How to Kill a Tree Without Worrying About Sprouting

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Get Smarter On Architecture and Design

Get the 3-minute weekly newsletter keeping 5K+ designers in the loop.

Enter your Email to Sign up


Trees are a blessing to our environment. They nourish the environment by bringing rain and offering fresh air to sustain life. However, there are situations where you might need to get rid of a tree. For example, you may want to clear space for an activity, and the tree may be invasive and harmful to other plants by taking up all the nutrients or killing them. In addition, some trees harbor pests or worms that might be harmful to kids and pets, while others have roots that might interfere with the house's foundation. Whatever the reason, here is how to kill a tree.

How To Kill A Tree

1. Chop It Down

Felling trees is one of the oldest and most common ways to kill trees. Humans discovered fire, and they needed wood to burn to keep the discovery relevant. The only way they could get more wood was to chop trees down with their advanced tools at the time. Killing a tree was not just for fire, as humans started having modern habitats as they could stay home and cook.

The years have gone by, and more advanced machinery and technology for cutting down trees have emerged, making the process easier and faster than ever seen before. Cutting the tree, however, can be risky if the tree is very tall and heavy. Also, if the tree is within a neighborhood or a place with a lot of occupation, you will need to call a professional to get the job done with more appropriate machinery.

Some trees continue to grow even after chopping them, while others, like palm and oak, die once cut down. If the tree keeps sprouting from the stump, do not give up on removing each new growing part. If that does not work, you can uproot the whole stump and get the problem done once and for all.

2. Starving

Every living thing needs food and nutrients to survive. Trees are no exception. You can starve a tree by removing the bark along the circumference of the tree. The bark transports food to the other parts of the tree, including the leaves and branches. The process of starving the tree is called girdling.

Trees, just like other living things, have figured out ways around most survival threats. However, some trees can jump the girdle and keep nourishing if the bark is not well removed. To reduce the chances of the tree jumping the girdle, ensure you remove the bark about 1.5 inches deep into the trunk. Keep the girdle about 8-inches wide for larger trees.

3. Spraying

When you hear the term "tree," you think of a grown tree with a height of at least one story high. However, trees qualify as trees from a young age and may sometimes need to be killed as they grow.

Some trees give off too many seeds and fruits. As a result, many small trees sprout around the parent tree. These trees can be problematic if they are not required there. You can spray these trees using a herbicide to get rid of the small trees that could be unwanted. In addition, you can use glyphosate to kill the budding plants as it inhibits the process of photosynthesis, leading to the death of the trees.

When spaying, consider the age of the tree. You might not know the exact age of a tree, but any tree about 4-feet high will be more resistant to the spray.

4. Chemical Killing

Trees work by absorbing the nutrients in the soil, despite what the ground may contain. So the sure way to kill the tree is by poisoning it. There are different methods of chemically killing a tree.

A) Injection

One way of getting to the plant's system is drilling holes in points around the circumference of the tree trunk. This is a sure way to kill a tree as the herbicide will into the veins and damage the tree. The herbicides are injected every 2 to 6 inches to effectively get into the system of the tree and cover the whole trunk. The injection needs special equipment, and it is advisable to get the services of professionals who have perfected the art of tree-killing.

B) Stump Treatment

When the stump of the tree is freshly cut, it can absorb chemicals easily into the root system to avoid regrowth. Do not worry about the whole surface as the important parts are the two or three inches around the tree where you would normally find the bark.

For a stump that is less than three inches wide, you can apply the solution on the whole surface to ensure the tree is dead.

C) Cut Surface Treatment

You can wound the tree at certain points and introduce the herbicide into the system. Cut downward on the bark at multiple points around the surface using a hatchet or an ax. Do not remove the frill (the cut section of the bark) once you make deep downward markings. Fill the cuts with the herbicide while the cuts are still fresh for maximum absorption.

This method might not be effective on some trees that remove a sap once they have a cut. This is because the sap might prevent the herbicide from getting into the system of the tree once you pour the herbicide.

D) Foliage Treatment

This method is one of the most common methods available. Apply the herbicide to the brush of the tree and let the magic happen. Treat the tree from early summer when the tree is not under water stress. This method is dependent on the herbicide used. Therefore, read the instructions carefully to ensure you are using the right herbicides and the correct method.

E) Basal Bark Treatment

Apply herbicide to the bottom 12 to 18 inches of the tree and let the absorption do the job for you. Killing trees using this method is very effective during spring and mid-fall. Some tree species can be treated during winter as the natural food intake for a tree is through absorption.

Use a herbicide solution mixed with oil to ensure the bark is saturated inch by inch. This method can work on trees of any size and height.

5. The Stump

The stump can be very notorious as it connects to the tree roots that are the very heart of the tree. Before you set out to kill a tree, remember that chopping the upper part could rejuvenate the tree's lifespan. There are different ways of ensuring the tree stump does not stand a chance in springing back to life.

A) Rapid Decay Fertilizer

Applying slow-release fertilizers into the holes on the stump can be effective in tree-killing without the risk of springing back. However, the decay will get to the tree roots and eventually kill the tree. Drill a few holes eight inches deep into the stump and any protruding roots to hold the fertilizer for a more effective outcome.

B) Rock Salt

This process is more economical as long as you are not in a hurry, as it takes a long time before any results are seen. Once you drill holes into the tree, fill it with rock salt. Next, you can find any other cracks and fill them with salt.

Once the salt is applied to the holes and crevices on the stump, cover them with a waterproof substance like wax. Finally, cover the whole stump with an opaque material to keep the sunlight and water away. The stump will start splitting, killing the tree in the long run.

C) Burn The Stump

Have you ever wondered why forests burn but still come to life? It is because the trees and the roots are notorious and built for survival.

Drill holes more than 2-inches deep into the stump and fill them with gasoline or a flammable liquid. This ensures that the flames reach the tree roots. The root system is the most vital part of a tree, and once you get to it, you will be sure the tree is dead.

D) Uproot

Uprooting is the surest way to kill a tree.

Safety Tips To Use When Killing Trees

I) Protective Clothing

The intention is to kill a tree, not harm yourself. Get protective glasses to prevent any wood chips from getting revenge for the tree. Protective gloves will keep your hands from getting blisters in case you are using an ax. Wear protective masks when applying herbicide or volatile solutions whose fumes can cause dizziness and accidents.

Ii) Clear The Area

Tree removal can include chopping the whole tree. The tree trunk is the heaviest part of the tree. As it falls, it can hurt someone or lead to damage to anything in the yard. Ensure you use an angle that will make the tree fall in a clear place without anyone around.

Iii) Extinguish Any Fires

We discussed earlier that you could burn the stump when killing trees. However, the intention is to get tips on how to kill a tree and not burn a whole forest. Once you are certain the flames reach the tree roots, put off the fire and ensure there are no embers left around the circumference of the root.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Related Articles

10 Best Boots for Gardening and All Your Mud Needs

Everyone, regardless of age or gender, can incorporate gardening into their daily lives. Whether you need to pull weeds from ...

Best Wood for Planter Box Construction and Raised Beds

Are you looking for planter design ideas or easy garden ideas for growing fresh vegetables at home? Planter boxes or ...

Best Lawn Sweeper To Keep Your Yard Clear Of Debris

Having a clean and tidy lawn without a hefty garden maintenance bill or too much fatigue requires a lawn sweeper. ...