Painful Plants Plumbers Want You To Avoid


Homeowners and Landscapers Beware

Is it about time for a backyard renovation? Well, there are a few things your plumber would like you to know before you start, so you don’t get stuck with damaged pipes and clogged drains.

While plants enhance a home’s outward appeal, plant roots, particularly tree roots, can cause significant damage to the underground plumbing system. Though the general guideline is to plant any trees and plants at least 5 metres away from the nearest pipe to allow for root growth, there are some that should just be avoided entirely.

Plants That Cause Plumbing Problems

Water is the primary source of nutrients for trees, and their root systems have evolved to seek it out in every way they can. This makes your sewer system and water pipelines potential targets in residential neighbourhoods. Even the slightest fracture in one of the pipes will result in a root invasion.

But why is this a negative thing? When roots enter the water pipe, they can form a thick net which can capture those flushable wipes as well as any grease or food scraps that have been washed down the sink. This can lead to drain blockages, as any qualified plumber will tell you, a blocked drain is not a problem you want to be dealing with.

There is a long list of trees that might cause problems with your plumbing system; the following are just a few of the worst offenders you should avoid planting.

Gum Trees (Eucalyptus Trees)

Native to Australia, gum trees are notorious for harming underground pipelines since they demand a lot of water. These trees have invasive roots that can span lengths of up to 30 metres in search of water. However, unlike other trees, the root structure of the Eucalyptus is often fairly shallow.

So, in addition to the possibility of the roots infiltrating your water and sewer lines, there is also the possibility that severe winds and thunderstorms will cause the tree to crash and pull out any pipes in its grasp.

Oak Trees

Not only do oak trees take up a lot of space, but they may also be extremely damaging to your sewer system and drain pipes. Just like the tree, the root system is slow growing, initially sending a tap root vertically into the ground in search of a water supply.

The biggest problem emerges when the lateral roots start to spread in search of their own water source.

Magnolia Trees

It’s sad to say as they are such a vibrant tree, but magnolias are not healthy for your plumbing system. Much like the gum tree, the magnolia’s root system spreads horizontally, meaning the closest source of water is typically any little leaks in your pipes.

Aside from the root issues, these trees drop leaves all year round, making garden clean-up more of a chore than it needs to be.

Palm Trees

Palm trees are a bit of an outlier in this line-up, as the issue does not stem from the roots, but rather the fruits and seeds they might drop. These may be a nuisance as they build up and frequently cause problems in the downpipes, gutters and drains. The long term effects of these fruits and seeds can be blockages, damage to the pipes, or even flooding.

Birch Trees

Similar again to the old gum tree, birch trees have a large root system that grows closer to the surface. They too, can be very greedy water consumers, and will invade your pipelines in order to get to the nearest source.

Removing Potential Threats

If you are concerned about an existing tree on your property, it can be best to consider having it removed. However, be cautious with this, as certain trees have been added to a protected tree list due to their size, cultural significance, species type, or age.

In this instance, your sole alternative may be to investigate some preventive measures. Calling in your local plumber is the best way to ensure you don’t end up with blocked drains. Whether it be pipe relining, replacements, or clearing out the build up, a professional plumber is going to give you the peace of mind you need.

How to Avoid a Backyard Plumbing Nightmare?

The next time you decide to do some backyard landscaping, make sure to take precautions so you don’t just end up with an outdoor plumbing nightmare.

While trees and plants are one of the easiest and most common ways to give your home that kerbside appeal and add privacy to the backyard, they can also be a sure-fire way to cause underground plumbing issues. So, before you start digging holes, it is important to do the research and figure out which plants or trees will cause you the least trouble in the future.

Asher Pollan
Asher Pollan, with a Master’s in Botany from the University of Chicago, has been a plant enthusiast and educator for 16 years at a university. He joined our editorial team as a freelancer, sharing his knowledge of plant physiology, indoor gardening, and botanical science. His background includes roles in public gardens, as a horticultural therapist, and researcher, and taught the skills of everyday gardening to people in weekend workshops. He enjoys botanical illustration and participates in plant conservation initiatives.

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