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Landscaping Flexibility with Geothermal Installations

Home Hacks Carla Morris March 13 7 minutes reading time

There’s no getting around it: Installing a geothermal system involves digging that disrupts your yard. The good news? With thoughtful landscaping, you can restore your green haven so that passersby for decades to come will never suspect what lies beneath.  

Plenty of plant options don’t interfere with geothermal systems and still provide aesthetic appeal. Here’s what you need to know.  

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Geothermal systems use loops of buried pipes to transfer heat to or from the Earth to heat or cool your home. The pipes carry an anti-freeze solution mixed with water. They are configured either vertically or horizontally.   

  • Vertical configurations are used when space is tight, often in urban areas. The pipes go deep into the Earth via drilled boreholes.   
  • Horizontal configurations (the most common) are used when plenty of open ground is available. The pipes are buried six to ten feet deep in trenches that are about 100 feet long.   


Once your installation is complete and you turn your thoughts to landscaping, keep these three things in mind: 

  1. Out of sight - Your geothermal system works hard to keep you comfortable, but it works quietly underground and completely out of sight. Nothing interferes with the aesthetics of your yard.
  2. Long lasting - The exterior components of a geothermal system typically last 50+ years and often longer. You can plan on your landscaping lasting a long time, too.
  3. Reclaimed space - Your geothermal system involves no unsightly exterior condenser unit. You won’t have to plan for a fence or shrubs to hide one. The quiet you reclaim will likely expand your outdoor seating and entertaining options. 


Homeowners have found a broad range of plants that work well with geothermal systems.  

  • Turfgrasses with shallow root systems do not interfere with buried piping.   
  • Ground covers like creeping thyme, sedum, or other low-growing perennials have shallow root systems, create visual appeal, and require low maintenance.  
  • Ornamental grasses with shallow root systems work well. Consider fountain grass, and blue fescue.  
  • Low-growing flowering perennials with non-invasive root systems add color and beauty to the area with little impact on ground loops. Daylilies, coneflowers, and creeping phlox work well.  
  • Moss and certain types of ground ferns create a lush, low-maintenance ground cover that doesn’t affect piping.  

Homeowners with geothermal systems also can choose to cover ground loop areas with mulch, gravel, or other non-plant materials. These provide a neat and tidy appearance while allowing for easy access to the ground loops for maintenance.  


Trees and shrubs with aggressive or deep roots can interfere with the operation of geothermal ground loops. Other plants you may want to avoid include:   

  • Vines with tenacious roots like English ivy.  
  • Large perennials with deep roots like peonies and some varieties of phlox.  
  • Large grasses with deep roots like pampas grass.  
  • Deep-rooted vegetables such as carrots and asparagus. (Plant them away from your system or in raised beds.)  

Leaves and seeds can clog access points to your ground loop system. Plan on keeping these points free of yard debris. 

While it’s true that geothermal installation involves digging, it’s also true that your yard can be restored to a beautiful green space. A landscape professional can help you explore the endless options for landscaping that co-exists for many years to come with your geothermal system.     

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Carla Morris
Homeowner's Guide

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