The Dangers of Adding Soil to Exposed Tree Roots

exposed tree roots

Trees play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance and providing numerous benefits to the environment.

As urbanization and development expand, many trees face the threat of having their roots exposed due to construction, erosion, or landscaping practices.

In an attempt to protect these exposed roots and support the tree’s health, some well-meaning individuals may consider adding soil around the base.

However, this seemingly helpful act can have detrimental consequences for the tree and the surrounding ecosystem. If you have concerns, ask your local lawn care company what a tree and shrub care service can do for you!

In this article, we will delve into the reasons why adding soil to exposed tree roots is a bad idea and explore alternative solutions for preserving the well-being of these magnificent organisms.

Oxygen Deprivation

Trees rely on a delicate balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange to thrive. Roots need a constant supply of oxygen to support vital cellular processes.

When soil is added around exposed roots, it can lead to a reduction in oxygen availability. The added soil may compact, reducing air pockets in the soil and creating an oxygen-deficient environment.

Oxygen deprivation inhibits root respiration, causing root cells to die, making the tree susceptible to diseases, and making it more vulnerable to environmental stressors.

Waterlogged Roots

In addition to restricting oxygen flow, adding soil around exposed tree roots can create waterlogged conditions.

The excess soil may alter the natural drainage patterns, preventing water from flowing away from the tree’s root zone. Prolonged saturation can lead to root rot and other water-related issues.

Tree roots need to breathe, and constant exposure to standing water can be disastrous for their health.

Limited Nutrient Uptake

The natural ecosystem surrounding a tree has evolved to supply the necessary nutrients to support its growth and development.

By adding soil, the balance of nutrients can be disrupted, leading to nutrient deficiencies or imbalances.

Furthermore, compacted soil can prevent roots from reaching deeper into the soil, where essential nutrients are often abundant.

This can lead to stunted growth and an overall decline in the tree’s health and vigor.

Girdling Roots

Improperly added soil can lead to the development of girdling roots.

When soil is placed against the tree’s trunk or the exposed root collar, roots may grow around the base of the tree instead of outward.

Over time, these girdling roots can constrict the tree’s vascular system, hampering the movement of water and nutrients between the roots and the crown.

This condition weakens the tree’s structural integrity and can eventually lead to its death.

Stress on the Tree

Trees are highly sensitive organisms, and even minor disruptions to their environment can cause stress.

Adding soil to exposed roots can cause significant stress to the tree as it tries to adapt to the altered conditions.

Stress weakens the tree’s natural defense mechanisms, making it more susceptible to pests, diseases, and environmental stressors such as drought and extreme temperatures.

Disruption of Ecosystem Balance

Trees are not solitary beings but are integral parts of complex ecosystems. Adding soil to tree roots can disrupt the natural balance within the ecosystem.

The altered root structure and soil composition can impact the interactions between trees, fungi, bacteria, and other organisms in the soil.

The changes may lead to a decline in biodiversity and negatively affect the overall health of the ecosystem.

Alternative Solutions


Apply a layer of organic mulch (such as wood chips or compost) around the base of the tree, keeping it away from the trunk. Mulch helps retain moisture, regulates soil temperature, and enriches the soil as it breaks down.

Proper Pruning

If the exposed roots are damaged or at risk, consult an arborist for proper pruning techniques that promote tree health and reduce the risk of infection.

Root Barriers

Install root barriers when planning landscaping projects to protect tree roots from damage while maintaining their existing soil conditions.

Consult an Arborist

When in doubt about how to handle exposed tree roots, consult a certified arborist who can assess the situation and provide expert advice on the best course of action.

Tree and Shrub Care

While the intention behind adding soil to exposed tree roots is to protect and support the tree, it can have severe consequences for the tree’s health and the surrounding ecosystem.

Oxygen deprivation, waterlogged roots, nutrient imbalances, girdling roots, and overall stress can lead to irreversible damage and even death for the tree.

Instead, it is crucial to consider alternative solutions, such as proper mulching, pruning, and seeking professional advice when necessary, to ensure the long-term health and well-being of our valuable tree companions.

Let us strive to preserve and protect these magnificent organisms that contribute so much to the beauty and functionality of our environment.

If you have any questions or need professional advice on your trees, you’re in luck! Gecko Green does have arborists who can assist you in taking care of your trees!

Request a free tree & shrub quote