Do willow tree roots keep growing after you cut them down?

Updated February 21, 2017

The roots of willow trees, like silver maples and poplars, can be difficult to control even after the tree has been cut down. Their shallow root system is a cache of stored nutrients that will continue to promote growth.

Root system

The roots of a willow tree can extend well beyond the diameter of the branch spread of the tree. They are shallow rooted and mostly exist within the top 30 cm (1 foot) of soil.

Sucker growth

When a willow tree is cut down, the trauma to the tree's system sends a message to the roots that they need to expend their energy for regrowth. The remaining roots will send up multiple young shoots to try and take the place of the damaged tree. The ensuing growth is referred to as sucker growth, and a cut-down may send up dozens or even hundreds of these saplings after the tree has been felled.

Control methods

Several options exist to control willow roots. The best option, if practical, is to have the stump ground out well below ground level. A tiller can be used if the tree was small and the root system not too vast. A broadleaved weed killer such as glyphosate is effective on the sucker growth, but expect to make repeat applications for total control.

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About the Author

Chris Bond has been writing about gardening, sustainable agriculture and local history since 2005. He has been published in "The Plain Dealer," "The Repository" and online. Bond holds an A.A.S. from the State University of New York at the Finger Lakes campus in Canandaigua, N.Y.