Do lemon trees have invasive roots? | How to keep roots contained

Lemon tree roots do not have invasive roots but can look to find water if they are planted near pipes. Large lemon trees can reach their roots out through pipes and cause damage. To avoid this plant lemon at least 6 feet away from structures, hard landscaping or water pipes. You could also plant them in pots, raised garden beds or use root barriers.

Making sure that your lemon tree is watered well, has the nutrients it needs and mulch will generally stay contained. Their roots will be less likely to reach out and search for water outside of their tree canopy.

Choose a dwarf lemon tree if you have a small garden or are planting in a pot. You can also keep a full sized tree small by trimming it regularly. The roots will generally match the size of the leaf canopy or the drip line. This is the imaginary line below the outside of the outer leaves.

Key Tip: Plant lemon trees at least 6 feet away from hard landscaping pipes. This will avoid any problems and prevent them from becoming invasive.

How lemon tree roots spread

Lemon tree roots will spread just beyond the tree canopy. This means that the roots will be slightly outside the leaf zone. You can reduce the size of the roots by keeping the tree canopy smaller. The plant will need less roots to support a smaller tree.

How to keep lemon tree roots small

I like to plant my citrus trees close together in my yard as I only have a small yard. To do this I regularly trim the leaves and encourage the tree to grow in an upright, wine glass shape. I will prune off the bottom stems and any stems that are growing sideways.

This will mean that the tree can grow happily alongside a large orange tree and I can fit more fruit trees in my yard. This can work with many fruit trees including other citrus, apples, apricots, peaches, pears and even mango trees.

How do lemon tree roots grow

Most lemon trees  roots will grow in the top 16-18 inches of soil. The smaller roots that absorb most of the water and nutrients will grow in the top few inches of soil. This is why it is important to mulch the top of the soil.  

Always avoid disturbing the top of the soil so you don’t accidentally damage the lemon tree roots. This can slow the tree’s growth or allow pests and diseases from attacking the plant.

Lemon trees will not grow as well if they are competing with other plants for food and water. It is best to avoid planting anything else including flowers, shrubs or herbs directly underneath the drip line of the lemon tree.

When I plant companions with my lemon tree, I will plant larger spreading plants further out from the tree. They can then trail on the soil, keep the water in but their roots will stay outside the lemon tree root zone.

Improve the soil before planting your new lemon tree to give them lots of opportunity to grow a strong healthy root system.  Add worm castings, aged cow manure and compost to the soil before planting. This will help to feed the plant, allow water to drain well and create soft soil for the roots to spread evenly.  

A large lemon tree will benefit from up to 6 feet either side of the trunk that is clear of other plants.

How to stop lemon tree roots from becoming invasive

These are my easy tips to avoid a lemon tree from growing invasive roots that cause problems. Check out my easy checklist to keep a lemon tree happy and its roots contained.

1. Choose a dwarf lemon tree

Small, dwarf lemon trees are a fantastic choice for a small space. They will be grafted onto a dwarf root system which will keep the tree and root system smaller. These lemon trees will generally stay around 6 feet tall and can be kept smaller by trimming the branches at the end of fall.

2. Plant lemon trees away from house foundations and water pipes

Lemon trees have non-invasive roots however as the tree gets bigger the roots can become very large. At the roots get larger there is the potential that they could interfere with house foundations.

To guarantee there are no problems make sure the tree is planted away from house foundations. A good guide is around 6 feet but it could be further if you plan on letting your lemon tree grow to full size, which could be up to 20 feet high.

It is important to also keep them away from water pipes including downpipes. Lemon trees can send their roots out to the regular water supply that comes from a downpipe. Avoid this by planting them away from the pipe to avoid damage.

3. Plant lemon trees in pots

For an easy way to keep lemon tree roots from invading other areas of your yard plant them in pots. All types of lemon trees including seedling and grafted lemon trees will grow well in a large pot with good quality potting soil.

A lemon tree grown in a pot will grow a smaller root ball and plant keeping them producing fruit in a smaller space.

Planting lemon trees in pots to keep their roots out of any garden beds or hard landscaping is an easy way to grow them at home.

How deep roots of a lemon tree grow

Lemon trees grow in good quality soil, which are well watered have a root system that is from 4-6 feet deep. The depth of the roots will be influenced by the age of the tree, the type of root stock it is grafted onto, the soil type, watering and drainage.

Lemon trees that do not get enough water will actually deeper roots as the tree searches for water.

Most healthy backyard lemon trees will have most of their roots in the top 18 inches of soil and will absorb water from the rain and your own watering rapidly. The tree will not need send down very deep roots to get the water and nutrients it needs.

Can lemon tree roots cause damage?

Lemon tree roots can cause damage to concrete or hard landscaping if they are planted too close. A general guide is to plant a lemon tree at least 6 feet away from any area that might be damaged by their roots. I like to keep my lemon tree trimmed small to keep the root system small as well.

Lemon trees can still produce a lot of fruit on a small tree. Trimming off branches that have crossed over and removing excess leaf growth at the end of fall will set it up to grow lots of fruit and a healthy root system.

You can remove the first season’s fruit if you like to allow the plant to concentrate on growing strong roots and leaves.

Are lemon trees shallow rooted?

Lemon trees are generally shallow rooted for their size growing most of their feeder roots in the top 18 inches of soil. It is important to improve the soil before planting a new tree to make sure it is light drains well and contains lots of organic matter.

Mix through aged cow manure, add pelleted chicken manure, compost and worm castings if you have them.

Add a 2-3 inch layer of bark mulch on top of the lemon tree root zone after planting. This will help to keep the lemon tree roots moist and will gradually break down and feed the plant. I like to add an extra handful of pelleted chicken manure on my lemon tree at the beginning of each season to feed the tree and the soil bacteria.

Do lemon trees have invasive roots | Summary

Lemon trees do not have invasive roots if they are well fed and well-watered. They will grow well with at least 6 feet of room away from hard landscaping and pipes to avoid the roots searching for water. Add a top dressing of compost in Spring to feed the tree and improve the soil.

Happy gardening.