Don’s Expert Answers: can I damage the tree by cutting some of the surface roots?

Question From:
mark pickering in Balahnnah, Balahnnah South Australia

Nature of problem:
can I damage the tree by cutting some of the surface roots?

Type of Plant (if known):
Mop Top

Symptoms of Plant Illness (please try NOT to diagnose your problems yourself):
no illness

Soil Type (e.g. sandy, clay or loam) OR Potting Mix Type:

How often do you water the plant:

How many hours of sunlight does the plant get each day:

How long since you planted it:

Have you fertilised? If so, with what and when:

Is the plant indoors or outdoors:

Is the plant in a pot or in the ground:

What other treatments have you given the plant:

Upload photo if available:

Other Comments:
The issue I have is I would like to plant lawn at the base of the tree but the roots of the tree are on the surface. I would like to dig say 3′”deep X 2 metres around the base of the tree. Some of these roots are a couple of inches thick. If I were to cut them would I harm the tree? Do these roots spread just below the surface only or do they have roots going straight down?

Hi Mark, I strongly recommend that you do not expose or cut the roots. If you do, suckers will spring up everywhere, creating a terrible nuisance. You need to find out why the roots are on the surface: my guess is that you have a rock-hard clay layer about 3″ to 4″ under the surface. I doubt that grass would grow under the tree/s anyway. Maybe add 6″ of new soil and plant Clivias under the tree/s. They tolerate semi-shaded, dry conditions. Don