Sydney Waters Guide to Which Tree to Plant and Avoid

Sydney Waters Guide to Which Tree to Plant and Avoid

tree roots blocked drain sydney
An infographic showing the reach of tree roots and how they can impact sewer mains.

If you are a homeowner or a landscaper in Sydney, you might be wondering which trees are suitable for your property and which ones can cause problems for your plumbing and wastewater system. In this blog post, we will provide you with some tips and resources to help you make informed decisions about your tree planting and maintenance.

Why is tree selection important?

Trees are an essential part of our urban environment. They provide shade, beauty, habitat, oxygen, and many other benefits. However, not all trees are suitable for every location. Some trees have invasive roots that can damage pipes, foundations, pavements, and other structures. Some trees also produce large amounts of leaves, flowers, fruits, or seeds that can clog drains and gutters. These issues can lead to costly repairs, flooding, sewer overflows, and health hazards.

How to choose the right tree?

The first step to choosing the right tree is to know your site conditions. Consider factors such as soil type, drainage, sun exposure, wind exposure, space availability, and proximity to buildings and utilities. You should also check with your local council for any regulations or restrictions on tree planting in your area.

The second step is to research the characteristics of different tree species. You should look for trees that have non-invasive roots, low water requirements, low litter production, and appropriate size and shape for your site. You should also consider the aesthetic and ecological value of the tree, such as its foliage, flowers, fragrance, wildlife attraction, and seasonal interest.

The third step is to consult reliable sources of information on tree selection. One of the best sources is the website of  Sydney Water , which provides a comprehensive list of recommended and unsuitable trees for Sydney’s climate and soil conditions. The website also offers a free online tool called Plant Selector , which helps you find suitable plants based on your site conditions and preferences. You can also visit local nurseries, botanical gardens, or libraries for more advice and inspiration.

Which trees to avoid?

Some of the most common trees that cause problems for plumbing and wastewater systems in Sydney are:

– Ficus species (such as figs, rubber plants, and weeping figs)

– Eucalyptus species (such as gums, ironbarks, and peppermints)

– Populus species (such as poplars and cottonwoods)

– Salix species (such as willows)

– Liquidambar styraciflua (sweet gum)

– Platanus x acerifolia (London plane)

– Fraxinus species (such as ashes)

– Ulmus species (such as elms)

– Acer species (such as maples)

– Melaleuca species (such as paperbarks and tea trees)

These trees have aggressive roots that can penetrate cracks and joints in pipes, causing blockages, leaks, and breaks. They also produce large amounts of leaves and other debris that can accumulate in drains and gutters. If you have any of these trees on your property or nearby, you should monitor them regularly and prune them if necessary. You should also avoid planting any new trees of these species near your plumbing and wastewater system.

Trees and wastewater blockages

Tree roots are a common cause of damage to wastewater pipes. They can enter small cracks in your wastewater pipes to seek out nutrients and then continue to grow. As they grow, they take up more space and slow down your drainage. This can eventually cause a blockage.

Signs of a blockage can be:

  • slow drainage
  • gurgling noises in sanitary drains
  • odour overflows in your home and property.

Remember that flushing the wrong things down the toilet can also cause blockages.  The only things you should flush are the 3 Ps: pee, poo and toilet paper (watch this space for details of the new flushable standard).


Choosing the right tree for your site can enhance the beauty and functionality of your property while avoiding potential problems for your plumbing and wastewater system. By following the tips and resources provided in this blog post, you can make informed decisions that will benefit you and your environment. For more information on tree selection and maintenance, visit the Sydney Water website or contact us today.