Layer of fine roots blanketing garden

My whole flower garden is covered with a shallow layer of fine tree roots. I have a maple and spruce trees in proximity and i think both are sending out the roots.
I find the plants are struggling because they are being choked out by the web of roots. Should i just did up these roots? Im womdering if they are actually damaging to my flowers and whether it damages the trees to dig them up. The dense mat makes it pretty difficult to dig in the soil and is pretty frustrating.

I live in a woodland setting with lots of 100’ fir trees; they win every time ! After years of trying to pull those pesky roots I gave up, ripped out the plants that were being impacted and planted those that could fight for themselves. The plus side of this situation is that the weeds also struggle. These beds do need more water than other areas but a few years later everybody is existing in harmony. Good Luck

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Your situation takes me back to our yard up in Terrace. It was very forested with lovely cedar trees but those alas are notorious for surface roots. My solution was to underplant with sturdy, shade and dry soil plants one being Bishop’s Cap. It formed lovely mats and then I interspersed lots of colourful pots of begonias, coleus, etc. Finally topped it off with sitting areas, bird baths (yes they needed to be cleaned almost everyday because of the needles), and ornaments. It turned out lovely and I didn’t have to fight with the roots.


I have the same problem with 2 maples and a chestnut. I usually dig up all of the plants every 4-5 years, untangle their roots from the tree roots, pull masses of tree roots out of the beds, fill the beds with more soil and re-plant the specimen plants. Too much work! But I do keep trying new plants to see what can withstand the tree roots. What I have had success with is epimediums (bishop’s cap), wild European ginger, Anemone nemerosa, Polygonatum odoratum, Actae simplex ‘Black Negligee’, skimmia, Kerria japonica, rhodos, hydrangea, and a few others. Some heucheras look good for a few years before they start to lose their vigour. Same with hostas. Arthyrium filix-femina (lady’s fern) and Dryopteris filix-mas (male fern) also stand up well to the roots. Hope this adds to your list of possibles.


@duchessofdirt would you recommend any of those in particular in a full sun area? I have a maple in the front yard that does this and it’s in the hottest/sunniest part of our yard.

Hmmm. How tall is your maple tree? How much sun does your planting area get and through what part of the day? Early morning? High noon to mid-afternoon? Reason for asking is there are some shade-loving plants which will tolerate some sun…and even some hot sun for a short while.

Some plant species which tolerate sun and tree roots reasonably well are: spiraea, weigela (and there are some very nice cultivars that do not grow too tall), sanguisorba, anemone nemerosa, hardy geraniums (and there are many species and cultivars), hemerocallis…to name a few. Grasses also do well for me although they never get truly full and robust because of the root competition. But this can be a good thing if you are not into digging up and dividing rigorous clumps regularly. You can also get away with some of the more vigorous growers in a hard-to-garden area but watch out for Omphaloides. It can still get out of hand. It just takes longer. I am ripping some out now…15 years after planting some under my rhodos. Check out rhodos and azaleas too. There are new ones on the market which will take some sun. I just bought a repeat blooming azalea this year which likes some sun. Hope this helps. Good luck. Truthfully, it really comes down to trial and error.


@duchessofdirt thanks for your reply and sorry for my slow response! This spot gets sun all day - it’s very exposed. I planted some grasses a few years ago which are doing very well - too well - they are much much taller than I anticipated :sweat_smile:. I probably should have read the label a little closer. I will take a look at those species you suggested!