Small trees with non-invasive roots are sought after by many homeowners and gardens. However, when space needs to be maximised, it’s crucial to make the right choices for what belongs in your garden. No matter what sized garden you have, introducing small trees with non-invasive roots will be safe and eco-friendly for the environment, as well as requiring little maintenance.  This article delves into the best small trees with non-invasive roots, focusing on UK gardens, ensuring your garden remains both beautiful and undamaged.

Types of Tree Roots

When planning to introduce small trees with non-invasive roots to your garden, you need to understand tree root systems. Trees primarily have two distinct root types: fibrous (shallow-rooted) and tap roots (deep-rooted). The distinction between these roots can significantly impact your garden’s layout and the health of surrounding structures.

Fibrous or shallow-rooted trees feature roots that sprawl horizontally, often close to the soil’s surface. This lateral spread can sometimes pose problems, especially if these trees are placed near pavements or building foundations. Make sure to maintain and manage them accordingly.

On the other hand, tap-rooted or deep-rooted trees provide a vertical anchor to the soil. These trees are less likely to interfere with surface structures, making them a preferred choice for those wary of lateral root expansion. However, their deep-reaching roots can still be a concern if there are underground utilities or structures.

Want to make your garden more private? Check out the best trees for garden privacy

Selecting the Perfect Spot for Planting

planting tree with non invasive root

Choosing the right location for planting small trees with non-invasive roots is as crucial as selecting the tree itself. To safeguard your home and nearby structures, we recommend planting trees that are a minimum of 10 feet away. This distance ensures that as the tree matures, its roots won’t pose a threat to foundations or underground utilities. Additionally, for the tree’s health and growth, pick a location that receives plenty of sunlight and has well-draining soil. 

Understanding Non-Invasive Tree Roots

Non-invasive roots add charm to gardens, offering not just aesthetic appeal but also a structured habitat for wildlife. A common concern among homeowners is the potential damage small trees with non-invasive roots can inflict on house foundations or plumbing systems. Such damages can be expensive to repair. Whilst you do not need planning permission for trees, it is still important to recognise the threats that they can pose if not properly maintained.

Here are our picks for the top low maintenance plants for pots, suitable for all sized gardens.

The Appeal of Trees with Non-Invasive Roots

While some trees, like maple, have shallow roots that might disrupt underground utilities, others, such as oaks, have deep-reaching taproots that are generally less problematic.

So, why do many homeowners prefer trees with non-invasive roots?

  • Protection of Home Infrastructure: They avert potential damages to a home’s foundation or plumbing systems.
  • Erosion Control: Deep-rooted trees act as natural soil binders, preventing erosion and maintaining landscape integrity.
  • Natural Shelter: Small and medium trees for gardens offer shade, reducing the need for air conditioning during warmer months. They also act as windbreakers, shielding homes and gardens from strong gusts.
  • Wildlife Attraction: Trees, especially those with non-aggressive root systems, can become sanctuaries for various birds and animals, enhancing biodiversity in urban settings.
  • Environmental Benefits: Beyond their beauty, small and medium trees play a pivotal role in purifying the air. They absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and act as filters, trapping pollutants and enhancing overall air quality in urban locales.

Identifying Trees with Small Root Systems

Some trees possess root systems that are more considerate of their surroundings, ensuring minimal disruption to nearby structures and utilities.

  • Oaks: Renowned for their strength and longevity, oaks have deep taproots that firmly anchor them to the ground. Their deep-reaching roots are less prone to interfere with surface structures, making them a popular choice for many gardeners.
  • Pines: These trees have a more superficial, spreading root system, which is excellent for soil stabilisation and erosion prevention.
  • Maples: While maples are undeniably beautiful, their shallow roots can sometimes be problematic, potentially causing issues with underground utilities and foundations.
  • Ashes: These trees boast deep taproots, making them resilient against strong winds and excellent for preventing soil erosion.
  • Elms & Fruit Trees: Both these categories can have shallow root systems that, if not managed, might pose challenges to nearby structures.

With these factors in mind, you can make a more informed decision about what small trees with non-invasive roots are right for you. Additionally, you can use our guides on how to dismantle a shed, or our summer house interior ideas, so that you can work your trees around your garden structures. If, however, you would prefer to sit and watch your trees for small gardens in comfort, observe our rattan garden furniture.

Ornamental Trees

ornamental trees with non-invasive roots

Ornamental trees are the perfect blend of aesthetics and functionality. They are tailored to fit smaller spaces, growing to manageable heights and requiring minimal maintenance. Some can even be cultivated in planters, ensuring their roots remain contained. Popular varieties include the Japanese Maple, Crape Myrtle, and Eastern Redbud, among others.

Fruit Trees

cornelian cherry dogwood ornamental trees with non-invasive roots

Fruit trees offer the dual benefit of aesthetic appeal and delicious produce. However, some, like figs, can have aggressive root systems. Regular pruning and care can prevent this. Dwarf varieties of fruit trees, such as lemon, Adams crabapple, and Cornelian cherry dogwood, are especially suited for smaller gardens, ensuring the tree and its root system remain in check. Therefore, fruit trees are perfectly adequate to consider alongside these small trees with non-invasive roots for your garden.

Shade Trees

maple shade trees with non-invasive roots

For those seeking the cool respite of shade without the worry of invasive roots, certain trees fit the bill. Trees like the Amur maple, Chinese pistache, and Southern sugar maple provide dense foliage, offering shade and beauty without overwhelming a garden with their roots. A top choice for small trees with non-invasive roots.


juniper trees with non-invasive roots

Shrubs are a versatile addition to any garden, offering privacy, coverage, and aesthetic appeal. However, it’s essential to choose shrubs with non-aggressive root systems. Popular choices include the Hollywood juniper, Fraser photinia, and Glossy abellia.

Exploring Additional Tree Options

While we’ve delved into a variety of small trees with non-invasive roots suitable for gardens with space constraints and concerns about root invasiveness, there are a couple more worth mentioning:

Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegata): This evergreen tree, known for its distinctive orchid-like blooms, is a visual treat for any garden. Its non-invasive roots and moderate growth rate make it a favourite among garden enthusiasts. 

English Holly Tree (Ilex aquifolium): A classic choice, especially around the festive season, the English holly tree is not just about its iconic red berries. It’s a robust tree with a root system that’s considerate of its surroundings, making it a fitting choice for gardens in the UK. However, if you would prefer a small holly addition to your garden, we have noticed it is one of the best plants for your winter window box.

Choose The Right Tree For Your Garden

Choosing the right small tree with non-invasive roots for your garden is a blend of aesthetic appeal and practical considerations. The key is to prioritise non-invasive root systems, ensuring that your garden remains undamaged and beautiful for years to come. From the ornamental allure of the Japanese Maple to the shade-offering Chinese pistache; from the evergreen charm of the lemon tree to the vibrant blooms of the crabapple, there’s a small tree with non-invasive roots for every garden.

Remember, the foundation of a beautiful garden is not just what you see above the ground but also what lies beneath. For more tips, check out this tree guide


What small tree can be planted close to the house? 

Plum, birch, hawthorn, and apple are some of the trees that can be planted near the house. 

Do dwarf apple trees have invasive roots? 

No, the dwarf apple trees don’t have invasive and are grown in short areas as compared to the full-sized apple trees that need good space to be planted. 

What trees to plant against a fence?

When planting trees against a fence, it’s ideal to choose smaller, columnar, or narrow-growing trees that won’t outgrow the space or damage the fence. Some good options include:

Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’)
Columnar Fruit Trees (like apple or pear)
Slender Silhouette Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’)
Juniper ‘Skyrocket’

What tree has the smallest root system?

Trees with small root systems are often those that are slow-growing or naturally small in stature. Some trees with relatively small root systems include:

Dogwood (Cornus species)
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia species)
Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier species)

Which evergreen tree has non-invasive roots?

When considering evergreen trees with non-invasive roots, it’s essential to choose species that won’t disrupt nearby structures or pavement. Some evergreen trees with relatively non-invasive roots include:

Holly (Ilex species)
Thuja or Arborvitae (Thuja species, especially ‘Emerald Green’)
Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
Pine (Pinus species, especially Eastern White Pine)
Spruce (Picea species, especially Norway Spruce)

What trees can be planted close to a house?

When planting trees close to a house, it’s crucial to select species that have non-invasive root systems and won’t grow too large, potentially damaging the home’s foundation or roof. Some suitable trees for planting near houses include:

Serviceberry (Amelanchier species)
Dogwood (Cornus species)
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Ornamental Cherry (Prunus species, especially ‘Kwanzan’ or ‘Yoshino’)
Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia species)
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis species)


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