Can I Cover Tree Roots With Soil?

“Can I cover tree roots with soil?”

At Arborist Aboard, Odessa’s reliable tree service, we hear this question often. The answer is that it’s better covering than cutting exposed roots so you don’t kill the tree. 

However, there are some instances when dealing with surface tree roots requires more difficult choices. In this post, we look at the most common issues with roots poking out through landscaping and ground covers. 

Roots Exposed in Lawn

Before doing anything, it’s a good idea to determine why the roots are breaking the surface. Does the tree look stable, or is it leaning to one side? If the latter applies, it’s time to get a risk assessment, as the tree may fall over. 

Cover the Roots

If the tree is stable, the roots may be looking for air, or it may be a quirk of the tree species. If you cover them too deeply, they’ll either die or make their way to the surface again. You can add about an inch of soil over the roots and plant new grass seeds, but no deeper than that. 

The downside is that you might damage the roots when you mow the lawn. 

Turn the Area Into a Bed

The better solution for the shade-loving roots is an alternative answer to, “Can I cover tree roots with soil?”  Instead of covering the area with soil and planting grass seeds, pull out the lawn and make it a bed instead. 

Then mulch the area well. You won’t have to worry about mowing the lawn there anymore or about smothering the roots. 

Should You Trim the Roots? 

We don’t recommend trimming roots unless you know what you’re doing. While a tree can survive a small trim if you don’t remove more than a third of the branches, you might remove stabilizing roots or too many feeder roots. 

In the first instance, the tree becomes more likely to topple. In the second, the tree won’t be able to absorb enough moisture and nutrients to stay healthy. It’s best to get professional help. 

How to Remove the Roots Without Damaging the Tree

If you feel you must remove the roots, these tips can help minimize the damage: 

  • Measure the diameter of the tree and multiply it by five. Don’t cut any roots that fall within this distance from the trunk. 
  • You should only remove up to 25% of the roots at the very most in any two-year period. 
  • Divide the root ball into four equal sections before you cut anything. Make sure not to trim one quadrant much more than any other. Also, make symmetrical cuts. So, if you remove 5% of the roots from one section, remove an equal amount from the opposite side as well. 
  • Leave large roots because these are usually integral to structural integrity. 
  • Cut the roots with clean loppers. Wash them before you use them so there are fewer bacteria present and a smaller risk of infection. 
  • Make sure the loppers are sharp so that you can cut cleanly. A tree struggles to heal a jagged wound more than a straight one.  
  • Allow the roots to dry overnight, and lay a small layer of soil over the wound. 
  • Mulch the area to keep the sun off the area. Water the tree deeply, and then let it rest and recover. 

Contact Our Expert Team for Help

Now that you know the answer to “Can I cover tree roots with soil?” it’s time to learn more facts about planting trees. Contact our team at Arborist Aboard at (813) 920-4410 to arrange a professional consultation. 


Arborist Aboard is owned and operated by an ISA Certified Arborist and a second-generation tree care professional. We take great pride in our work and the customers we serve, commercial and residential.

Contact Us

8611 Vivian Bass Way
Odessa, FL. 33556
(813) 920-4410

Call Now Button