kill tree without cutting

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Trees aren’t just good for the environment, but they also provide several benefits. Aside from creating an aesthetic appeal to neighborhoods and homes, trees can reduce air pollution and noise levels, increase property values, and provide shade.

However, all these benefits come at a cost. With time, trees, such as pine trees, will grow too large for their surroundings or become a falling hazard. In this article, we discuss how to kill a tree without cutting it down.

Let’s get started.

How to kill a tree without cutting it down?

There are several ways to kill a tree without cutting it down with a chain saw or ax, which is the traditional way to go about it. But if the tree in your lawn is getting too nuisance and you don’t want to get it professionally removed, as it may become too expensive, you can do it yourself.

Using the following techniques, you will succeed in killing and removing any tree stump present in your yard.

Dry the tree out

Trees need a regular supply of water and nutrients to remain healthy. If you have a smaller tree with short and shallower tree roots, you can naturally kill them by letting the surrounding soil dry out.

To expedite the process, you can compact the soil around the tree that restricts the water and oxygen from reaching the roots. This is a slow killing process but highly effective if you’re not in a rush and want to get rid of a tree without putting much effort into it.

Use a paint sealer

There are many ways to kill a tree from the outside. Some of the most common methods include controlled detonations to chemical injections, even infecting trees with a plant disease. However, the easier way to kill a tree is to paint the pruned area of the tree branch.

The paint sealers contain asphalt that traps moisture inside the trimmed portion of the tree. These sealants seal the water inside, which increases the moisture and gradually decays the branch.

The sealant sometimes serves as food for the pathogens that cause the tree rot. The branch eventually becomes too dry and cracks, exposing the tree to pathogens. This helps with a controlled killing of trees as you first remove the large branches without felling into a tree.

Cut a ring around the tree (girdle the tree)

girdle the tree

If you don’t mind doing some physical work, cutting a ring around the trunk is another way to kill trees without cutting the stem. Remember, this method isn’t complete if it doesn’t sever any bark, cambium, and sapwood in each belt of the tree’s circumference.

A large, deep, and wide ring prevents the cambium layer of a tree from growing back. The tree can no longer move carbohydrates produced in the leaves and needles of the tree.

This causes the roots to die when their carbohydrates are depleted. This is a slow but effective process as it can take from a few weeks to several months, depending on the tree size.

Narrowly pave around the tree

Tree roots need space to circulate air to the roots and pass the water and nutrients. Narrowly paving around the tree with brick, concrete or asphalt constrict the roots. When the roots become unable to receive these nutrients, it weakens the tree, which eventually causes the tree to die.

Like other methods, you have to keep patience as it may take a while for trees to die naturally. Usually, this method is more effective for smaller trees when their root system is still developing and hasn’t dug deeper.

Apply Epsom salts to kill tree roots

We all have heard of using Epsom salt to help our lawns grow lusher, but have you heard of using it to kill tree roots? The main ingredient in Epsom salt is sulfur and magnesium.

When applied in smaller quantities, these minerals help with plant growth but become deadly when used in large amounts as they pull moisture out of a tree.

If you’re not in a rush to kill a tree, you can apply Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to a tree that gradually decomposes the tree between 6 and 12 months.

To use this method, you have to create several holes with a power drill closer to the roots of a tree and fill it with Epsom salt.

Lightly sprinkle the water on the Epsom salt and cover it with a tarp to prevent it from washing away. Repeat the process every few weeks, and you will notice trees start becoming weak and dry and eventually die.

Apply herbicide to kill a large and small tree

Effective herbicides are the best way to kill most trees and control regrowth from cut trees that happens as new shoots. You can use herbicides in four ways to kill a tree.

  1. Apply it directly to the foliage
  2. Make a small cut into a stem and apply it topically. (Incline cut into the tree bark and fill it with undiluted 2, 4-d amine herbicide.)
  3. Inject herbicide into the trunk
  4. Basal spray: (Combine 2, 4-D, and silvex mixture with 3 gallons of diesel fuel and spray it at the base of the tree)
  5. Primarily, two types of herbicides effectively kill trees. One interrupts plant growth secretion (Triclopyr amine and triclopyr ester), and the other inhibits growth (glyphosate and imazapyr).

You can buy 2, 4-D amine salt from garden stores or online (Amazon link). It’s highly effective and water-soluble without being volatile. Glyphosate herbicide is a popular option and is readily available in most stores that you can apply to remove an unwanted tree.

You have to be careful not to spray it on a nearby tree that you want to keep. Apply it early morning or evening as high temperatures cause the herbicide to vaporize and damage nearby plants. Also, the best time to apply a herbicide solution is during the fall, when the tree is ready to go dormant.

Biologically kill a tree

Another best way to kill a tree is to have it die in the most natural way possible. And that is by getting tree infected through fungal pathogens or tree destroyer insects and moths.

But you have to be careful with this strategy as you don’t want to let it go out of hand and infect other plants. With this technique, little to no work is required to put in.

However, it’s slower than the physical removal method. Also, depending on your residence, you may have to get a permit from the local offices of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS).

Here are some biological agents that are being researched for approval.

  • Beetle (Euchryptorrhynchus brandti): Beetle can quickly destroy small to large trees. They weaken the tree by chewing the outer bark, creating a hole through which it can feed. Over time, it causes a tree to die by destroying the plant from the inside out.
  • Fungal Pathogen (Fusarium oxysporum): This fungus destroys the upper part of the tree by turning leaves to become yellow and dropping them earlier. It causes the branches to die off and starve trees of nutrients.
  • Powdery Mildew: This is a common problem in gardens and trees, but you can take it to your advantage and let it kill the tree.
  • Fungal pathogen (Verticillium dahliae): Attacks the tree’s root that causes the plant to weaken and gradually die.
removal of tree stump and sprout

How to kill a tree without anyone knowing?

In most places of the world, some laws protect trees from being cut down. It’s illegal to kill a tree or bush in most countries, and establishing a new tree is difficult.

But you may have some valid reason to remove a tree and don’t want to be explicit about it. Here are some ways you can kill trees undetected.

  • Hammer copper nails to the tree roots that slowly poison and kill tree roots.
  • Pour high concentration vinegar around the roots. Drill a hole in the root and pour chemical herbicides such as Tordon. I find MaxTite Ultra-Strength Vinegar with 45% concentration to be quite effective.
  • Restrict the water and airflow to the roots by placing a large mound of mulch or bricks
  • Cut down the large roots of the tree close to the tree trunk. You can find these roots at 15–20 inches of the soil.
  • Change the soil environment by altering the grade or compacting it to make it difficult for water and nutrients to reach the roots.
  • Rot tree roots by overwatering and saturating the soil.
  • Dig a couple of inches deep hole around the tree and pour bleach into the tree roots that kill the tree undetected.
  • Aggressively prune the tree branches and remove outer twigs and leaves leaving only stem.
  • Make a trench around the tree roots and pour sulfuric acid inside them.

How to kill tree stumps and prevent them from sprouting?

There are several ways to kill tree stumps (or stump removal). The easiest way is to use an excavator to remove the stump. However, this is expensive and requires advanced tools. But it may take up to six to seven years to naturally decay the tree stumps if you don’t do anything.

Also, when you cut down a tree stump, you want to prevent it from sprouting. Many people just leave it as it is, but you may want to prevent it from growing new roots.

Follow these strategies to remove the tree stumps and stop them from sprouting.

Grind the tree stump: First, cut and remove the tree stump as much as possible with a chainsaw or hatchet. Clear the surrounding area from rocks and debris and chip away roots and leftover roots using a cutter blade. You can then grind any leftover tree stump.

Pour boiling water: Drill holes at the top of the stump and root and pour boiling water inside it. This scalds the wood and roots from the inside, which loosens the soil’s grip and makes it easy to pull out.

Apply herbicide on the stump: Spraying herbicide on the stump not only rots the remaining wood but also prevents the root system from sending up new sprouts.

The research has proven this method most effective when applying the herbicide as soon as one cuts down a tree. This is because the stump doesn’t heal from being cut, and herbicides can quickly move inside the tree, increasing the effectiveness.

You can use a solution of triclopyr ester or imazapyr mixed in bark oil to kill a tree stump chemically.

Apply the salt to the stump: Apply Epsom salt (Amazon link) or rock salt to the stump after making several holes inside it. Cover it with a plastic bag or tarp to decay the trump.

Take proper care not to let it leach into the surrounding plants as it could damage them too. When appropriately applied, it takes two to three months for the stump to decay completely.

Apply stump killer products: Commercially available products such as Spectracide tree stump killers are convenient and easy to use. It causes the stump to rot that you can then pull out from the ground.

Use fire to kill a tree stump: Drill holes inside the stump and pour kerosene oil into it for easy and thorough removal of larger tree stumps. You can then burn scrap wood and place it on the top of the stump to let it burn. Monitor the fire not to let it spread and remain contained.

What to avoid when killing tree stumps?

There is no doubt that removing a tree stump isn’t a common task that many homeowners experience. If you’re unsure how to do it safely and effectively, call in a professional tree stump removal service to get the job done.

When you’re confident to remove it yourself, make sure, you do it safely. If you use bleach or other chemical herbicides, ensure it doesn’t move into surrounding plants or contaminate the ground.

If you’ve decided to burn the tree stump, avoid using diesel fuel as it’s toxic to other desirable plants. You should use kerosene oil or kindling wood to burn the tree stump.

Also, take proper safety precautions by wearing gloves, safety glasses, and hearing protection when removing larger trees or tree stumps.


There is no doubt that standing tree removal can be a complex undertaking. However, with the right tools and proper caution, any homeowner can get rid of unwanted trees.

The most common and effective method to kill a tree is to cut it down with a chainsaw. If you’re looking for something more environment-friendly options, using Epsom salt or pouring boiling water will do the trick.

I hope the method given above will help you to kill trees and permanently remove a tree stump.

kill tree stumps permanently

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