Root system architecture determines many of the vital functions of a tree, e.g. stability of anchorage and resource uptake. The shoot:root ratio is determined through the allocation of resources. Studies on below-ground architectural elements in boreal mixed forests are relatively scarce despite the fact that knowledge on below-ground interactions and allocation changes in relation to stand developmental stage and soil fertility is needed both in ecological and silvicultural research. In this study, sixty tree root systems of three different tree species, Betula pendula, Picea abies and Pinus sylvestris, were excavated in five mixed forest stands in order to quantify differences between the species and sites in terms of rooting behaviour. Root architecture differed greatly between the species, implying different solutions for the functions of root systems. Half of the P. sylvestris had developed a taproot as a response to anchorage needs, while P. abies correspondingly had pronounced secondary growth of proximal roots. Betula pendula had the most extensive root system, illustrating the greater demand of deciduous trees for water. Betula pendula was also the most sensitive to soil fertility: it favoured exploration on the poorest site, as illustrated by the high total root length, whereas on the most fertile site its strategy was to efficiently exploit soil resources through increased branching intensity. The results obtained in this study provide basic knowledge on the architectural characteristics of boreal tree root systems for use by forestry professionals and modellers.