Thread: Planting distance from Underground Utilities?

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  1. #1

    Planting distance from Underground Utilities?

    I currently have a small Honey Locust sapling that I would like to move to the backyard. The issue is I want to know how much clearance I need to give for underground utilities. The spot I would like to plant the tree will be roughly 5 feet from an underground electric line and 10 feet from the cable/phone boxes which are also buried. If anyone has any information on how much of a distance I should safely stay away from the underground utilities that would be greatly appreciated.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Eastern PA

    RE: Planting distance from Underground Utilities?

    The roots of a tree generally spread out at least as far as the spread of the crown - in this case maybe 50' or so - so roots will reach over and under and through the area with the utilities.

    The biggest danger to the tree is if the utilities have to dig up the wires - they will cut the roots of the tree. I'm not sure how that species will react - it may or may not cause a significant problem.

    Check out the ISA's Trees Are Good site ( ) for general info about utility conflicts and siting considerations.

    Green Man Enviroscaping LLC

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Western NY, Zone 6

    RE: Planting distance from Underground Utilities?

    Agree with Ellyssian. If the underground utilities will most likely never need to be dug up and/or repaired (i.e. private utilities that are meant for your house only), it may not be a problem to plant a tree nearby. By underground utilities, I assume you mean electrical/cable, and not sewer or drainage. I planted a Cleveland Select Pear on the Northeast corner of my house in my front yard, almost directly above the main underdrain pipe (which is NOT perforated) and not far from a buried electrical conduit, because it was the only area of my front yard that was not near a drain field or leach field for my septic system. I also supervised/general contracted the building of my house, and knew exactly where those lines were buried, also knowing that there was conduit surrounding the electrical lines and 1/4" thick solid PVC sewer pipe for the underdrain, both impermeable to tree roots. Those underground utilities are also private (I own them), not public utilities. If you plant near public utilities, they can dig them up at any time for many reasons, so your risk of having that tree disrupted in the future is a lot higher if you plant above or near public utilities.

    NEVER plant trees near underground perforated pipes of ANY type, whether they be drain pipes or septic pipes. My neighbor across the road, not realizing how extensive Birch roots would grow, discovered his perforated drainage lines around his house completely jammed up with Birch roots. The Birch roots found their way into those perforated drain pipes which rendered them useless, although I'm sure the roots are doing their part to absorb the water those drain pipes were designed to carry away from his house. There were birch roots actually growing upwards into his gutter lines. The problem was so bad that there was really nothing he could do about it; fortunately it hasn't caused serious problems with drainage, so he's just going to let things be for now. The Birches were planted over 20-25 ft. away from those drainage pipes, which were buried ~1-2 feet underground. Know your water-loving tress - Poplars and Birches are notorious for water-seeking roots and will grow aggressively wherever water is found. A lot of other trees share these same traits.

  4. #4

    RE: Planting distance from Underground Utilities?

    Thank you both for the information. The line is electric and cable/phone. The electric line is the closest at 5 feet away. The line is just for my house. The sewage and water are both in the front yard, were I would like to plant the tree is in the back yard. I live in zone 5 so the electric should be buried below the frost line and should be encased in conduit. I was just woried that the roots would damage the electric or cable lines and we would run into issues with these utilities in the future.


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