My house I recently moved back into has a tree in the side yard that has over-grown the small retaining wall after 10+ years. I didn't know this was going on as I was an absentee owner for a while, but now am faced with roots that have squeezed on top of the wall bricks. I'm trying to widen the retaining wall to give the tree more room, but should I try and remove the bricks? I'm a little worried that if I remove the bricks the tree will become unstable. I see one root has managed to grow out of the bricks. I will try and make the wall taller too so the roots have dirt up to the bottom of the tree.

This is a beautiful tree and I don't want to have to cut it down, but it was certainly an error to plant it in this small of an area. Bad landscaping company for not planning ahead.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Partial tree including base

Up-close rootsRoots breaking throughNeed to widen retaining wall

  • 2
    no need to do anything, the tree has adapted just fine to the wall
    – kevinskio
    Jan 31, 2018 at 0:55
  • 1
    Welcome Gail-SoCal! This is a great first question, with lots of details and pictures, which is what we ask for in order to best help you. I changed it just a little to fit our format. Since you're new here, I invite you to visit our help center. It will teach you how are site works and why it's different from some others you may have used. If you have questions about that, just leave a comment and someone will come along and help you! Jan 31, 2018 at 1:00
  • Kevinsky, thanks for the feedback. Question, If I want to widen the retaining wall, do you think it'll be bad to at least move the bricks on the right-side of the tree (as shown in the last photo) to give some the roots more room to grown? I plan to add dirt to basically cover the old bricks that are sitting under the tree roots. Plan to expand the retaining wall by a good 1-1/2 feet and will move the shrubs to sit on-top of the new dirt and retaining wall.
    – Gail-SoCal
    Jan 31, 2018 at 19:20
  • By the way, does anyone know what kind of tree I have here?
    – Gail-SoCal
    Jan 31, 2018 at 19:25
  • @Gail-SoCal Trees like it just the way it is and do not take well to changes in grade around the roots or interlock that they were leaning on being moved. I would not recommend raising the grade around the tree or adding competitors for water and nutrients like shrubs. To find out what kind of tree it is please ask another question with a closeup of the leaves
    – kevinskio
    Feb 1, 2018 at 11:02

1 Answer 1


The bark appears to be Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) which you can verify when it flowers.

It looks like a previous owner had your concern about the tree in this location and decided to try to cut it down. The result was that it produced multiple suckers from the base which the owner ignored. The roots are evidently finding new sources of nourishment but what would concern me is structural stability. It should be a single trunk solidly supported on a spreading root system. This has multiple trunks that could split open at any time. Time to bite the bullet, cut the tree, remove the root and rebuild the wall? Alternatively cut the tree and keep removing the suckers arising and let the root system just fade away.

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