Roots begin to grow around the main stem of the tree and cut off or restrict the movement of water, plant nutrients and stored food reserves. Most often, it cannot be detected unless you remove some soil.

Girdling Root Example

What Will Happen To My Landscape?

Trees can slowly weaken and die over a period of years or decades because of root girdling. As injury progresses, leaves will become smaller and lighter green, fewer leaves will be produced, and eventually the branch will begin to die back. Death of the entire plant can occur in five to 20 years. The tree can actually die within a week’s time from strangulation.

What Can I Do About Girdling Root?

If girdling roots are found on a plant with known susceptibility, the girdling root must be removed, a process normally carried out with a chisel. Removing a girdling root is a wound in its own right. Yet, while the correction of the problem can kill the desirable plant, the likelihood of the plant dying is greater if no action is taken. Conducting a preventative inspection when the tree is about six inches in diameter will assist in correcting the problem before it becomes serious. Make sure when you purchase a new tree or shrub that it’s checked for girdling root.

Whatever you decide, the longer your landscape is left untreated, the greater the chance the affected trees and shrubs will undergo unrecoverable damage. Your landscape represents a growing investment worth protecting.

Girdling Root Killing Tree

Photo of Stem Girdling Roots – credit: Linda Haugen, USDA Forest Service, – Girdling roots (excavated and painted white by Gary Johnson) on declining Linden tree