I have a 30' ficus tree whose roots are starting to be invasive to plumbing. I'd like to cut down the roots and stunt their growth. How can I achieve this?

If cutting down and killing the tree is the only viable option, what is the best way to go about doing this for a tree this large?

  • 2
    Hmm, that's a problem I've never had... I have the touch of death when it comes to ficus! Have you considered a chainsaw?
    – bstpierre
    Dec 1, 2011 at 20:04
  • On the topic of killing the tree, there are several root killer chemicals available in the market. However, take a look at Nothing will grow where tree was and How efficient are stump removal chemicals to learn about the extent of soil damage these chemicals can cause. Also, it might be helpful if you added how far away from the tree the plumbing line is (so as to get an idea of the thickness of the roots). Dec 1, 2011 at 20:12
  • BTW I pounded in several copper copper plumbing pipe stakes about a year ago. Only now is the bark starting to peel away at those spots
    – BozoJoe
    May 10, 2013 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


Consider using some kind of root barrier - a plastic "wall" that is placed in a trench, which is subsequently filled in.

  • Is that viable for a well established tree? For instance, if you have a 10 year old fig and the roots have spread 6 metres in each direction from the trunk but you want to contain it to a 2 metre radius, won't there be terribly thick roots to cut through? Could you put a bit more about how to do these barriers in your answer?
    – Lisa
    Dec 5, 2011 at 5:51
  • @Lisa - trimming a root system to 1/9 of its original area (1/3 the radius) is likely to cripple or kill almost any tree - in which case a root barrier won't be needed. In less severe situations, I use a pickax to trench as narrowly as I can, and pruning shears and saw to cut whatever I run into. Don't try to lever roots up with a pickax unless it's really easy - you'll just hurt your back. I don't use root barrier myself - I just go back with a pickax as needed.
    – Ed Staub
    Jan 9, 2012 at 4:56

the way it says to use root killers by drilling a hole in the center and one from the side is good but I don't put the killer in I just start a fire in the center hole. it will burn all the down to the roots and the roots will rot in sbout 1 year.

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