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Plants and Trees with Non-Invasive Roots: Our Top Picks

The shallow root system on these plants are less likely to burrow under your foundations or cause any damage to the drainage system on your property.

When choosing trees and other plants for our home gardens, we want to ensure that they are not going to cause any problems to the foundations of the home or the drainage network on our property. 

For this reason, it’s important to select plants that have non-invasive roots.

Why choose plants with small root systems?

Trees with an invasive root system can cause major problems as they grow.

These trees will send their roots far and wide into the ground in a search for water and nutrients.

This can cause destabilisation to your house foundations and can damage the underground pipework that handles wastewater and sewerage.

That’s why it’s essential to choose plants that have small root systems when planting close to a house.

The shallow root system on these plants will not burrow under your foundations or cause any damage to the drainage system on your property.

Small trees with non-invasive roots

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum). Japanese Maple is a stunning deciduous tree that only grows to a height of 4.5 metres and has the most delightful autumn foliage in rich purple-red colours. In summer, it makes a lovely small shade tree.

Japanese Maple Acer palmatum | Plant varieties
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). This is another deciduous tree that can reach a height of around 6 metres. Crepe myrtle will delight you with its gorgeous flowers in summer and early autumn. In winter, after the leaves have fallen, the lovely smooth trunk is exposed with its pinkish-grey bark that sheds readily.

Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia indica | Plant varieties
Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Chinese Pistachio (Pistachio chinensis). This deciduous tree will put on a magnificent show in autumn with its scarlet red and orange leaves. It normally grows to a height of around 8 metres.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). This is another deciduous tree that will grow to a height of around 8 metres. The heart-shaped leaves turn a lovely yellow colour in autumn. The pretty pink blossoms are a delight to see in early spring.

Cercis canadensis | Plant varieties
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea). This deciduous tree has showy and fragrant, white flowers in early spring. It grows to a height of around 8 metres. Another advantage of this tree is that the purplish-black berries are edible and taste similar to blueberries.

Large trees with non-invasive roots 

Silver Birch (Betula pendula). There’s nothing quite as stunning as the white trunk of the silver birch. These deciduous trees can reach a height of around 6 to 9 metres and have the most gorgeous golden autumn foliage.

Silver Birch Betula pendula | Plant varieties
Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana). This ornamental pear tree is deciduous and can reach a height of around 15 metres. Pyrus calleryana is covered with pure white blossoms in spring and makes an excellent summer shade tree.

Empress Tree (Paulownia tomentosa). This deciduous tree has large, dark green heart-shaped leaves and is one of the best shade trees. It can grow to a height of around 12 metres and is considered a fast grower. It produces a profusion of lilac flowers in spring.

Paulownia tomentosa | Plant varieties
Empress Tree (Paulownia tomentosa)

Evergreen trees with non-invasive roots

Tibouchina ‘Alstonville’. Although this tree can reach a height of 12 metres, it can be pruned to keep the size more manageable. This evergreen has the most amazing purple flowers from autumn through winter.

Magnolia ‘Little Gem’. This delightful magnolia is evergreen with dark green glossy leaves and stunning white flowers. Magnolia Little Gem grows to a height of 4 metres.

Magnolia grandiflora Little Gem 1 | Plant varieties
Magnolia Little Gem I Michael Rivera I Wikimedia I CC BY-SA 4.0

Olive Tree. Olive trees can adapt to most conditions around the country. Their long grey-green leaves are attractive any time of the year and they can be pruned and shaped quite successfully. 

OLIVE TREES | Plant varieties
Olive trees

Australian natives with non-invasive roots 

Pincushion Hakea (Hakea laurina). This is only a small tree that can reach a height of around 6 metres. The red, white, cream, and pink pincushion flowers appear from late autumn and throughout winter. 

Hakea laurina | Plant varieties
Pincushion Hakea I Jean and Fred I Flickr I CC BY 2.0

Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora). Not only does this native tree have the nicest glossy green leaves but these also have the most delicious citrusy scent. The fluffy white flower heads are also quite striking. Backhousia citriodora can reach a height of 20 metres but responds well to regular pruning to contain its size.

Knife-leaf Wattle (Acacia cultriformis). This small wattle has stunning silver leaves and golden ball-shaped flowers. It only grows to a height of around 2.5 metres.

Knife leaf Wattle Acacia cultriformis | Plant varieties
Knife-leaf Wattle (Acacia cultriformis)

Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius). This impressive large tree is a sight to behold when in full bloom. The clusters of red bell-shaped flowers will cover the tree in spring and summer. Brachychiton acerifolius can grow to a height of around 20 metres but is usually much smaller when grown in a garden.

Shrubs with non-invasive roots

Camellias. Providing much-needed colour in the cold winter months, camellias are lovely evergreens with dark green summer foliage.

image | Plant varieties
Camellia japonica

Azaleas. Azaleas come in a huge range of colours and will delight you with their amazing floral display in spring. 

Hydrangeas. There are over 75 species of hydrangeas with their stunning display of large blooms in spring and summer. They are also great plants for shady areas in your garden.

Gardenias. Who could go past the intoxicating fragrance of a beautiful gardenia hedge in full bloom? These easy-care plants are available as both tall-growing shrubs and dwarf varieties.

Gardenia Hedge 3 | Plant varieties
Gardenia

FAQ

What are the best trees to plant near a house?

Choose trees with non-invasive roots systems such as the Crepe Myrtle, Magnolia (both evergreen and deciduous), Frangipani, Lilly Pilly, Ivory Curl Tree, and Tibouchina.

Do olive trees have invasive roots?

No, olive trees have a shallow root system that is not invasive.

Do Lilly pillies have invasive roots?

No, Lilly pillies do not have an invasive root system.

Do magnolias have invasive roots?

No, magnolias are perfect for planting in your garden because they have a non-invasive root system.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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6 thoughts on “Plants and Trees with Non-Invasive Roots: Our Top Picks”

  1. Hello,
    I am wanting 3m high evergreen shrubs/ windbreaks/ small trees/ bushes privacy screen to grow next to my back color bond fence. Unfortunately, my sewer line runs 1.23 m away from the fence and is approximately a meter below the ground.
    I also don’t want such plants to drop invasive seeds into my neighbor’s yard.
    Can you tell me which evergreen shrubs (or small trees/ bushes) would have suitable, as above and non invasive roots?

    Looking forward to your reply,
    regards Lani

    Reply
    • Hi Lani

      You could consider a row of Magnolia ‘Little Gem’. These can reach a height of 4 metres but you can easily clip them to 3 metres.

      Camellias are another option as these don’t have invasive roots and can be kept trimmed to size.

      Reply

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