How to Control Invasive Ficus Tree Roots: Easy Solutions

Understand how far Ficus tree roots spread, and discover must-know techniques to control these vigorous roots.

Sean Stratton | Updated March 6, 2023

Ficus tree roots are highly invasive. Planting a ficus tree without planning can lead to your tree roots invading nearby areas. As the tough roots grow, they can damage your building foundations, underground utilities, and sidewalks.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to control ficus tree roots.

Ficus Root Problems

Ficus tree

Ficus trees, also known as fig trees, are an invasive species well-known for their surface roots. If you have a Ficus tree in your yard and you didn’t plan anything about controlling the roots, know that its vigorous roots are going to cause you some trouble someday.

  • Ficus Benjamina roots are so tough that they can crack sidewalks, fences, streets, and even strong building foundations.
  • Drains and other underground properties can get damaged by these plant roots.
  • Worst, they can invade your neighbor’s property.

A ficus tree’s extensive root systems help them absorb water and nutrients from the soil more efficiently, which allows the tree to produce more leaves and sustain vigorous growth.

California in particular has been impacted by invasive Ficus tree roots. In cities and towns across the state, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, Ficus trees were brought in as ornamental plants and have since become invasive species significantly impacting the urban and suburban landscape.

The root systems of highly invasive specifies, like Ficus microcarpa and Ficus benjamina, can outcompete other plant species and impact the health of the tree’s canopy.

Controlling Ficus Tree Roots

Taking proper preventative measures at the right time is essential in controlling invasive Ficus roots.

  • Installing root barriers is an excellent way to prevent tree roots from invading your and your neighbor’s property.
  • Ensure you are only using the barriers for newly installed trees. If your tree has already invaded a large area, this is not an ideal solution for your case.

The materials used to make these barriers can vary. However, the installation process will be quite similar. So, let’s look at the steps you must follow to install a strong barrier.

Step 1: Digging a Trench

Start by digging a trench right next to the pavement on the side where the mature roots of your Ficus tree will possibly reach.

  • The depth of your trench should be about one foot (1′) deep.
  • Note that the barrier material doesn’t need to be completely hidden in the soil; its top edge should remain visible, so you don’t need to dig deeper than that.
  • Make the trench a minimum of twelve feet (12′) long, extending approximately six feet or more outside the outer boundary of where the mature roots of your tree will possibly spread.

Step 2: Installing the Barrier

After digging up the trench, it’s time to install the barrier and limit the excessive growth of the Ficus tree roots.

  • Place the barrier material carefully.
  • After you are done, fill the trench with soil.

If you install a root barrier around your newly planted tree, the roots will be encouraged to grow downwards and have limited outward growth.

This is like an investment to save your pools and other structures for the upcoming days when your Ficus tree will become a mature tree with a vast root system.

Cutting Ficus Roots

You can prune some roots of a Ficus tree. However, if you want to cut the roots and don’t want the tree to die or flop over in hurricane season, you should keep these three things in mind:

  • Cutting closer to the trunk means a more significant impact on the tree.
  • Not all roots have the same importance to the tree. Some roots are less critical, while others play a significant role in the overall health condition of the tree.

Before pruning the roots, you need to have rough measurements of the impact of pruning. You don’t want to prune too many roots and cause the tree to die.

Stop Ficus Tree Roots from Buckling

If you have a Ficus tree close to your driveway or sidewalk, its roots can buckle them easily. To prevent your Ficus tree from buckling or damaging your sidewalk or driveway, you can use preventative methods like putting barriers while installing a new tree.

If you cut the roots, it can damage your tree severely, becoming unstable and susceptible to natural disasters like hurricanes are common in your area. So, if you have a Ficus tree that has already damaged any structure, I would advise eliminating the entire tree instead of cutting the roots.

Consult a landscaper. If you want to enjoy your sidewalk but don’t want to lose your tree, seek help from a landscaping expert. He will determine whether simply pruning some roots is enough, or if you need to get rid of the whole tree.

Ficus Tree Root Damage to Swimming Pools

Ficus tree roots will damage swimming pools. Don’t be surprised if your pool suddenly loses water daily. Chances are your pool has been punctured, thanks to strong Ficus tree roots.

Install a Root Barrier around a Ficus Tree

Ficus tree trunk

You can use a root barrier for a recently planted tree. This will effectively prevent further Ficus tree root damage when the tree matures and has a large and strong root system. Let’s briefly recap what we discussed earlier.

  • First, dig a trench about 12 feet long and 1 foot deep.
  • Set the barriers carefully into the trench. The top edges will remain visible; no need to cover them completely.
  • Fill the area after successfully placing the barriers.

In this way, you can install a root barrier around your Ficus tree and save your garden, sidewalks, driveway, or other structures from getting invaded by Ficus tree roots.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Far Do Ficus Tree Roots Spread?

Some species of Ficus, such as Ficus Benjamina, Ficus Elastica, and Ficus Macrophylla, can have a huge root system. In fact, some species can grow a Ficus root system large enough to disturb your neighbor’s trees. So, if you want to plant a new Ficus tree and don’t want a neighborhood dispute, ensure there is enough room in your yard.

And if you have an existing Ficus tree in the yard, you need to think of controlling those invasive roots to have a peaceful neighborhood.

Will Ficus Roots Grow Back?

If you chop down a Ficus tree and leave the stump in the ground without killing it, yes, suckers and new sprouts can appear. And if you notice suckers and new sprouts appearing on the stump, not just roots, consider a new Ficus tree is coming back!

So, if you don’t take proper steps to kill the stump after cutting a Ficus tree down, it could grow back.

Do Banyan Ficus Trees Roots Cause Damage?

Banyan ficus trees have extensive, aerial roots that hang down from their branches and reach the ground, where they can take root and establish new trunks, resulting in the growth of a multi-trunked tree. These new trunks cause damage to surrounding infrastructure, especially when planted in urban areas with limited space.

Final Thoughts

Ficus trees are an excellent choice for shade and privacy. They have lush foliage making them an ideal choice for a tranquil privacy hedge. However, the problem that comes with Ficus trees is their invasive roots. But don’t keep this beautiful tree out of your yard out of fear of its unwanted root problems.

You can still enjoy the peaceful shade of Ficus trees if you take the proper steps to control their roots. In this article, I discussed an effective technique to control the root problems of Ficus. So, install root barriers at the appropriate time, limit the spread of Ficus roots, and enjoy lush green Ficus trees and a peaceful neighborhood.

Written by Sean Stratton

Sean Stratton

Hi, I'm Sean, the senior editor here at Fertilizer Pick. I grew up on a farm in North Carolina and have grown fruits, vegetables, and trees since childhood. While I no longer live on a farm today, I still enjoy spending time on my garden and sharing my knowledge with friends and fellow garden enthusiasts.