Nobody wants to deliberately kill a beautiful tree. However, if the tree is diseased or affecting the quality of a home (for example, subsidence), killing it off might be your only option.
Thing is – killing a tree isn’t as easy as simply chopping it down. The infected part of the roots still lingers beneath the ground.
There are several factors that will contribute to the way you kill a specific tree. The general rule of thumb is that if a tree is under 4 feet tall, all you’ll need to kill it is a brush killer. Larger trees will require chopping down and treating the stump.
If you’re looking to get rid of the countless weed trees in your yard, or perhaps a bigger tree that is causing some issues, here is our guide on how to kill trees quickly!
You will need:
- Heavy-duty black plastic
- Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer
Best ways to kill trees quickly
So, we know that a general brush killer sprayed on the leaves of a tree under 4 feet tall will kill it off quickly. The second you spray the leaves, the tree is dead and can be removed easily. But what about trees larger than 4 feet? Truth is, different trees will require different methods of killing.
Spray trees under 4 ft
Trees like Chinese elm trees and beech trees produce seeds regularly throughout the year, meaning they will leave a scattering of baby trees everywhere.
For the sake of keeping your yard free from a plethora of large trees, it’s best to kill them when they’re young and under 4 feet tall. The way to do this, as we have said, is to spray the leaves with a herbicide.
That’s right – you should just have to spray the leaves for the tree to start dying off. Roundup, Killzall, and Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer are some of the most commonly used herbicides for killing small trees.
Mix your chosen herbicide in a gallon sprayer, spray the leaves, and the moment the liquid hits the tree, it will begin to die.
If the tree has reached 4 feet tall, or is slightly taller than 4 feet, spraying the leaves won’t be enough to kill it. You might need to spray the entire tree, or use a different technique. This is why the spraying technique is only recommended for killing weed trees and those under 4 feet.
Chop and remove
If the tree you are trying to kill is taller than 4 feet and herbicide has done sweet nothing, it’s time to try a technique that involves more physical exertion.
Common trees like palm, oak, pine, and maple don’t usually need more to die than a quick chop and remove. All you’ll need to do is use a chainsaw to chop the tree down and then remove the stump!
Use professional-grade chemicals
Sometimes, you want the security of knowing you have completely and definitely killed a tree. This is especially the case for killing diseased trees, as you won’t want the disease to linger in the soil if you wish to put other trees or plants there. This is where you’ll need to invest in some chemicals that the professionals use.
Tordon is one of the best chemicals for killing trees that professional arborists use regularly. You’ll need to chop down a tree and apply the Tordon to a freshly cut stump that has been chopped within 30 minutes.
It will take a couple of days for the Tordon to kill the tree completely, but it’s said to be tough enough to kill even the most stubborn elm trees.
Non-chemical plastic technique
Not everyone will want to expose their yard to harsh chemicals such as Tordon unless they are trying to kill the hardiest of trees. Fortunately, there is a slightly kinder and more eco-friendly way to kill a tree!
You will need to cut down a tree and cover the freshly cut stump with a heavy-duty black plastic. Make sure to tie this down tightly with a rope or tie-down.
The aim of this method is to cut the tree from the two things it needs most to survive – light and moisture. Sure, it might get the moisture from the soil if it rains, but any branches that it attempts to grow will be immediately trapped by the black plastic and won’t get access to sunlight.
Eventually, the stump will be starved of its essential nutrients and will die.
Call a professional
So, you have tried everything. It’s time to admit defeat and call a professional arborist to do the job for you. This is the best method for those who are new to the world of killing trees, especially if they are worried about affecting the rest of their garden with harsh chemicals.
After all, while each of the previous techniques are great, they’re not 100% certain to kill a tree. Attempting each of these techniques can be time-consuming and costly, so it might just be far easier to hire an arborist to do the job.
Also, an arborist is certain to do the job properly. If you’re worried about not killing the tree completely, you can have the reassurance that an arborist will kill it off entirely without harming the surrounding plants and trees.
They will have all the necessary equipment and chemicals, plus they will do all the heavy-duty work such as cutting down the tree and removing the stump.
Why isn’t my tree dying?
You might have tried absolutely every technique possible to try and kill your tree, and yet the tree still seems to be alive and thriving. After all, if you have a stubborn tree like an elm tree, it can be quite difficult to actually kill it. You could blow it up with a bomb and it will still just sit there.
Truth is – you’ve probably been trying the wrong methods of killing a tree. The internet is filled with people who think they have the answer to kill a tree quickly, but the methods they recommend won’t kill a tree within a matter of days.
Here are some of the methods to avoid when attempting to kill a tree!
Salt is slow
So, salt can kill living things like slugs and snails – but it won’t kill a tree quickly. It will kill a tree, yes, but you will need a lot of patience. This method includes cutting the tree down to a stump, then drilling holes into the stump and filling the holes with salt and water. Then, you have to cover the tree with tarp or black plastic and rocks.
The idea is that the salt will help to dehydrate the tree eventually. However, many people who have tried this method have said their trees stay alive for ages. Unless you want to wait a few months for it to finally die, don’t bother with this method.
On the other hand, this salt method might be beneficial for small trees and weed trees. People will often use vinegar instead of salt, too, as the effects are pretty much the same.
Diesel is bad for the environment
Some people will try to use diesel or motor oil to kill a tree. This method involves cutting the tree down to a stump, pouring diesel over the stump, then covering it with tarp and a rope.
Problem is, diesel isn’t meant to be poured onto the ground like that. Sure, it might kill the tree, but it will also kill the surrounding soil and plants. For the sake of the environment and your backyard’s ecosystem, please avoid using diesel.
Copper nails take a year
Another method to avoid when killing a tree quickly is to nail copper nails into the trunk of a tree. The copper eventually leaks into the tree and kills it. However, this method can take up to a year for the tree to die. The reason why some people will opt for this method is because of how easy it is – but it’s definitely the slowest method.
Girdling is also known as ring-barking, which was a Native American method of killing trees to use the dry wood for building homes and making fires.
This method includes cutting out a ring of the bark around the tree, which essentially cuts off the nutrients to the rest of the tree that would usually get the essential nutrients from the bark.
This is probably the most natural method of killing a tree, but it’s not the most effective. It’s not certain to kill the entirety of the tree, and it can take a while to work properly.
Can I make my own tree killer?
Not everyone is going to want to buy harsh chemicals to kill a tree. Chemicals can be expensive and scary to use if you’re worried about harming the environment. It is possible to make your own tree killer in a more organic way, but this will include using ingredients like salt and vinegar.
As we have discussed above, the salt method is pretty slow – unless you’re trying to kill a small tree.
The best way to make your own tree killer is to mix chemicals together. It’s not the most environmentally-friendly way to kill a tree, but it’ll provide enough strength to kill even the most stubborn large trees.
You will need:
- 3 tablespoons surfactant: Liquid Harvest Surfactant for Herbicides
- 3 tablespoons glyphosate: Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer
- 1 tablespoon ammonium sulfate: Hi-Yield Ammonium Sulfate
Wearing protective gear such as gloves, goggles, and a mask, mix these ingredients in their concentrated form into a small container. Apply this homemade tree killer to the inside of the bark, otherwise known as the cambium layer, with a paintbrush.
The best time to do this is straight after cutting a tree down, as a tree will naturally begin to heal itself from being cut after 30 minutes.
The only issue with this method is that it can be expensive to buy all of these different chemicals. This is why some people will just opt to buy a heavy-duty Tordon to do the job.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to kill a tree without cutting it down?
The best way to kill a tree without cutting it down is to apply Tordon to the base of the tree. Tordon is a professional-grade chemical that most arborists will swear by, as it is powerful enough to kill even the most stubborn of large trees.
In most cases, however, cutting a tree down is the best way to kill it. Sure, you can use the girdling method (where you cut a ring of bark around a tree to restrict the access of nutrients), but this won’t necessarily kill the whole tree.
How long does it take for salt to kill a tree?
While applying salt into the stump of a tree is a method of killing it, this method can take between 8-10 weeks (sometimes more) to successfully kill a tree. This is why most people will opt for other, faster methods.
Can bleach kill a tree?
Bleach will definitely harm a tree upon impact, but it won’t necessarily kill it. This is because bleach isn’t a systemic tree killer, so it won’t penetrate the tree’s roots enough to kill it properly. Instead, it will just damage the bark or leaves that it touches.