Eucalyptus foliage

Plants to avoid growing near houses

Discover which thirsty, fast-growing plants should be sited away from the house.

Before planting a tree close to your house, it’s important to check that it won’t, ultimately, cause damage to your property.

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Many trees require high volumes of water to sustain their growth. This can be a problem on clay soils that shrink as they lose water, as this can affect house foundations and put the house at risk of subsidence. Equally, removing large trees and shrubs can also damage foundations as soils can swell when the plants once drawing in water are no longer there.

On clay soils, the National House Building Council recommend planting trees at a minimum distance of three quarters of the maximum height of the tree. Trees with high water needs should be planted even further away, at a distance greater than their maximum height.

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Find out which plants are best sited away from the house, below.

Poplars

Poplars are beautiful, majestic trees that look stunning in large gardens. However, they have fast-growing, thirsty roots that can damage drainage systems.

Two fastigiate poplars at the edge of a field (photo credit: Getty Images)
Two fastigiate poplars at the edge of a field (photo credit: Getty Images)

Oak

Like poplars, oak trees take up a lot of water. Their ultimate height and spread can exceed 12 metres in either direction, so they need plenty of room to expand.

Winter silhouettes of oak trees growing in a field (photo credit: Getty Images)
Winter silhouettes of oak trees growing in a field (photo credit: Getty Images)

Foxglove tree

Foxglove trees (Paulownia tomentosa) are very fast growers, with adventitious roots that can damage drains and paving. These beautiful trees are better sited in medium to large gardens, away from the house.

Large-leaved foxglove tree
Large-leaved foxglove tree

Ivy

Ivies are fantastic plants for wildlife and deserve a place in the garden. However, planted against house walls they can quickly block guttering. Once removed, bits of the aerial roots remain attached, which look unsightly and can potentially damage brickwork.

Ivy growing on a metal lattice
Ivy growing on a metal lattice

Eucalpytus

These fast-growing, thirsty trees should be planted well-away from a house to avoid the roots from drawing too much water from the soil – in some countries they’re used to drain swamps. Eucalyptus trees can also drop branches more frequently than other trees, which could damage a house or injure someone.

Eucalyptus foliage
Eucalyptus foliage

Willows

Willows are some of the thirstiest terrestrial plants around. They have tough, highly adventitious roots that seek out water, often to the detriment of drains.

Twisted stems and leaves of corkscrew willow
Twisted stems and leaves of corkscrew willow

Cypress

Cypress trees have a high water demand and are often planted on poorly-drained clay soils to help remove some of the moisture. This can be a problem close to houses where the soil can contract, damaging foundations.

A towering cypress
A towering cypress

Planting around drains and walls

Whatever your soil, be sure to allow room for trunks to expand and roots to spread, especially if planting near walls or drains.

Red cotoneaster berries
Red cotoneaster berries

Invasive plants to look out for

  • Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
  • Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)
  • Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
  • Chilean rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria)
  • Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
  • Three-cornered leek (Allium triquetrum)
  • Cotoneasters (Cotoneaster horizontalis, Cotoneaster integrifolius, Cotoneaster simonsii, Cotoneaster bullatus, Cotoneaster microphyllus)
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View the full list of invasive plants listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales.