10 Worst Trees for Your Home’s Plumbing

Trees are most often an asset to the home landscape, but some species can cause problems around underground pipes. While the roots don't usually break up pipes, they may infiltrate old or damaged pipes and eventually cause blockage. Some species are more prone to do this than others. Here are 10 tree species to avoid planting near underground pipes.

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Willows are notorious for their promiscuous roots, which roam far and wide looking for moisture. That’s why they’re so content growing near ponds and rivers. In the home landscape, roots of willows can find openings in the seams of old pipes and expand into the hollow structures to obtain moisture and sustenance from silt.

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Beech trees are stately beauties that can last for centuries. As impressive as they are, they have vigorous, shallow roots that can cause problems with both structures and pipes. Cut down a beech and these roots will often send up sucker shoots to become new trees. It’s this same tenacity that makes beech tree roots a concern, if planted near underground pipes. Before you plant any tree, check out this guide for trouble-free tree planting.

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Eucalyptus trees have a shallow but vigorous root system that can spread out 100 feet or more. The trees’ root system is designed to keep them alive in tough conditions—and it even resprouts from these invasive roots when chopped down. Not surprisingly, the roots can find their way into water pipes and septic systems. If you need to cut down a tree, the first thing you should do is read this guide for doing it safely.

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Honey Locust

Honey locust trees depend on a vigorous root system to sustain an equally vigorous top structure. Like many other trees with invasive roots, honey locust suckers grow freely from roots, sending up potential new trees that must be dealt with. Those roots can also pose problems with underground pipes.

Did you know you can make your trees look more at home in the landscape? See our 10 tips for landscaping around trees.

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Mulberry trees are quick to sprout and exceedingly fast to put on size. To do this, they must depend on a vigorous root system that ranges wherever the promise of moisture takes it—including old underground pipes with leaky seams.

Need some help identifying tree species? Here’s what to look for.

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Aspen tends to develop into thickets, creating a nice grove-like effect. The thickets develop from the root system of one tree, meaning a solitary aspen tree could turn into a 100-yard-wide grove of identical trees. That free-roaming root system is great for empty lots, but not so great near the underground pipes found in residential landscapes.

Aspens are known for their butter yellow foliage in autumn. Meet some other trees with great fall foliage.

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Empress tree is a very rapid grower, putting on 5 feet or more of annual growth. The tropical look of the big leaves and the colorful purple summer flowers make the tree popular with some. Others, however, consider it a weedy pest. Like all weedy pests, it has a very active root system that can interfere with underground utilities and pipes. If you have a tree that needs pruning, here’s what you need to know.

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Elms are the adaptable trees of both city and country. Tough enough for the Plains, they take drought but prefer to have their share of moisture. That powerful thirst is a potential pitfall where leaky underground drain pipes are concerned. Here are 10 trees we highly recommend, if they’re planted in the right spot.

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Poplars in general are a risky bet when it comes to water and drain pipes. The biggest offenders are cottonwoods and Lombardy poplars. The former is best left to rambling countryside and stream banks, the latter avoided entirely because its roots go everywhere—and because it’s got a very short lifespan.

Has a neighbor’s tree grown into your yard? Here’s what you can and can’t do.

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Silver Maple

Silver maple is another water hog with the pesky roots to do its bidding. While valuable for stabilizing soil along a stream or river, the extensive roots of the silver maple are an absolute pain in the home landscape. To make matters worse, those roots also push up sidewalks. Meet 15 trees you should never grow in your yard.

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.