Back to Basic: Tree Root Systems


“If a tree has strong roots, not even the strongest hands can pluck it from where it stands.” Matshona Dhliwayo […]

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“If a tree has strong roots, not even the strongest hands can pluck it from where it stands.”

Matshona Dhliwayo

This phrase is well known to those who care for a hearty garden. It’s easy to neglect the importance of what goes into a successful planting, including proper root development. In our experience, ensuring that the root system of your planting project is healthy and has enough space to develop is the key to successful results with longevity, as plants will struggle and eventually die without the proper foundational support to help them develop in their growth stages.

We all want beautiful-looking plants for our landscape design, but with plants, sometimes we tend to forget that they can only provide us with a good result if we make sure that their root system is properly taken care of. 

Usually, it’s that: “I do not have time, I do not have money, I will look after it in a month or two,” that leads us to deny the importance of tree health and its development. Now, nothing can replace a well-planned tree planting project in your pursuit of success in outdoor landscaping. Focusing on your tree roots when you get started will help your tree roots grow and ensure the long-term success of your tree root systems and planting project.

Have you ever wondered why having a healthy root system for your plants is so important?

Although it doesn’t sound as fascinating as plants growing into mature large trees, caring for the roots is crucial in a way that can be very hard to understand at first glance. The truth is, when it comes to a planting project, when our focus is to look after the tree root system and ensure roots grow correctly, it’s almost a given that your planting result will be remarkable and your trees will enjoy a longer life span.

The major portion of a tree’s root system is in the top few inches of soil. There are many types of roots, with the two basic types of roots being nonwoody and woody roots. Other roots include but aren’t limited to: feeder roots, fine roots, lateral roots, oblique roots (also known as heart roots), and tap roots.

By ignoring the root systems, they can end up in a situation where they lack water and nutrients necessary for their planting to thrive – leading to more tree root problems and making it vital that they add nutrients and other chemicals at that point.

The most effective way to reduce the possibility of root injury and disease is to keep your tree healthy. But as you might imagine, preventing tree root problems and putting reasonable amounts of nutrients in relatively early is much easier than adding nutrients after you’ve already neglected the root systems. This adds up difficulty and costs and generates fewer desirable results for your trees and roots.

Our heart is for you to be able to enjoy the result of your planting project while giving you more sustainable options for it. With a range of products available that will help plants and roots absorb more oxygen, water and nutrients, you’ll love watching your garden grow into a healthy landscape. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a solution before or after planting; we have various product options for your landscaping and tree root systems needs.


If you haven’t started your planting, first and foremost, our recommendation for you would be TerraCottem®.

It works in a synergetic way to significantly improve soil quality, water and nutrient retention for healthier plant growth. TerraCottem® works in the root zone. Mix it in with the soil and water will then activate TerraCottem® polymers, absorbing moisture and fertilisers into the soil surface and helping your plants to grow.

Choosing TerraCottem® is the first wise move to start a planting project, as we know, if you want to end strong, start strong. The ingredients in TerraCottem® will ensure that plants and root systems only take up water when needed, which means no water will go to waste. Not only is TerraCottem® excellent for your planting project and lateral root system, but it is also great for the overall environment. 

Another thing to consider early before planting is the root barrier. Why a root barrier? While most roots tend to grow downwards, some may start to spread to unwanted areas. Some experts speculate that some roots can grow up to five times the radius of the tree’s canopy. The purpose of the root barrier is to contain possible root spread by helping to direct the tress root growth downwards into the ground and away from surrounding hardscape surfaces.

This is most effective for the roots of urban trees planted near walkways or pavements, as this prevents damage such as cracking and heaving that can result from the growth of tree roots under these surfaces. Having a root barrier also reduces that chance tree removal is required if tree roots start causing damage to surrounding areas.

Also consider root barriers before planting for tree stability and drought tolerance as they will typically encourage deeper root growth in most tree species. To do just that, Root Deflector Dimpled Barrier is your solution for protecting even the deepest roots. It protects the tree’s root system when construction or pavement reinstatement works are carried out in an urban environment and is easy to install, with no specialist equipment needed.

In situations where the roots need to be prevented from spreading in all directions such as court yards, parking lots and footpaths, we recommend the Root Director System or ReRoute Ribbed Root Barrier. These specialised root barriers have integrated ribs that cleverly prevent root spread and swirl issues that will occur in root systems if installing standard root barriers completely around a root ball.

In a nutshell, root barriers help to direct root growth downwards and away from the surface as the tree grows, reducing the cost of maintenance and the need for removal of problematic trees and tree roots.


For healthy soil and tree roots, it’s time to think fertiliser! We recommend applying seaweed products such as Acadian Seaweed Powder, Neutrog Gogo Juice, Seasol (or Seasol Plus), Seamungus Organic Fertiliser or Seaweed Secrets. This range of fertilisers are effective on a variety of tree species and will improve soil conditions, help tree roots absorb oxygen, water and nutrients and help your trees and roots grow.

Why seaweed?

“Seaweed is magical stuff in the water, it’s incredibly healthful to us, to our animals, to our soils and our plants.  As seaweed breaks down into the soil, it encourages microorganisms whose activities help convert unavailable nutrients into forms that plants can use. It increases chlorophyll production and contains many micronutrients important for soil and plant health, as well as acting as a growth stimulant: it is rich in cytokinins, plant growth hormones that work above and below ground, improving root growth.”

(Alys Fowler for

Fowler also said that if we can afford only one type of fertiliser, make it seaweed.

Healthy Tree Roots For Your Next Planting Project

We hope this post is helpful for your planting project, especially in ensuring that you have the best tree root system products in place.

If you have any questions regarding root systems or the different types of tree roots, we are happy to help! Reach out by email or call: 1300 866 367 or search through our wide range of landscaping supplies and root system products, designed to help the development of many species of plants and roots.

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