Stunting tree growth

Credit: KitAy

Q: Am I able to keep my Russian olive trees from reaching full size by cutting the roots? I am imagining that this technique may prevent them from reaching their full size – if so, how much of the root can I cut back without killing the tree? 

Root pruning is possible to control the size of a Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia). I am going to assume the plant is established. The operation is spread out over a two-year period. Dig a trench halfway around about the tree about 1.2 m (4 ft.) from the main trunk. The trench should be about 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 in.) deep. This should be done when the tree is dormant (winter) and the ground is somewhat moist. The second half of the trench is dug the following winter. Any large roots encountered while digging the trench are sawed off for a clean cut. Replace the soil, firm it well, and mulch in the spring. Staking may be required if the tree in question appears unstable but is not always necessary.