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How Deep Do Apple Tree Roots Grow?

Publish Data: September 2, 2021

by Mumtahina Piya

Knowing the depth of the apple tree roots will help you to add sufficient water. Also, you will learn how deeply you should water the tree. It will also help you to measure the gaps between trees while planting.

When my neighbor planted an apple tree for the first time, he was worried that the roots might get inside his house. It may sound silly. But so many people think like that because of the small space. 

However, before planting an apple tree, you should know about the depth of its roots. It will help you with the plant’s care too! So, how deep do apple tree roots grow? 

The vertical roots of the standard full-size tree will grow up to 20-25 feet deep. The dwarf apple tree’s roots will grow up to 15 feet deep. In most cases, the roots spread up to three times deeper than that of actual tree size. Under perfect weather, ideal soil type, and moisture conditions, the roots can reach their maximum height within two to three years.

Well, the depth of the roots depends on different factors! That’s why I am here to give some specific information about the depth and the growth of the roots of an apple tree. So, let’s dig in deeper!

How deep do apple tree roots grow

The roots formation of an apple tree!

Though you are buying young apple trees for local garden centers or nurseries, the starting of this plant is from seeds. After sowing the seeds into the soil, they will germinate after a specific time. When the seed germinates, the taproot builds up to anchor the plant in the ground.

After a year, when the plant keeps growing, the taproot dies to form a new root system. There are some vertical, deep roots for anchoring and some wide-spreading horizontal fibrous roots.

As a result, the root system looks like a big ball of roots.

How deep roots an apple tree has!

Well, the root system of an apple tree has two different types of roots. They are deep roots and fibrous along with feeder roots.

So, let’s see how deep these roots can go!

Deep roots of the tree

These roots are for anchoring the plant into the soil. We can say that the existence of the plant somehow depends on these roots. They also help to survive the plant during crucial times. Deep roots are formed beneath the trunk when the tree is almost one year old. 

There are only a few vertical, deep roots that grow from the tree trunk. They go deep into the soil. These deep roots can collect water and nutrients from the deeper layer of the ground. That’s why these roots help the tree to survive during drought or harsh wind. 

deep root

However, the deep roots can grow up to 20 to 25 feet deep for the standard rootstock and 15 feet deep for dwarf rootstock. It may take two to three years for the roots to reach the maximum depth.

Fibrous roots of the tree

These types of roots are essential for the photosynthesis process. Though they are not directly related to the survival of the apple tree, they are indirectly active in the survival tasks.

The fibrous roots are responsible for absorbing sunlight from the air and water, and nutrients from the soil. 

These roots grow from deep roots. They are made of fiber and create a network system throughout the whole root system. These roots grow horizontally or radially in all directions and penetrate the soil.

Thus these roots can gather water and nutrients from all sides! Also, these roots can grow up to 3 feet deep from the soil surface. 

Feeder roots of the tree

The feeder roots of apple trees are like root hairs that grow out of fibrous roots. These tiny, narrow, fine, and non-woody fiber roots are there for absorbing water, oxygen, and nutrients. They are 0.2 – 1mm wide in diameter and 1 – 2 mm long. 

The impacts of rootstocks on root growth!

Rootstocks play a vital role in determining the growth of the roots. There are different varieties of rootstocks like the dwarf, semi-dwarf, or standard size. The rootstocks also determine how mass the Roots of the tree will be.

For example, the M.9 and M.26 rootstocks are semi-dwarf rootstocks. But the M.26 is a vigorous rootstock. Again the M.9 rootstock tree may need staking, and on the other hand, the M.26 can do better without staking. 

Root growths in different seasons

apple tree root


During this season, the roots experienced extensive growth. In the spring season, apple trees produce flower buds. So the fibrous roots and feeder roots spread deep and wide to collect nutrients and water for the tree. The root’s growth terminates when the budding is over.

For the first few years, the tree might not produce fruits. It is because, during spring, the tree spends all its energy strengthening its root system.

Once the roots are strong, the tree puts all its nutrients into producing fruits and leaves. 


During summer, the trees spend their nutrients, water, and energy on developing the existing fruits. So usually, the roots don’t grow during summer. During this time, the newly planted trees become a little stressed as they don’t have established roots.

In the summer heat, the fruit’s weight creates pressure on the root system. 


When the harvesting is over, the tree starts taking preparation for the dormant season. The feeder roots might die, but the fibrous roots keep growing this season.

The fibrous roots use the stored energy for growing. This root growth will help to gain better anchorage for mature trees.


The fibrous roots start growing during fall and continue to grow till the soil temperature is warm enough. But the other part of the tree becomes dormant. The roots keep growing slowly and steadily until the soil freezes. The root growth in winter helps the roots to grow stronger.

As a result, the apple tree can avoid the competition for nutrients and water from other plants or grasses.

Facts to keep in mind for proper root growth

fruit tree

The root growth of this fruit tree is dependent on soil texture, moisture, and adequate nutrients. 

  • Soil type: Well-drained, loose soil is the ideal type of soil for these fruit tree roots. If you want to use clay soil, use some organic matter to improve the drainage quality. 
  • Nutrients: Apples require Nitrogen and Phosphorus to grow. If you want to increase the harvest, you can use Nitrogen and Phosphorus after harvesting.
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  • Watering: Provide one inch or 2.5 cm of water per week or for ten days. You can water deeply once a week. 
  • Mulching: Mulch will not only retain the moisture of the soil but also will prevent weeds. Also, the frost will not be able to damage the tree. But I don’t prefer using mulch in heavy soil. Using it in loose soil will give a better result.
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  • Fertilizing: Fertilizers will help the trees have healthy root growth. For vigorous root growth, it is better to use fertilizer containing Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.

Apple trees are not invasive!

The root size of an apple tree can be two to three times deeper and wide than the tree size! But this doesn’t mean apple trees are invasive.

The roots will not cause damage to the nearby houses or sewer pipes. They will not damage your garden too!

The final thoughts!

Growing an apple tree on the backyard lawn is not a difficult task! Well, it might be a little bit difficult but don’t give up.

There is no need to be afraid that the deep roots of the apple tree will harm the sewer pipes or other infrastructures on the lawn.

You can cultivate the apple trees without any worries. But also make sure that you are taking care of the plant properly for healthy root growth. The healthier the roots are, the stronger the trees will be at their maturity!