Choosing the Right Plants and Trees For Around Your Concrete Surfaces

Choosing the Right Plants and Trees For Around Your Concrete Surfaces
dealing with destructive roots

You want your home to look its best, and know that involves a lot of factors. For the exterior, that includes everything from paint to plants. But it’s essential to get items to work together too. When making choices, it’s key to make sure that different elements won’t do damage to each other. One issue to think about is whether your plants and surface materials will cause harm to each other. Let’s have a look at how to choose flowers, trees, grass and more that will get along great with your stamped concrete!

This is a situation where there are at least a bit of concern on both sides. Roots and crawlers can sometimes cause damage to concrete. Chemicals in the concrete can affect the soil that your plants need to thrive.

How serious are these concerns, and what can you do to circumvent issues?

Keeping Concrete Safe

The biggest threat to concrete from plant life comes in the form of tree roots. Smaller plants don’t really pose much of a threat. But many species of trees have large root systems that can grow under driveways, patios, and paths and push up the surface, cracking it. Not only does this look ugly; it can also be a safety concern. Even a small crack or irregularity can become a tripping hazard.

Roots can also be a threat to utilities, such as water or gas lines. So choosing wisely is a major concern.

tree roots can destroy concrete

Another issue that comes up is maintenance. Trees may drop leaves, seeds, and fruit. And any of those can make a mess of your lawn and concrete surfaces. It takes a lot of work to clean them up, and some types of fruit may leave stains.

The stains are almost always easily removable from stamped concrete. And seeds and leaves don’t cause permanent damage. But they’re annoying! It takes a lot of care to sweep and rake them up and dispose of them. So while they’re not going to ruin your installation, most people still prefer to avoid them.

Trees That Are Safer For Your Concrete

You can get good ideas for the types of trees that are good to use from looking around your city. Most cities have gotten serious about choosing trees to plant along sidewalks that aren’t going to be destructive in the long haul. You might even be able to talk to someone in government who can give you suggestions.

Of course, your concrete contractor and your local greenhouse can also give great advice. They have the experience and knowledge to speak to the specific concerns in your area. Your local climate and soil type play a large part in what will work in your area.

Those factors need to be taken into account when making your choice. But here are a few types of trees that are generally good choices to grow near your sidewalks, driveways, and patios:

  • Evergreen shrubs, like ligustrum and cherry laurel
  • Low-growing shrubs, like yew, boxwood, holly, and juniper, although sometimes they do have berries that can be messy
  • Small ornamental trees like dogwood, crepe myrtle, and star magnolia.
  • Autumn Gold Maidenhair
  • Princeton American Elm
dogwood tree growing in front of a home

In any case, keep medium-sized trees at least six feet from concrete. If you choose larger trees, they should be at least 20 feet away from paths and as far as 50 feet from the house.

Some types of trees to avoid anywhere near foundations and paved areas:

  • Oaks
  • Locusts
  • Cottonwoods
  • Boxelders
  • Sycamores
  • Silver maples

These are by no means complete lists, so it is always important to consult with local experts that know your area well.

Keeping Plants Healthy

We have to be fair to the flora, as well. Concrete can also at times have a negative effect on them, and it’s important to be aware of that in order to have healthy, beautiful plants on your property.

Room to Grow

As we already considered, roots can do harm to concrete if trees are planted too close. But that’s because plants are doing what’s natural to them. And only by spreading out their roots that can they flourish.

When choosing what to plant and where to plant it, it’s important to allow enough room for it to grow. Research the space, light, and water that the plant will need.

Room to grow is key for any living thing. For a plant or tree, that has to be both above and below the soil. Roots and leaves both need a place to go, of course!

Your plants also need enough soil around them so that adequate water can be absorbed, whether it’s from raining, sprinklers or your hose. Make sure the cement doesn’t encroach on the space and limit the plant’s access to water.

Of course, plants need light as well. This won’t be much of an issue relative to flat surfaces. But remember to think about light and shade cycles and how other plants, trees, your house itself and other structures influence this. That is, be aware of how shadows will fall during the day and if you’re choosing plants that can do well with these conditions.

Chemistry and Cement

Cement is an element of concrete and does have a chemical makeup that can alter nearby soil chemistry. In most cases, this isn’t a big problem, but it’s still good to be aware of it.

Cement is alkaline because of the presence of lime. “Alkaline” means that it has a pH of over 7.0. It’s the opposite of “acidic” – meaning a pH under 7.0.

“Lime leeching” means that some of this alkalinity can, over time, seep into the surrounding soil. While most plants and trees thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0, lime leeching could possibly raise it as high as 7.5. It won’t be enough to kill most plants, but it can prevent them from being optimally healthy. They struggle to take in the nutrients they need, and it can show in their appearance.

Most nurseries will include information with their plants and trees that talk about the hardiness of the plant and optimal pH levels. If you plan to plant near concrete, including stamped concrete, it’s important to take that information into account.

Conclusion

Trees, plants, and stamped concrete can combine as part of a beautiful exterior for your home. They are hardly enemies, but you do have to take into account the specific needs of each one. When you do, you’ll be able to enjoy your beautiful property even more!

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