Do Arborvitae Have Invasive Roots? (An Honest Answer)

Arborvitae, a popular choice for hedges and landscapes, are known for their evergreen, low-maintenance persona.

However, an often unasked question is, “Do arborvitae have invasive roots?”

Uncovering the truth behind these seemingly innocent trees can either make them a beneficial addition or a potential hazard to your garden.

Do arborvitae have invasive roots

This article attempts to delve into the behaviors of arborvitae root systems, offering vital information to help plant enthusiasts make informed decisions while planning their gardens.

Do arborvitae have invasive roots? 

As a general rule, arborvitae trees do not have invasive root systems. Their roots are known to spread outwards in the soil relatively close to the surface.

However, they won’t typically penetrate deep into the ground or into foundations, pipes, or sewer systems. Therefore, they do not typically cause structural damage.

However, like any plant, root systems can spread if the plant is positioned in a stressed environment and desperately seeks water or nutrients.

Nevertheless, the root behavior of arborvitae is generally considered safe for suburban planting, close to homes, patios, or walkways, provided they are given appropriate care and conditions.

How big is the root system of an arborvitae?

The size of an arborvitae’s root system varies depending on the specific variety, yet some constants can be pinpointed. The root system of arborvitaes is generally shallow and not aggressive.

They typically extend outwards in the soil to the drip line edges of the branches, spreading more horizontally rather than vertically.

How big is the root system of an arborvitae

In terms of depth, some varieties of arborvitae can have roots as deep as 8 to 24 inches. For instance, the roots of large arborvitae varieties can reach a depth of 18-24 inches. On the other hand, smaller variants like the Emerald Green are found to have roots that reach up to 8 inches deep.

In conclusion, while the root system of arborvitae can vary based on its variety, it is overall shallow and not known for being aggressive.

Its root spread is largely horizontal, often reaching the drip line edges of the plant, with a root depth between 8 and 24 inches.

Do Emerald Green arborvitae have invasive roots?

Emerald Green Arborvitae, a popular variety of arborvitae, is often chosen for its attractive slender profile and vibrant green colors. Regarding its root system, like other arborvitae, Emerald Green Arborvitae also has a relatively shallow root system that spreads laterally.

In terms of invasiveness, the roots of Emerald Green Arborvitae are not considered invasive.

They’re not known to aggressively spread into areas where they’re not wanted, nor will they typically cause structural damage to buildings, roads, or plumbing systems.

However, although not invasive, for the tree to thrive and maintain stability, it requires proper planting space. While these trees can withstand some competition, their root systems can be impacted negatively by overcrowding or cramped planting environments.

Do Green Giant arborvitae have deep roots?

Green Giant Arborvitae, another arborvitae species well-loved for its height and resilience, also possesses a shallow, non-aggressive root system.

Do Green Giant arborvitae have deep roots

While these trees are fast-growing and can reach considerable heights (up to 50 feet or more), their roots do not penetrate deeply into the ground. The root system of a Green Giant Arborvitae expands more horizontally than vertically, typically extending to the edges of the tree’s canopy.

The depth of the root system mainly depends on the soil quality and environmental conditions. In proper soil conditions, the root system of a Green Giant usually extends about 1-2 feet below the surface but can go deeper in search of water or nutrients.

How close to house can you plant arborvitae?

The question of how close to a house one can plant arborvitae has a few variables to consider. Some of these factors depend on the specific variety of arborvitae, their mature width, their rate of growth, and practical space considerations.

An arboreal rule to follow is to plant a shrub at a distance half of its mature width from a structure. For example, if an arborvitae usually grows to a mature width of 15 feet, it should ideally be planted around 7-8 feet from the house.

These distances are suggested to accommodate the growth of the tree and to promote adequate circulation and growth of the roots, ensuring the tree’s health and longevity.

However, other sources state that arborvitaes need to be planted at least 10 feet away from any permanent structure, making these estimates not definitive. The best approach would be to consider the specific variety of arborvitae and its known growth pattern and potential size.

It’s critically important to consider the variety’s mature size at planting to help protect your house’s foundation from potential root encroachment, ensure room for the tree’s mature size, and avoid growth into eaves and gutters.

Where is the best place to plant arborvitae?

Arborvitae, commonly known as Thuja trees, are incredibly versatile and can adapt to a multitude of environments. However, to thrive, they have certain optimal requirements.

Where is the best place to plant arborvitae
best place to plant arborvitae
  1. Sunlight: Arborvitae generally prefer full sun to partial shade. They need at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Plenty of sunlight is especially important for newly planted arborvitaes and prevents the tree from getting “leggy”, growing with excessive spacing between leaves.
  2. Soil: These trees prefer moist, well-drained soil. They are tolerant of various soil types, including loam, sandy, or clay soils. However, waterlogged or consistently wet soils can lead to root rot.
  3. Space: It is essential to maintain adequate space between arborvitaes and other plantings or structures. The ideal spacing depends on the specific variety’s mature size. This ensures they get enough air circulation and don’t have to compete for nutrients.
  4. Wind Exposure: Planting arborvitae in areas sheltered from strong winds is recommended as wind can cause root rock or break branches.


Arborvitae trees, including popular varieties like the Emerald Green and Green Giant, do not have invasive root systems. Their roots are characterized by shallow, horizontal growth, posing minimal risks to infrastructure or surrounding landscapes.

Despite their non-aggressive nature, it’s crucial to plant arborvitae with appropriate spacing to ensure their stability and overall health.

These versatile and resilient trees remain a popular choice for creating natural fences and enhancing property aesthetics without the worry of disruptive or invasive roots.

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