Skip to Content

What Can You Put On Top Of A Septic Field

When you have a septic system on your property, it’s important to understand how it works to avoid damaging the drain field pipes. Microbes in the soil over the drain field help a septic system function by filtering and cleaning septic effluent through the soil. Putting too much weight or traffic on top of the drain field may compact the soil and prevent the septic system from working properly. Plant roots can also damage drain lines and leave the drain field susceptible to damage if large trees are planted too close. 

As a rule, vegetation should be at least 50 feet from the septic tank and drain field. Even when planting shallow-rooted plants, these might harm field pipes if planted directly on top of the septic leach field.  When wanting to plant around your septic system, choose species with fibrous root systems that will not penetrate deep into the soil and cause septic effluent surfacing because you have a failed system.

Use plants for septic fields that will hold soil in place without putting excessive water demands on the area. In our guide, you can see what you can have without damaging the septic field. By the end, you’ll better understand what to plant so you can keep traffic off the drain field and how to maintain a properly functioning septic system. (Read Electric Bill Tripled In One Month)

Plants On Top Of A Septic Field

Can You Plant Vegetable Garden On Septic Drain Field?

If you have a septic system, you may wonder what landscaping and plants you can put on top of the septic drain field. Proper vegetation over the drain field is important for allowing the septic system to function naturally.

How Does A Septic System Work? 

To make good decisions about landscaping, it’s important to understand how a septic system works. A septic system processes wastewater from your home through a septic tank, separating solids from liquid. The clarified effluent then flows to the septic drain field, called the leach field, which comprises perforated pipes buried in gravel trenches under the soil.

In the drain field, effluent percolates through the soil, where microbes provide the final treatment. Proper filtration here is crucial for removing contaminants before the wastewater reaches groundwater.

The key is keeping the soil in the drain field permeable to filter liquid effectively. Compaction, clogging, or damage to the field pipes can cause problems. The grass is often planted on top of drain fields to prevent erosion and soak excess moisture. But certain trees or plants with aggressive root systems might penetrate and disrupt the buried pipes. Proper landscaping is important to avoid stressing or harming your septic system. (Learn How To Do A Leach Field)

Landscaping Considerations for a Leach Field

Landscaping around the septic field requires careful consideration to avoid interfering with its functionality. The primary concern is to prevent damage to the drain field and ensure it can operate efficiently. When planning your landscaping, keep the following factors in mind:

  1. Maintain Suitable Vegetation: Sealing plants for use on septic drain fields is crucial. Opt for vegetation with non-invasive root systems to prevent root intrusion into the drain lines, which can lead to clogs and system failures. Herbaceous plants, shallow-rooted perennials, and ground covers are often good choices.
  2. Proper Distances: Plant vegetation away from your septic field. As a rule, keep trees and shrubs at least 50 feet away from your septic system to prevent root invasion. This distance may vary depending on the specific regulations in your area.
  3. Soil Depth and Composition: Maintaining the appropriate soil depth over the drain field is essential. The soil acts as a natural filter and cleanse for the effluent. Avoid adding too much soil, as it can impede the system’s effectiveness. It’s crucial to consult local guidelines or septic professionals to determine the ideal soil depth for your septic system.
  4. Prevent Soil Erosion and Runoff: Implement erosion control measures to prevent soil erosion and runoff from reaching the septic field. This can include installing barriers, creating swales or berms, or using ground cover plants that help hold the soil in place.

Listing Of Plants For Use Near Septic Drain Fields

Choosing the best plants for your septic drain field is crucial for maintaining its integrity. Here are some plant options that are typically safe to use near your septic field include:

  1. Herbaceous Plants include flowers, grasses, and low-growing plants with fibrous root systems. Examples include aster, black-eyed Susan, daylily, and ornamental grasses.
  2. Shallow-Rooted Perennials: Plants with shallow roots can be suitable for a septic field. Consider options like hostas, yarrow, sedum, or coneflowers.
  3. Ground Covers: Ground covers offer excellent soil protection and erosion control. Examples include creeping juniper, thyme, vinca, or low-growing varieties of ivy.
  4. Grass Varieties: Certain grass species can be planted over the drain field, providing a natural cover. Consider using turfgrass varieties like Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, or perennial ryegrass.
  5. Shrubs with fibrous root systems include Potentilla, blue mist spirea, and dwarf willow.

It is best not to plant trees within about 10 feet of the septic system or approximately 50 feet of the septic tank and drain field. While tree and shrub root barriers can help divert roots, large trees can eventually impact septic pipes.

Their shade can also hinder evaporation, keeping the soil overly moist. If you wish to plant vegetables, this is best avoided in case of contamination. However, if raised beds are nearby, you can plant annuals like lettuce and beans in your raised garden, as this avoids deep roots.  When landscaping over the drain field, focus on plants with fibrous, non-invasive root systems. Check the listing of plants for use on septic systems for more examples of shallow-rooted species ideal for your area. (Read Pros And Cons Of Rid-x)

Tips for landscaping and planting around your septic system

Landscaping Tips for Your Septic System Area

Here are some key tips for landscaping and planting around your septic system:

  • Leave native grasses and ground cover on top of the drain field to prevent erosion and flooding. Mow regularly.
  • Plant perennials, ornamental grasses, and low shrubs around the perimeter of the leach field, not directly on top.
  • Install shrubs at least 5 feet from field edges and trees at least 10 feet away. Leave a “no plant” zone for access.
  • Use gravel or mulch paths, not impermeable materials like concrete. Allow rainfall to percolate. 
  • Prevent soil compaction, keeping vehicles, heavy equipment, and livestock off the system.
  • Maintain proper grades to divert surface runoff from the drain field area.

One tip when planting trees is to keep them away from the septic field according to the tree’s height when mature.

Dos and Don’ts for a Septic Field and Septic Tank

While it’s essential to know what you can put on top of a septic field, it’s equally crucial to be aware of landscaping practices to avoid. Here are some common dos and don’ts regarding landscaping around your septic system:


  • Do maintain proper distances between plants and the septic field.
  • Do choose plants with non-invasive root systems.
  • Do ensure proper soil depth and composition.
  • Do implement erosion control measures.


  • Don’t plant deep-rooted trees or shrubs near the drain field.
  • Don’t compact the soil above the septic field.
  • Don’t add additional soil over the drain field unless it’s to fill space after removing another plant.
  • Don’t allow heavy machinery or tilling when working with the soil. Pipes can be around 12 inches from the soil surface.
  • Don’t plant invasive species that may spread quickly and disrupt the system.
  • Don’t build on top of the grass. A drain field needs to function and can’t support the additional weight of structures.

Using the right plants can ease the burden on the microbes in the soil. Thus, your septic system can be more effective.

Right Plants For Septic Tank

FAQs: What Plants For Use On Septic Drain Fields? 

How do I know where my septic drain field is located?

Consult your septic system’s as-built diagram or ask a septic installer. Look for lids, an access manhole, depressions, or greener grass indicating the buried drain field area. Use flags to mark boundaries.

Should I add mulch or extra soil over my septic system? 

Adding a thin layer of mulch can help absorb excess moisture and prevent erosion. But avoid placing heavy loads of soil over the drain field to compact and smother the leach field.

Can I have a vegetable garden in my septic field?

It’s best to avoid vegetables with deep roots that may clog or damage pipes. Raised garden beds for shallow-rooted plants can work if built properly over undisturbed soil.

What happens if tree roots clog my septic lines?

Tree roots or invasive plants can block the perforated piping, causing septic system failure. Septic effluent may back up or surface, creating health hazards and costly repairs. (Read How To Dispose Of Ammonia)

Should I install an irrigation system for my septic-safe plants? 

Drip irrigation or soaker hoses work well, but avoid large volumes of water from sprinklers. Monitor soil moisture levels and water requirements for proper drainage.

How often should I inspect my septic drain field?

Inspect annually for soggy soil, odors, or surfacing septic effluent which shows problems. Having a professional inspect every 2-3 years helps catch issues early.


Proper drainage and plant selection for your landscape are critical with a septic system. Focus on appropriate grass, groundcover, perennial, and shrub species that suit the soil environment without overburdening the area near a drain field. Allow space between plants and components, and divert runoff from the drain field. With informed decisions about how to best landscape, you can have a well-maintained septic system and drain field unless something drastic happens. 

Remember to consult local guidelines and professionals for specific recommendations to meet the needs of your septic field best. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy a beautiful landscape while preserving the integrity of your maintained septic system for years to come and offering easy access when it’s time for your septic pumpers to arrive.

What Can You Put On Top Of A Septic Field