Gardening knowledge: Flachwurzler

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In contrast to deep roots, shallow rootlets extend their roots in the upper soil layers. This affects the water supply and the stability - and not least the soil structure in your garden.
In a shallow root system, the tree or shrub spreads its coarse roots in a plate or beam around the stem axis. The roots do not penetrate deep layers of soil, but stay just below the surface. In their quest for water, nutrients and support, the roots continue to push horizontally through the earth over the years and, in old age, take up an area that corresponds to the radius of the treetop in the case of broad-crowned trees and about three meters in the case of narrow-crowned trees. The secondary growth of the roots causes the flat roots of older trees to stick out of the ground. With gardeners, this can lead to displeasure, because a tillage or planting is then no longer possible.

How does a flat root system work?

Shallowworms are specialized in feeding the plant from the nutrient-rich upper soil layers. Especially in areas with heavily compacted or barren soil, as well as stone soil with only thin soil layer, it is advantageous to keep close to the surface. This allows rainwater and nutrients to be trapped directly before seeping into deeper layers of the earth. But this also means that shallow-rooted shrubs rely on regular downpours to meet their water needs, because the shallow roots do not reach the groundwater.
Flatroots also have a harder time anchoring the plant in the soil, especially when it is a large tree, compared to taproots. Therefore, they like to cling to rocks and rocks and are therefore suitable for the planting of rockeries. The large roots are often broad and flattened in flat-rooters. So the roots enlarge their surface.

The root systems at a glance


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The root systems at a glance

Gardening knowledge: Flachwurzler: planting

Trapezoidalists form a near-surface root system

Gardening knowledge: Flachwurzler: root

Deepworms also reach deeper soil layers with their strong tap roots

Gardening knowledge: Flachwurzler: planting

Heartworms grow in several directions




Low rooted shrubs

The development of the individual root system of a plant depends not only on its genetic predisposition, but also largely on the natural conditions at the site. Plants are very adaptable, so accurate prediction of how the root system will develop is not possible. Botanically, kiwi, akebie, rock pear, chestnut, alder, trumpet flower, Judas tree, cypress, cornelian, bamboo, elderberry, forsythia, witch hazel, hydrangea, privet, honeysuckle, magnolia, pipe shrub, blackthorn, spruce and pine are all examples, Vinegar, willow, thuja, viburnum, wisteria and most fruit trees to the flatroots.
Birch, beech, hazelnut and maple, for example, are counted as both flat and heart-rooters - so the transitions are fluid.

Plant flatroot properly

Before planting a shallow root in your garden, there are a few points to consider. Since shallow-rooted trees spread their root system in a large radius around the trunk, you should allow enough space so that the roots do not lift path plates and pavement surfaces as they move through the garden. Flatroots planted close to the house can even demolish the masonry. When planting shallow-rooted trees, a distance of about ten meters to buildings and at least three meters to paths or paved surfaces must therefore be observed. Flat-rooted hedge plants such as thuja or cypress can damage sidewalks.
If you are worried that your freshly planted birch trees could extend their roots to just below the terrace or driveway, set a very stable root barrier right from the planting stage. You should also proceed if there is a risk that especially larger trees will roam over the property boundary with their roots and conquer the bed of the neighboring garden. Such cases often lead to larger neighborhood disputes and subsequent removal of the roots is difficult and severely damages the tree. But do not limit the root radius of the plant too much, otherwise the stability suffers. A nutrient-rich, slightly moist substrate is ideal for planting shallow rootlets.

Roots on the earth's surface

When the roots come to the surface, every garden design is unnecessary

Beware of wind!

Due to their shallow root system, pine, willow and alder are less strongly anchored in the ground than, for example, firs or oaks with their deep taproots. The great danger of the wind throw (uprooting in a storm) is smaller for isolated trees than for forest stands.Spruce monocultures are particularly often affected by windthrow, because in addition to the low stamina often sets in the forest culture in addition to a domino effect, which entrains other trees. In solitary plants, the ratio of stem thickness to tree height is usually healthier, the plants have better stability. Even a community planting with heart or Pfahlwurzlern protects against wind damage.
However, you should avoid planting tall, shallow-rooted trees on drafty corners and in wind gullies. The better the soil quality, the more stable the tree is. Coniferous trees (especially on very acidic soils) are more susceptible to windthrowing than deciduous trees. Shrubs, on the other hand, are usually not affected by windthrow due to their multi-stemmed and lower growth.

uprooted tree in the garden

Flat-rooters are easily torn out of the ground during heavy storms together with root ball

Flachwurzler in the garden

In the root zone of shallow rooting, avoid digging and hacking as this can damage a large root area. When planting shallow rootlets in the bed and planting shallow-rooted trees, you should only choose seedlings that can withstand strong root pressure, such as ivy, books, orchids, cherry laurel, ground cover and ferns. Due to their shallow root system, smaller shrubs such as lavender heather or bearded flower are well-suited for greening roof surfaces. Also for the planting of land with only thin soil layer as for example on underground garages (if permitted!) Flachwurzler are suitable candidates.
As a potted plant, however, trees of this species do not feel particularly well in the long term, because the restricted root area leads to a shortage of nutrients after a few years. Remember to water flatroot regularly in dryness. A mulch layer around the planting area protects the trees and shrubs from dehydration.

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