What Happens if You Accidentally Cut Through Tree Roots?

accidentally cut through tree roots

Can your tree recover if you accidentally cut through tree roots? Damaged tree roots are a serious problem, but your tree can survive with the right care. In this post, Petrarca Landcare Inc, Lakewood’s expert tree service, explains more about this. 

What the Tree Roots Do

Tree roots fall into two broad categories: 

  • Structural roots grow laterally and stabilize your tree. They are the type you’re most likely to see in art, the long, dark, tapering roots. Damaging these impacts tree stability, and your tree may lean to one side. 
  • Feeder roots are small and fibrous. They can grow in any direction in their search for moisture and nutrients. Damaging these roots results in diminished vitality, manifesting as pale leaves, unseasonal leaf drops, and stunted growth.  

What Happens if You Accidentally Cut Through Tree Roots?

What happens when you accidentally cut through tree roots depends on how much damage you do. If you cut back more than a third of the root system, you could kill the tree outright. For less severe damage, the following may apply. 

Less Vigor

The tree won’t be able to get the right amount of nutrients and water, meaning it will start to look a little sad. The leaves won’t grow as big as they should, or they won’t grow at all. The tree also won’t send out as many new sprouts. 

The upside is that this is reversible if you care for your tree properly and are willing to be patient. 

Disease and Pest Infestation

Damaging the roots stresses the tree. This, the wounds, and the loss of nutrients and moisture make the tree more vulnerable to disease and pests. You must deal with these quickly, or the tree can die. 


If you nick the structural roots, you have to worry about a lot more than the tree’s health. The tree may become unstable and start to lift. Look out for signs of the ground lifting on one side or roots pulling up out of the earth. 

What Can You Do? 

What to do depends on how bad the damage is. Your best bet is to call in the professionals to assess the situation properly. They can evaluate how safe the tree is and give you a firm prognosis. 

We’ll usually see if it’s necessary to engage in further root pruning. This may prove necessary to remove dead sections or to clean up edges. A tree is more easily able to repair a clean-cut edge than a jagged one. 

We typically recommend against sealing the wounds as that generally does more harm than good. However, we assess each case individually. 

Finally, we implement a care strategy, ensuring the tree gets extra nutrients and water to speed up recovery. 

Contact Us for Professional Advice Today

Don’t panic if you accidentally cut through tree roots. Call Petrarca Landcare Inc. at (330) 933-0562. It’s not easy to get a dead tree to come back to life, but we know every trick in the book to make that happen. 

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