How To Kill An Elm Tree

Elm trees can be found in abundance over Europe, North America, and parts of the Southern Hemisphere. They’re noted for hardiness and quick growth, with the ability to provide large amounts of shade.

Elm trees’ roots occasionally sprout from the ground, and branches frequently droop because of rapid growth. In metropolitan places, where maintaining huge trees and buildings around them might be challenging, this becomes an issue.

Chinese elm, ash, and others can be seen as invasive trees. They typically begin sending up sprouts from stumps and roots after a tree can be cut down in as little as 30 days.

elm tree

In our guide, you can learn the proper ways on how to kill elm trees to make sure they don’t grow back to cause issues. (Read Cutting Down A Leaning Tree)

By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to deal with killing fresh-cut stumps and which is the best elm tree killer you can use 

How Do You Kill Elm Tree Roots?

To effectively kill elm trees, cut down an unwanted elm tree by cutting or chopping. Determine the elm’s fall path, and with an ax, trim the tree’s outer branches.

  1. Make a 45-degree downward cut into 1/3 of the trunk.
  2. Make a second horizontal incision, forming a wedge.
  3. Make a higher horizontal cut on the other side of the tree.
  4. The elm falls once the trunk depth is reached.
  5. You can then remove the fresh tree stump with a saw and dig around it to cut the roots. This frees the remaining stump, allowing it to be readily removed.
  6. Or, you can use a brush on herbicide specifically for stump killing to immediately poison the stump and stop re-growth.

There are many other ways you can deal with killing elm trees before you cut them down.


Certain herbicides, such as those used above, can kill unwanted elm trees.

Cut parts of the elm tree trunk’s bark to allow the herbicide to reach the vascular tissue.

Using the chemical method, carve a 1/2 inch deep cut into the tree’s bark with a downward cut and also an upward cut. Ensure the chunk is 2 inches wide for a small tree and 4 inches or more extensive for a big tree.

Mix water-soluble herbicide containing glyphosate and in a plastic spray bottle or a hose sprayer.

Herbicide tree killer absorption is hindered by sap leaking from wounds in the spring, so the fall is the best time to do this on an unwanted elm tree when there is little sap production.

It can take several applications of the chemical solution to destroy an elm tree and, once dead; you can then carry out tree removal. You can see the green foliage wilting, followed by massive leaf drop and stunted buds as the solution takes effect. (Read Guide to Killing Trees With Diesel)


Girdling is an excellent way to destroy undesirable elm trees, but it takes two years to work. A blockage in the tree’s nutrient flow from the roots to the foliage kills it.

Using a saw or hammer and chisel, altogether remove the outer bark surrounding the tree trunk. Do not make deep tissue cuts; merely peel away the bark. Trimming a tree too deep encourages re-growth and thickening. Check the girdled elm regularly and remove any new loose bark that may form.

Paving over a tree also blocks the roots, which can often eventually kill the tree completely.

salt and vinegar

Salt and Vinegar

Both salt and vinegar effectively kill plants and can be used for killing stumps and roots to kill unwanted elm trees. Salt dehydrates plants, causing them to perish. Vinegar can be sprinkled on plants and around the soil to help absorb water.

However, both substances require caution. Salt damages the surrounding soil and makes it difficult for other plants to grow. Vinegar doesn’t harm the soil, but it can damage plants.

Most tree killers need you to drill holes spread around the tree to add the stump-killing herbicide. You can do this with salt and vinegar, yet there is no need to drill holes if you don’t need to.

If you use drilled holes as the ways to kill a Siberian elm or other species, use about six cups of salt mixed with water and vinegar, and fill the holes. Repeat as necessary for killing trees that are large. (Learn How To Kill A Tree Secretly)

How to Kill Trees With Copper Nails

As long as you use nails that are big enough to enter the growth cells under the bark, you can kill trees with copper nails. Disease and infection caused by the nails will eventually kill the tree.

It can take time for the trees to die, so use enough copper nails to cover the outside of the tree at one-half-inch intervals.

Mark the nailing locations around the bottom of the trees near the root system. Near the base of the target tree, hammer in a copper nail at a slight angle pointing downward.

Hammer copper nails that are over 2 inches long as the closer to the tree’s center, the more effective into the trees you want to kill. Continue hammering nails at small intervals all around the tree.

Cover nail heads with mud so you can conceal each copper nail.

elm tree roots

How Deep Are Elm Tree Roots?

The root system of American elm varies according to soil type and condition.  In ideal soil conditions, the root system is widespread, with most roots within 3 to 4 feet of the surface.  On drier soils, American elm develops a deep taproot as part of the root architecture.

The root system of the American elm changes depending on the moisture and texture of the soil. The root system is broad in ideal soil conditions, with most of the roots of the tree-sit 3 to 4 feet on the surface. The root architecture of the American elm generates deep roots in dry soils.

How to Kill Chinese Elm

Chinese Elm is a fast-growing evergreen tree that has a rounded canopy and weeping branches. It grows between 40 and 80 feet high and thrives in urban areas, even in poor soil conditions. However, some downsides may lead you to want to kill Chinese Elm trees. (Read Copper Nails To Kill Trees)

Roots grow out of the ground, and branches droop, making clearance an issue.

Chinese elms over 4 inches in diameter can be cut down and killed with triclopyr.

  1. Cut the elm tree down with a chain saw.
  2. Drill 1-inch diameter slanted holes into the remaining tree stump using a power drill.
  3. Mix one part triclopyr concentrate (from garden centers) into five parts vegetable oil or diesel fuel oil. Spray the herbicide on the cut stump surface immediately, and add tree stump chemical into each hole in the stump.
  4. Spray brush killer on the green foliage that sprouts from the stump.

Other ways to kill trees lead people to antifreeze trees. There is a level of toxicity in ethylene glycol antifreeze, yet it may not kill large trees and just has the effect of slowing the overall growth of your troublesome elm trees.

The above methods are enough to deal with any elm tree issues regardless of the size and species you need to deal with.

How To Kill An Elm Tree (2)

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