Septic tanks have a bit of a bum rap. Despite the fact that approximately 20% of Americans rely on the systems to dispose of their waste, they are associated with smelliness and often incite feelings of disgust. Many people believe that there is absolutely nothing you can do to make their existence pleasant, as covering and concealing septic tanks or drain fields can cause them to fail to work properly; while this is true to a point (swimming pools and tennis courts are a definite no), you can strategically place certain plants and flowers in these areas.
Unfortunately, you can’t just pick any plant and jam it in the ground. Septic systems can be easily damaged by probing roots. Both trees and water-loving plants should be kept wholly away from the area (at least 30 feet) because their powerful roots could end up breaking your pipes in search of water and nutrients. Although most septic systems are designed to last at least 25 years, an overzealous gardener can severely shorten that lifespan, and may end up facing hefty repair — or even replacement — costs.
Instead, plant shallow-rooted perennials and grasses. Let’s take a look at a few examples that would do well in your drain field or above your septic system.
- Bee balm
- Wild violets
If you simply must plant trees and shrubs, stick to those with shallow roots. Dogwood trees, cherry trees, Japanese maples, azalea shrubs, and boxwood shrubs are good options; just make sure your septic tank technician is able to access the system to pump and clean it out every three to five years.
Aesthetic plays a major role for many septic tank owners, and the planting of flowering perennials can make a heck of a difference. While the beauty of blooming flowers — along with their clean and fresh scent — is a perk of planting around your septic system, they perform another role as well. If planted close enough to your tank, the roots of these flowering plants can help absorb excess water and nutrients from the soil; not only does this help manage problems with flooding, but it also prevents erosion from occurring.
Septic tank owners don’t need to be wholly controlled by their waste disposal system. As long as they do the research and find the best shallow-rooted plants for their needs, they won’t run the risk of damaging their (very expensive) systems. At the same time, they’ll be able to benefit from the beauty of these flowers every season, and will forget about the system lying beneath.