Root pruning may kill the tree if not done carefully.

How to Prune the Roots of Camphor Berry Trees

by Beth Porter

Camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora) kick off the spring with tiny yellow flowers, followed by black berries that attract birds. The tree's glossy green leaves offer great appeal, but its shallow roots are anything but appealing. The roots can break apart sidewalks and cause nuisances and safety hazards on the walk. With root pruning, some roots can be removed without damaging the tree, but it is risky. If you absolutely do not want to lose your tree, you may have to accept the bothersome roots. Camphor trees are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11.

Measure the diameter of the tree trunk in inches at waist level with a measuring tape. Multiply the measurement by 6 to 8 inches to find out how far from the trunk the roots can be pruned. The roots may be pruned closer than the recommended distance, but it may severely damage or kill the tree. As a general guideline, never prune the roots closer than three times the trunk diameter.

Identify the roots that need to be removed, and follow them out to the recommended distance. Avoid selecting too many large roots because it may stress the tree. Mark the area where the root will be pruned with colored chalk or spray paint.

Dig the soil around the root with a shovel or spade. Remove the soil from all around the root. Cut roots thicker than 1 inch in diameter with a sharp saw, and cut thinner roots with a sharp spade. Avoid cutting roots larger than 1 inch in diameter, unless necessary, or removing more than 25 percent of the root zone.

Pull up the root by the cut end. If the root is long, the soil around it may have to be loosened. Cover any exposed roots with soil. Water the soil until it is evenly moist.

Items you will need

  • Measuring tape
  • Colored chalk or spray paint
  • Shovel or sharp spade
  • Sharp saw


  • If you do not want the roots growing longer, install a root barrier at least 30 inches deep in the soil. The root barrier should be slightly above the ground to prevent the roots from growing over the top of it.


  • Monitor the tree for several months, keeping an eye out for symptoms of decline, such as leaning over or dying branches. If the tree begins to decline, it may have to be cut down before it falls over. Mature trees are more susceptible to decline than young trees.
  • Camphor trees are considered invasive in some regions of the country.

About the Author

Beth Porter has been a writer since 2008, with strong experience in early childhood education, gardening, home living and crafts. Porter is presently attending college, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education at the University of Cincinnati.

Photo Credits

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