Can Plant Roots Grow Through Landscape Fabric?

Landscape fabric is a great way to stabilize your garden’s soil, keep weeds at bay, and improve drainage. It also minimizes evaporation, regulates the soil temperature, and controls soil erosion, making it an essential tool for any gardener’s arsenal. But can plant roots grow through landscape fabric?

Plant roots can grow through landscape fabric, depending on the type of fabric. Woven landscape fabric comprises tightly interlocking fibers that roots can’t penetrate. Non-woven fabric features loosely interlocking fibers with tiny holes through which plant roots can grow. 

In this comprehensive guide, I will discuss other topics related to this question, including how plant roots can grow through landscaping fabric, how to prevent roots from growing through landscape fabric, and how to maintain landscape fabric. Let’s dive right in!

How Plant Roots Can Grow Through Landscaping Fabric

A plant’s root system is the key to its success in anchoring the plant to the ground, taking up water and nutrients from the soil, and storing food for the plant. The roots grow through the soil, often searching for water and nutrients. They can also grow through small spaces in rocks and other materials.

Plants have different root systems, depending on the plant type. Some plants, such as vegetables, have shallow root systems that grow close to the soil’s surface. Other plants, such as trees, have deep root systems extending 20 feet (6.1 meters) or more into the ground in search of water and nutrients.

The roots of most plants are relatively thin and grow in a spiral pattern. The taproot, which is the main root that grows straight down from the plant’s stem, can be up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Lateral roots branch off from the taproot and grow horizontally through the soil. A fibrous root system comprises a mass of thin roots that grow close to the soil’s surface.

Since the plant’s roots are constantly growing, they can eventually grow through the tiny holes in the landscape fabric. The roots can also grow under the material and then lift it up as they continue to grow. Over time, as the roots expand and the fabric deteriorates, the holes in the fabric will become larger, and the roots can grow through more easily.

Under the right conditions, fertilizer can get through the landscape fabric. My guide discusses how you can achieve those results: Does Fertilizer Get Through Landscape Fabric?

Effects of Plant Roots Growing Through Landscape Fabric

Sure, plant roots provide a stable anchoring system for the plant and aid in water and nutrient uptake, but what happens when they start growing through your perfectly installed landscape fabric? Do they have an impact on the fabric or the plant?

Damage to the Landscape Fabric

As the roots grow through the landscape fabric, they can break the fibers, pull the fabric apart, and create holes and gaps. Once the roots have created a hole or crack in the fabric, it loses its stability and effectiveness. The landscape fabric can no longer provide the same level of weed control or soil stabilization.

Damage to Plant Roots During Replacement

Landscape fabric needs replacement after a few years, depending on the grade of fabric. And when it’s time to replace the landscape fabric, you’ll need to remove the old fabric. If plant roots are growing through the fabric, they can be damaged when you remove the fabric. The roots can be cut, torn, or pulled out of the ground, damaging the plant and, in some cases, fatal.

How To Prevent Plant Roots From Growing Through Landscape Fabric

Installing landscape fabric is a hefty investment, and to maintain its effectiveness, you need to take steps to prevent plant roots from growing through the fabric. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to deter plant roots from growing through your landscape fabric.

Invest in High-Quality Landscape Fabric

The quality of the landscape fabric makes a big difference in how well it withstands plant roots. The higher the quality, the more resistant it is to plant roots. Woven polypropylene is the best choice when purchasing landscape fabric for your garden. This type of fabric is made from multiple layers of polypropylene that are woven together. 

The fabric is also UV resistant, so it won’t break down easily in the sun. Due to the loose interlocking fibers of non-woven fabric, the small root hairs can easily penetrate the fabric. This type of fabric also breaks down quickly in the sun.

Install the Landscape Fabric Properly

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s worth mentioning. The landscape fabric needs to be installed properly to be effective. This means you need to bury the edges of the fabric at least 6 inches (15.24 cm) deep. 

You also need to ensure the fabric is overlapped by at least 6 inches (15.24 cm), so there are no gaps. If you have installed the fabric correctly, it will be much more difficult for plant roots to penetrate. Use landscape staples to secure the fabric. 

Place them every 6-12 inches (15.24-30.48 cm) along the edge of the fabric. Drive the staples into the ground so they are buried at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) beneath the fabric. This will help to keep the fabric in place and make it more difficult for roots to penetrate the fabric.

Use a Root Barrier

A root barrier is a physical barrier placed around the perimeter of a planting bed to prevent plant roots from spreading. Root barriers are typically made from plastic or metal and can be purchased at most garden centers. 

The barrier is placed around the perimeter of the planting bed and buried a few inches beneath the soil surface. This will prevent plant roots from spreading beyond the barrier and into the surrounding soil. On a landscape fabric, a root barrier can be used in conjunction with landscape staples to further prevent plant roots from growing through the fabric.

Choose the Right Plants

When planting in an area with landscape fabric, choosing the right plants is essential. Avoid planting trees or shrubs that have aggressive root systems. These plants are more likely to grow through the landscape fabric and cause damage. 

Instead, opt for plants that have a more compact root system. These include annuals, perennials, and shrubs. Vegetables and herbs are also good choices. If you’re unsure which plants to choose, ask a gardening expert at your local nursery or garden center.

Tips for Maintaining Landscape Fabric for Your Garden

Proper maintenance of landscape fabric is essential to extend its lifespan and prevent plant roots from growing through the fabric. Properly maintained landscape fabric will hold up for up to 10-15 years, saving you time and money in the long run.

Here are a few tips for maintaining your landscape fabric: 

Inspect the Fabric Regularly

Any holes, cracks, or tears in the fabric provide an avenue for plant roots to grow through. Inspecting the fabric regularly will help you to identify any damage early on and make repairs as needed. You can use duct tape or landscape fabric tape to patch any holes or tears in the fabric. 

Be Careful When Working in the Garden

When working in the garden, take care not to damage the landscape fabric. Stepping or kneeling on the fabric can create holes or tears. Use a board or piece of plywood to distribute your weight when working in the garden. Additionally, when digging in the garden, be careful not to puncture the fabric with your shovel. Instead, use a hand trowel to work around the plants.

Remove Debris from the Fabric

Debris, such as tree branches, leaves, and sticks, can fall on the landscape fabric and damage it. Stones and gravel can also work their way onto the fabric and create holes. Remove any debris from the fabric promptly to prevent damage. This keeps your garden neat, tidy, and free of pests.

Mulch Over the Fabric

Mulching over the landscape fabric helps to hold it in place and prevent damage. Mulch creates a barrier between the fabric and the elements, helps to retain moisture, and prevents weeds from growing. 

Use organic mulch such as sawdust, wood chips, bark, or leaves. Spread a 2-3 inches (5-7.62 cm) layer of mulch over the fabric. Be sure to leave a few inches of space around the base of plants so the mulch doesn’t touch the stems or leaves.

Adopt the No-Till Method

The no-till method is a gardening technique that doesn’t require digging or tilling the soil. This means you won’t need to remove the landscape fabric to work in the garden. Instead, you can simply make planting holes in the fabric as needed. The no-till method is less labor-intensive and helps to prevent damage to the landscape fabric.

Final Thoughts

Landscaping fabric is an excellent way to control weeds, prevent erosion, and improve soil drainage. However, plant roots can grow through landscape fabric if not installed correctly or maintained properly. 

To prevent plant roots from growing through landscape fabric, use a root barrier, choose the right plants, and maintain the fabric properly. Invest in a high-quality woven polypropylene landscape fabric to ensure durability and longevity. With proper care, your landscape fabric will last up to 10-15 years.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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