or less than ideal soil conditions.

If space is a concern for you, consider dwarf, semi-dwarf, or extremely dwarf rootstocks.The root systems of these varieties generally only grow in areas of about three to six square feet, compared to the 33 to 39 square foot area of ​​full-size fruit trees (fuente).

Dwarf rootstocks are available for apples, pears, and stone fruits, including some almonds.

Nectarines, peaches, and cherry trees are self-fruitful; they do not need another tree to produce fruit. They can also be grafted onto dwarf rootstocks.This makes them excellent candidates for growers with limited space.

Rootstocks can also affect a fruit tree's tolerance to drought and soil conditions.Some, like the Citation rootstock for stone fruit, have even adapted to toleratepoorly draining soils.

Novice growers should consult their local extension agents or horticulturists for advice on which rootstocks are likely to be successful in their area.

planting depth

apples and pears

When planting pome fruits (apples and pears) that have been grafted onto a rootstock, the general rule of thumb is to keep the scion-rootstock junction four to six inches above the surface.(fuente🇧🇷 Allow some settlement to occur after planting.

stone fruit

You can plant stone fruit trees a little deeper than apple trees; however, if you plant them too deep, they won't get enough oxygen.Make sure the tallest lateral roots are about two inches deep. This will place the graft-pattern junction approximately two inches above the surface (fuente).

Again, wait for the tree to stabilize a bit after planting.


When planting bare root citrus, measure the root depth and dig the hole to have an inchshallowerthan the root ball(fuente🇧🇷 After backfilling the hole, add about a half inch of soil to the root crown to keep it from drying out.

Diameter vs. Depth

when plantingnonebare root type of fruit tree, unlike planting from seed, the depth of planting is less important than the diameter of the hole.When planting, the roots should not be bent or placed on top of each other. There should be ample space to place them in a natural position (fuente).

Also, digging a hole about twice the width of the new tree's root system will help your tree establish itself.Since it has done the work of breaking up the soil, it will be easier for the roots to grow (fuente).

Cultivation of fruit trees in pots

If you want to plant a fruit tree, but the soil in your area is too difficult, consider growing your tree in a pot. There are several advantages to this approach:

  • There are a wide variety of fruit trees that can thrive and bear fruit when planted in a pot, including dwarf cherry trees, limes, Meyer lemons, and even avocados (fuente).
  • You have more control over the quality of the soil.Potting mixes that are available at garden centers and nurseries usually work, but you can also make your own potting mix using sand, peat, and perlite (fuente).
  • You would have greater control over irrigation.When a tree is in a pot, it's much easier to judge if it's getting enough or too much water (fuente).
  • Fruit trees grown in containers generally do not require much, if any, fertilization.Depending on the fruit you plant and the potting mix you use, your tree roots will get all the nutrients they need without supplements (fuente).
  • Container planting also allows you to grow fruit that would not normally survive outside of its native climate.🇧🇷 Since the containers are portable, you can move your tree to a winter shelter. Some fruit trees can be grown entirely indoors as long as they get adequate sunlight.

Of course, container-grown trees cannot stretch their root systems as much as trees grown in high-quality soil.This makes the selection of rootstocks and varieties extremely important.Your local extension agent or horticulturist can help you select an appropriate rootstock and scion for the fruit you want to grow.

(Video) How to Plant Fruit Trees for MAXIMUM Growth and Harvest


The vast majority of the root system of a fruit tree is shallow horizontal growth. With a few exceptions, they will only develop deep tap roots if no water is available closer to the surface. Fruit tree roots prefer to be in the top three feet of the soil, where they can easily absorb oxygen and other minerals.

If the soil in your region is “done”, clayey or salty soil, don't be discouraged from planting fruit trees! Planting fruit trees in pots gives you control over many important variables and allows you to enjoy your favorite fruits even outside of their native climates.

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sydney forest

Sydney has over 15 years of experience in lawn maintenance, landscaping, and organic gardening. She has an A.A.S. in Landscaping/Organic Production from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

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How deep are the roots of fruit trees? (3)

(Video) The Journey of Our Bare Root Fruit Trees


How deep do apple tree roots go? ›

The development of root systems was extremely rapid, the roots reaching a Maximum depth of 8.8 and a lateral spread of 12 feet the first year, and 14.8 feet and 21.2 feet the second. During the third year the maximum lateral spread reached 29.4 feet and the maximum depth reached was 17 feet.

How deep is a peach tree root? ›

Peach trees' roots are relatively shallow, as they aren't invasive. Their deepest branches can only reach about three feet down, which is enough for them to find water. Because of this, they are often used for landscaping, and they require at least ten to twenty feet of space.

Do fruit trees have shallow roots? ›

Fruit trees generally develop fairly shallow root systems with many horizontal roots and a few vertical roots. Rooting depth is very variable and affected primarily by soil conditions. Soil conditions also have a big effect on root growth and root distribution within the soil.

How deep do fruit trees grow? ›

Most fruit trees like the top soil to be at least 2ft / 60cm deep, and 3ft is preferable for vigorous rootstocks. However do not dig holes in advance, as they will fill with water, which is not helpful for tree establishment.

Which tree roots go deepest? ›

Shepherd's tree (Boscia albitrunca), native to the Kalahari Desert, has the deepest documented roots: more than 70 meters, or 230 feet, deep.

What fruit tree has deep roots? ›

The fig tree, for example, features a voracious root system that will expand far beyond the tree's crown in its search for water and nutrients. The Meyer lemon features a less aggressive root system that will not grow as far out but can reach deep into the ground.

How deep are the roots of a pear tree? ›

Answer and Explanation: The root system of an ornamental pear tree is around 60 cm or almost 2 feet into the soil and is as wide as its canopy.

Do citrus have deep roots? ›

Citrus root systems have only moderate vigour, and are concentrated in the top 30-50cm of soil. The site should be free of roots from other trees, as citrus roots compete poorly with roots from other trees. Good drainage and aeration are crucial to preventing “root-rot” in citrus.

How deep is a plum tree root? ›

These feeder roots extend horizontally to the edge of the leaf canopy, or drip line, and beyond up to 1 1/2 times the height of the tree. A few anchoring "sinker" roots grow down several feet to stabilize the tree. It's likely that your plum tree has some roots that extend 5 feet deep.

Do cherry trees have deep roots? ›

While the trees have a taproot to anchor them, the majority of the root system spreads far and wide. A mature full-sized cherry tree will have a root system spanning 33 to 39 feet in diameter. As for depth, the roots wouldn't grow beyond 3 feet deep.

What is the root system of an avocado tree? ›

The avocado is a shallow-rooted tree with most of its feeder roots in the top 6 inches of soil, so give it good aeration. Its root system is very sensitive, and great care should be taken not to disturb it when transplanting.

What is the lowest maintenance fruit tree? ›

Plum trees are a good option for smaller gardens while cherry trees will quickly fill out a space in providing shade and bounty of fruit. Peaches and pears are other low-maintenance tree varieties that will produce many years of quality fruit.

What happens if you plant a fruit tree too deep? ›

Deep planting causes bark deterioration at the soil line, which can eventually kill the plant. It usually takes a few seasons for a tree or shrub to die from this.

How deep of soil do fruit trees need? ›

Dig a hole approx. 40 - 50 cm deep in the soil prepared as described above. The roots must have sufficient space in all directions (do not bend the roots). The tree must not stand deeper than it was in the nursery.

What is the easiest fruit bearing tree to grow? ›

Many people consider pear trees to be the easiest fruit tree to grow on your own. Specifically, Asian pear tree varieties are well-known as the perfect fruit trees for beginners because of how simple they are to take care of and how much fruit they produce with little extra effort.

Can you dig up and replant fruit trees? ›

When you're transplanting fruit trees, you want to make a trench on the outside edge of the canopy and dig down 15 to 24 inches to make sure you're gathering all the major roots. Use a sharp spade to cut any minor roots. Wrap that root ball in damp burlap until you can plant it shortly after.

Are tree roots as deep as the tree is tall? ›

These statements take form in arboriculture classes and educational publications as rules of thumb: (1) Tree root systems extend out 2–3 times the dripline, (2) most roots are in the top foot (30.5 cm) of soil, (3) roots extend out about 1.5 times the height of the tree, and (4) more than 60 percent of the absorbing ...

What trees have weak roots? ›

5 Trees with Small Root Systems
  • Adam's Crabapple. Adam's crabapple is a nice choice if you're looking for a deciduous tree with a thicker, rounder, and fuller appearance. ...
  • Trident Maple. ...
  • Japanese Dogwood. ...
  • Japanese Maple. ...
  • Cape Ash.

How do you know if a tree is too deep? ›

One sure sign that a tree has been planted too deep is if it is displaying girdling roots. These roots can appear both around the trunk of the tree that is being affected, as well as around other nearby trees. Another sign that your tree may be planted too deep is if its leaves or stems are darkened and/or wilting.

How deep should soil be for apple trees? ›

Dig a hole approximately twice the diameter of the root system and 2 feet deep. Place some of the loose soil back into the hole and loosen the soil on the walls of the planting hole so the roots can easily penetrate the soil.

How wide do fruit tree roots grow? ›

According to studies conducted by Colorado State University, most tree roots occupy an area two to four times the diameter of the crown. Other research done at Iowa State University suggests that roots may extend four to seven times beyond the surface area occupied by the crown of the tree.

Are bare root fruit trees better? ›

Fruit trees are cheaper and grow best when planted “bare root” — in other words, when dormant, without a pot of soil around their roots. That means planting them in winter, at least in places where the ground isn't frozen.

How deep are dwarf fruit tree roots? ›

Dwarf rootstocks feature an effective feeding root depth of 1-2', while full-size trees probe 2-3' deep. The nature of size-controlling, dwarf rootstocks' roots is different from that of full-size trees. They tend to be brittle, constantly breaking off at the feeding tips.

How many years will a pear tree produce fruit? ›

Tree Age. Pear trees need a few years before they can start to bear fruit properly. Usually, a pear tree will begin to bear fruit somewhere between 3 and 7 years of age, depending on its size and variety. Pear tree saplings that you buy from nurseries such as ours are usually already 1 to 2 years old when you buy them.

Why do you need 2 pear trees to produce fruit? ›

Pollination group: For the best yields, pears need pollination from a different cultivar that flowers at the same time. If you have a large enough garden, you can plant two different cultivars (pollination partners). But most gardeners do not have this luxury, so need to rely on pollen from a neighbouring pear tree.

How deep are roots of lemon tree? ›

The root systems of citrus trees in deep, well-drained soils are 1.2 to 1.5 m, with the main root system reaching only a depth of 0.6 to 0.9 m.

What fruit has shallow roots? ›

Strawberries are among the easiest fruits of all to grow in shallow soil or in pots. The additional benefit is that strawberries can grow as a perennial and bear fruit for up to three years.

What vegetables are not deep rooted? ›

Shallow-Rooted Plants
  • Corn.
  • Broccoli.
  • Spinach.
  • Cabbage.
  • Lettuce.
  • Kale.
  • Chard.
  • Onions.
Mar 23, 2018

How deep do lime tree roots go? ›

Soil Type and Texture

Because most nutrients remain in the top 12 to 24 inches of topsoil, citrus roots tend to stay within this area and spread horizontally. The roots typically reach to the drip line, and slightly beyond it, in ideal conditions.

What are the smallest fruit trees? ›

If you have a small outside space, you may not think you have enough room to grow fruit. But apples, pears, plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots can all be grown as dwarf trees (also known as patio fruit trees or miniature fruit trees).

What is the root of apple tree? ›

Apple trees roots consist of a deep taproot and lateral fibrous roots. The taproot is analogous to the carrot, which is a taproot. Lateral fibrous roots can extent to more than twice the spread of the canopy of the apple tree and are influenced by soil, water availability and competition from the roots of other plants.

What tree can be planted close to a house? ›

These include willow trees, poplars, cottonwoods, aspens, silver maples, Norway maples, and American elm trees, among others. Smaller trees with shallow roots, however, pose little risk to your home. Japanese maple trees, for instance, are safe to plant relatively close to your house.

Do cherry trees need two fruit trees? ›

Only one sour cherry tree needs to be planted for pollination and fruit set. Many sweet cherry varieties cannot produce fruit from their own pollen and are considered self-unfruitful. These plants require cross-pollination for fruit set.

How far away from a house should a cherry tree be planted? ›

For fruit trees grafted on dwarf rootstocks that means 3m or so, and for fruit trees on vigorous rootstocks allow 6m or more.

What is the root system of a lemon tree? ›

The root system of a lemon tree spreads wide in all directions, but it's relatively shallow, sticking mainly to the top 24 inches of soil. Understanding the root system helps you grow strong, healthy lemon trees.

How deep do Hass avocado roots go? ›

The majority of avocado roots are usually found in the top 30cm of soil. Feeder roots dominate the shallow root system with new healthy roots being white or pale yellow in colour and older thicker roots being darker and more woody in appearance.

What is the root system of mango tree? ›

Mango root system is characterized by a taproot that may extend well into the soil, which provides good support of the plant and its survival during times of drought. Studies in the scope of root system distribution of the mango (Mangifera indica L.)

Which fruit trees have deep root system? ›

But gardeners may not realize that the roots of their fruit trees are extremely deep. The root systems of apple trees, pears, cherries and others go down as much as 20 feet. Fruit trees are anchored by the roots that grow several feet deep into the ground in search of water and nutrients.

How much root space do fruit trees need? ›

Most standard-sized fruit trees need approximately 20 feet by 20 feet of space to grow properly, though standard-sized apple and sweet cherry trees need around 35 by 35 feet of space.

Is it better to get bare root fruit trees? ›

Fruit trees are cheaper and grow best when planted “bare root” — in other words, when dormant, without a pot of soil around their roots. That means planting them in winter, at least in places where the ground isn't frozen.

What are the worst trees to plant? ›

6 Trees You Should Never, Ever Plant
  • Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
  • White Mulberry (Morus alba)
  • Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
  • Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
  • Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
  • Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford')
Sep 12, 2022

What is the fastest growing fruit bearing tree? ›

Plum trees not only have delicious fruit, they also produce spring blossom that looks pretty and helps wildlife. 'Plum trees are the fastest growing fruit trees,' says Karim Habibi, co-owner of Keepers Fruit Nursery (opens in new tab) in Kent.

Where is the best place to plant fruit trees in your yard? ›

The best spot in your garden for a fruit tree gets at least 6 hours of sun, is out of the wind, and can be easily watered. The hole you dig should be twice as wide as the spread of the tree's roots, but not too deep.

Can fruit trees be planted close to house? ›

Fruit trees can often be planted closer to buildings than large ornamental trees because the rootstocks constrain the spread of the roots. In this respect fruit trees are often a better choice than ornamental trees if you are planting near to the house.

How much water does a fruit tree need per day? ›

Trees that are one to two years old need just one to two gallons of water per day (applied 15 to 30 gallons at a time). A mature tree can use 50 gallons on a hot summer day. It might need 1,000 gallons every four weeks to replenish the water it takes out of the soil.


1. Fruit Tree Transplant - Clay Soil and Root Depth
(Enlightenment Garden)
2. Healthy Fruit Tree Root Stock, A Closer Look
(Edge of Nowhere Farm)
3. Planting a Bare Root Fruit Tree
(UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology)
4. Growing Peach & Plum Trees From Cuttings: (Fruit Tree Propagation)
(Florida Heritage Farm)
5. How To Grow Fruit Trees From Cuttings. By: Rick Gunter
( Florida Trail Camera Adventures)
6. How to dig up fruit trees without damaging the roots. Apple tree.
(Nick Kasko)
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