Do Cedar Elm Trees Have Invasive Roots? [And Where To Plant Them]

Planning out a garden can be tricky if you don't know your stuff. Are you thinking about growing a cedar elm tree but have no idea whether its roots will be invasive or not? Well, we've done plenty of research and have the answer waiting here for you. Let's check it out.

Typically, cedar elm trees will not have invasive roots. Considering this tree species has a relatively shallow root system throughout its lifetime, there isn't much need to worry if you have other plants nearby. But your tree may develop a bit of root sprawling as it matures, so invasiveness is possible.

As we begin, we will cover all things cedar elm trees and discuss how their root system works. Whether you have a few elms in your garden or want to plant one, we're here to offer some help. With that said, let's dive right into this topic!

Two huge Cedar elm trees photographed at a forest park, Do Cedar Elm Trees Have Invasive Roots? [And Where To Plant Them]

How Deep Are Elm Roots?

In general, an elm's roots will be around 3-4 feet deep. As we said, this tree species isn't usually invasive, so its root system will be somewhat unproblematic.

That said, an elm's root system will vary depending on the soil it's in, so there is a chance your tree's roots will become invasive. For example, a cedar elm in heavy, wet soil will develop more widespread, shallow roots than in drier conditions.

A huge Cedar elm tree at a forest park

If your elm is somewhere with dry, sandy soil, expect it to form a taproot system instead, which could be as deep as 5 or 6 feet. But regardless of dirt, your tree's root system shouldn't become invasive in most cases.

How Invasive Are Elm Tree Roots?

Elm tree roots, cedar specifically, tend to be moderately invasive depending on their location. As we mentioned, this tree species has shallow roots through adolescence, so you won't typically run into problems until your plant's later years.

One of the leading causes of invasive elm roots is pruning your tree when it's young, which ultimately encourages rapid root growth.

Again, it's not necessarily a bad thing to shape your tree's roots if necessary, but try to keep this minimal.

How Far Apart Should You Plant Cedar Elm Trees?

Considering this tree species can reach 40-60 feet widths, it's best to give it space. However, you should be fine to leave about 6 feet between cedar elms at a minimum.

Of course, if you want your trees to get as big as possible, you might want to leave more space, so this depends.

According to, planting cedar elms six feet apart will hinder them from reaching full size and may overwhelm your yard, so that's something to think about.

How Close To The House Can I Plant A Cedar Elm Tree?

For anyone wanting to have an elm tree near their house, leave about 15 feet at minimum. As we mentioned above, these trees will get pretty big as they mature.

Cedar elm trees can also be messy, so unless you want leaves surrounding your home, the more space, the better. This goes for any elm, so try to give it at least 15 feet even if you have another variation.

Where Is The Best Place To Plant An Elm Tree?

A huge meadow with an old huge Cedar elm tree

Ideally, you want to plant an elm tree somewhere with full sun or partial shade and moist, well-drained fertile soil. This tree species, particularly, adapts well to almost any environment, making it great for urban spaces.

One thing to note is that cedar elm could potentially develop root sprawling as it ages, so we don't recommend having one close to a structure or sidewalk.

Although their roots will remain somewhat shallow, elm trees can cause cement cracking and raising as they mature, so that's something to consider.

Again, trees that reach such massive sizes prefer as much room as possible, so let your elm be on its own if you have the space.

Will An Elm Tree Grow In The Shade?

Although an elm tree can grow in the shade, it ultimately prefers the sun. Ideally, an elm tree should get at least 6 hours of sun exposure daily, so anything less can affect its growth.

Furthermore, elm trees won't be as full or healthy without enough sun, which is something to consider. On top of that, elm trees don't do well in wet soil, so a lack of sun could lead to root rot.

How Big Do Cedar Elm Trees Get?

You can typically expect a cedar elm to reach a height of 50-70 feet and a width between 40-60 feet. Of course, the size of your tree will vary depending on how well it's cared for, so everyone will be different.

For example, if your cedar elm only gets a few hours of sun per day, it's not going to reach the same size as a tree with 6-8 hours of daily exposure. Soil can also affect a cedar elms growth, so the richer in nutrients yours is, the better.

The amount of space you give your elm will also affect its mature height/width, so many things influence this.

Are Cedar Elms Fast Growing?

In general, a cedar elm is considered a medium-growing tree. You can expect one to grow at a rate of 13-24 inches annually, so this isn't super fast.

If the conditions aren't great where your tree is, you could only see about a foot of yearly growth, so this can vary. Furthermore, light pruning and regular fertilization will aid cedar elms' growth, so we recommend doing both.

How Much Water Does A Cedar Elm Need?

A huge old Cedar elm tree

Some cedar elms will need more water than others, depending on their climate and soil. Typically, this tree species prefers a good watering once a week, so that's a good place to start.

As we have covered, elms, regardless of variation, don't like to have wet feet, so if your tree's ground feels damp, allow it to dry before further watering.

Considering that cedar elms have shallow root systems, they are more susceptible to root rot. This means that your tree could be more prone to disease and even death if you overwater, so less is usually more.

Are Cedar Elm Trees Drought Tolerant?

Yes! Cedar elms are surprisingly very drought tolerant. Generally, cedar elms do best in well-draining, slightly acidic soil, so desert climates are sometimes the perfect growing option.

You might as well make sure to periodically water your elm, as its roots are shallow and can't pull moisture from deep in the ground. So just because they can withstand drought doesn't mean they prefer it.

How Long Do Cedar Elms Live?

Although this can vary, cedar elms can live for 100-150 years. The USDA Forest Service Climate Change Tree Atlas claims that 100 years is the average lifespan for this elm species, which means you could see a cedar elm surpass this number.

That said, if your tree is somewhere like a city, it could only reach 50 years old, so environmental impact makes a big difference.

However, if you live somewhere with good air quality and plenty of nutrient-rich soil, your tree could be alive for generations to come.

How Do You Take Care Of A Cedar Elm Tree?

Taking care of cedar elm is pretty simple. Most importantly, you want to ensure your elm has plenty of sunlight. You also want to plant a cedar elm in well-drained soil, with acidity and alkaline.

Maintenance-wise, you should be okay to prune excess branches/foliage every few months, although you aren't required to do so. Like we said earlier, cedar elms prefer moderate watering, so you don't need to do this more than once weekly.

Are Cedar Elms Good Trees?

A gorgeous meadow with a Cedar elm tree

Yes, cedar elms are great tree options for any garden. Besides being low maintenance, elms tend to grow without much help and don't require much fuss.

Cedar elm trees are also drought-tolerant, which may be the best option in today's world. Furthermore, a cedar elm will reach heights of over 50 feet once mature, which makes it a great option for those wanting a bigger tree.

On top of that, cedar elms live 100 years or more on average, so this is the perfect way to leave a legacy.

To Wrap It Up

Two huge Cedar elm trees photographed at a forest park

Whether you have cedar elms in your garden or want to plant one, it is essential to know how their roots work. From what we found, although cedar elm root systems won't necessarily be invasive, they can sprawl as your tree matures.

The roots on a cedar elm will be shallow throughout one's lifespan, although their exact development can vary depending on location. Cedar elms also tend to do well without much water and don't like wet feet, so try to check the base of your tree before watering.

Regardless, don't forget to leave at least 6 feet of space between your elms, and don't be afraid to let your tree sprawl on its own in your garden.

Made it to the end? Check out these helpful related plant posts below!

How Fast Do Elms Grow And How Long Do They Live? [By Type Of Elm]

Do Cedar Elm Trees Lose Their Leaves?

Do Chinese Elms Lose Their Leaves?

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