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What Are Feeder Roots: Learn About Feeder Roots Of Trees

What Are Feeder Roots: Learn About Feeder Roots Of Trees


By: Teo Spengler

The root system of a tree performs many important functions.It transports water and nutrients from the soil to the canopy and also servesan anchor, keeping the trunk upright. A tree’s root system includes large woodyroots and smaller feeder roots. Not everyone is familiar with feeder roots oftrees. What are feeder roots? What do feeder roots do? Read on for more treefeeder root information.

What are Feeder Roots?

Most gardeners are familiar with thick woody tree roots.These are the large roots you see when a tree tips over and its roots arepulled from the ground. Sometimes the longest of these roots is a tap root, athick, long root that heads straight down into the ground. In some trees, like oak,the taproot can sink into the ground as far as the tree is tall.

So, what are feeder roots? Feeder roots of trees grow out ofthe woody roots. They are much smaller in diameter but they perform criticalfunctions for the tree.

What Do Feeder Roots Do?

While woody roots typically grow down into the soil, feederroots usually grow up toward the soil surface. What do feeder roots do on thesurface of the soil? Their main job is to absorb water and minerals.

When the feeder roots of trees get near the soil surface,they have access to the water, nutrients and oxygen. These elements are moreabundant near the soil surface than deep within the soil.

Tree Feeder Root Information

Here’s an interesting piece of tree feeder root information:despite their smaller size, the feeder roots make up the larger part of theroot system’s surface area. Feeder root of trees are usually found in all ofthe soil that is under the canopy of the tree, no more than 3 feet (1 meter)from the surface.

In fact, the feeder roots can push out farther than thecanopy area and increase the plant surface area when the plant needs more wateror nutrients. If the soil conditions are healthy, the feeder root area can growfar beyond the drip line, often extending out as far as the tree is tall.

The main “feeder roots” spread in the topmost soillayers, usually no deeper than about a meter.

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How to Use a Root Feeder

A root feeder is basically a large hollow steel needle that allows fertilizers and plant food to be injected directly into the root zone of plants. The root feeder is very simple and safe to operate. No special protective clothing is necessary.

Step 1 - Check the Root Feeder

If you are using a root feeder with a hose connection, make sure that the hose is properly connected, tight, and has no leaks. Check where the water hose connects to the feeder reservoir. Turn off the water at the feeder.

Step 2 - Mix the Fertilizer

Mix the fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions and fill the feeder reservoir that is connected to the root feeder. With some root feeders, the fertilizer and plant food is in pellet form and fits into the waterline of the root feeder.

Step 3 - Placement

Push the spike feeder into the ground. Keep the feeder vertical while you do this. You should do this just outside the root area of the plant or tree.

Step 4 - Mixture

Turn on the water at the feeder. The water from the hose will flow across the top of the feeder reservoir and draw and mix the fertilizer and water. If the feed is in tablet form, the water will flow across the tablet to make up a mixture. The mixture will be driven down the spike into the ground right by the roots. Turn off the water when the required quantity of mix has been delivered.

Step 5 - Repeat

Remove the spike from the ground and move on to the next position that you are going to inject feed. Make sure that you do not damage plants with the hose if you have to drag it across the garden. Don’t allow the hose to get bent while you are moving it. This could stop the efficient flow of water and mean that you might not give enough feed the next time you use it.

Permanent Root Feeders

There is a second form of root feeder which is equally easy to use. This form of root feeder has an injector permanently mounted in the root zone of a tree of plant.

The top of the injector is designed to fit into a socket in the bottom of a large reservoir (typically, 5 gallons). The reservoir is fitted to the top of the injector forming a watertight joint. The reservoir is filled with 5 gallons of the fertilizer mix which is allowed to drain down into the root system. It is a bit slower than the hose pipe system but just as efficient.

Because of the delivery system, roots are encouraged to grow downwards rather than upwards to reach moisture. This ensures the tree or plant has a much firmer hold on the ground and encourages healthy growth.


Root Systems Vary

Lastly, although plant books and articles can estimate the depth of roots, each plant is unique. The root system may vary among plants even within the same species. Dig carefully and note where the roots appear in the soil, and be very gentle when repotting or transplanting gardenias. Give the plant some TLC after moving to baby it through the transition. It may sulk and refuse to bloom the first year after moving it, but if it successfully takes to the new location, it should bounce back.


Tree experts agree: Watering and fertilizing below the soil’s surface is best. This is where most of your tree’s active roots grow. With a deep feeding system, the Ross® Root Feeder is specially designed. Connect a garden hose to the Root Feeder, then insert the tube into the soil around your trees’ drip line. Water flows through chamber filled with fertilizer and goes straight through a tube into the trees’ roots. With no runoff or wasted water, the Root Feeder is perfect for drought weather. The Root Feeder is available in two models: a heavy-duty model (Model 1200D) and an economy level (Model 102).

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Watch the video: How to grow feeder roots