How To Kill Tree Roots

Cutting down trees in your yard improves natural lighting for other plants and allows room for new trees to up to grow.

If you’ve ever had a tree removed from your yard, you know how annoying the stump can be. While you could leave it alone, it could grow and develop irritating shoots from its roots, or it could take several months to a few years to rot and die properly. 

After you’ve cut down a tree, you can use a stump killer or a concentrated Glyphosate-based weed killer as a tree-killing injection to kill the roots. As a precaution and avoid any roots seeking moisture, you can immediately flush your drain pipes and sewer line with copper sulfate, a herbicide called dichlobenil, or a salt/baking soda/water mixture to eliminate underground issues in sewer lines.

tree roots

Last, you can burn the stump or tear out the stump and roots together to remove the stump and kill the roots. (Learn How To Kill A Palm Tree)

There is a lot to know, so here you can use this guide and find a more permanent solution to dealing with larger tree roots from large trees that could be unsightly in your yard without resorting to tree stump removal and making a mess.

By the end, check you follow local laws and use the information here to clear your hard of ugly larger roots creating a hazard.

How do you kill tree roots naturally?

Here are a few ways you can deal with tree stump removal before ripping out unwanted tree roots and clearing your garden.

Epsom Salts to Kill Roots

This is a popular method of killing tree trunks, and it shortens the process required for decomposition to six to twelve months, as opposed to three to seven years. Toxic to surrounding vegetation in large amounts, you’ll find Epsom salts contain magnesium and sulfur, which is beneficial in small amounts. Overdosing the stump with Epsom salt thus kills it and speeds up the deterioration process.

Here’s how you use Epsom salt as a natural tree root killer:

  1. Drill several holes one-inch-wide holes in the stump with a power drill.
  2. Sprinkle water on the stump after coating it with Epsom salt.
  3. Cover your stump with a tarp to stop rain from washing away the substance.
  4. To ensure success, repeat this process every few weeks.
  5. It will take a year for the stump or tree roots to disintegrate if this process is successful fully. This is an excellent option for those that prefer a more natural tree stump removal method.

epsom salt

Bags or Dark Tarps

The best way to kill a tree stump is to make it dark. Without sunshine, the tree stump dies, hastening disintegration. And no more roots will grow. In two to three months, rot should begin. (Learn How Far Apart To Plant Fruit Trees)

How to kill a tree stump with a tarp or plastic bag

  • Cut the stump with a chainsaw, hatchet, or handsaw as near to the roots as workable.
  • Cover the stump with a black trash bag.
  • Weight the bag with rocks or bricks. Cover a smaller stump with a dark-colored bucket or container.
  • This technique needs little to no effort, although it is slower at killing tree roots than other means.

Boiling Water

To try this fix to kill a root system, all you need is hot water.

  1. Expose the stump’s root structure as much as possible.
  2. Drill holes in the tree’s roots and stump to help the scalding water reach the roots and kill them.
  3. Pour boiling water over the exposed roots.
  4. The water’s heat shocks the root system, injuring and killing it. It is slow and can take a while before you see any results.

The natural decomposition process will start after a few months once the stump and roots are dead.

Will Vinegar Kill Tree Roots?

Several homemade methods prevent tree stumps and roots from generating new trees if chemical stump killers are not available.

To get rid of a stump and killing trees, one way is to use a homemade stump killer, vinegar, or rock salt. Another option is to use the stump as a compost pile or flower pot to hasten decomposition.

Fill a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar and wait for a warm, dry day. Spray your stump killer vinegar on the leaves of the shoots that are sprouting from the tree roots and stump.

This kills the remaining tree roots by destroying the leafy top growth that provides food to the plant roots. When you don’t want to use a systemic herbicide like glyphosate, vinegar is an organic and effective option, though you’ll need to apply it often to kill the roots.

Be wary of nearby vegetation as it can have the same effect and kill them as well. You may want deadwood on your main tree, yet you don’t want the surrounding vegetation to suffer simultaneously.(Find the Best Fertilizer For Trees)

Rock Salt

Like Epsom salt, rock salt can quickly kill and degrade a stump. To kill a tree root with rock salt, follow these steps:

  1. Into the stump drill holes
  2. Fill the holes completely with rock salt.
  3. After the holes are sealed and the stump is salted, cover it with soil and mulch.
  4. Pour water over your mulch to help dissolve the salt, and help the roots absorb the solution.
  5. Water the stump every few days for one to two months to keep it moist and encourage absorption and fungi growth. You can add potassium nitrate fertilizer to help the fungi grow faster.

As with Epsom salts, you need to be careful where you put this around the tree trunk, as large quantities will kill surrounding plants.

growing tree roots

How Do You Stop Tree Roots From Growing Back?

To get moisture and nutrition, tree roots grow deep underground and spread widely. The average depth is 7 to 9 feet; however, certain root systems can go much deeper and spread far wider.

Tree roots cause issues when they push into sewer pipes and fracture a home’s foundations, topple landscape ornaments, and much more. It’s little wonder homeowners rely on tree root killer products to handle tree roots. While natural methods are, many are not as fast-acting as cutting roots with a root saw or getting out a stump grinder.

There are natural techniques to work with tree roots, but they often take longer than chemical solutions. Keep that even after a tree’s trunk is removed, its roots might continue to grow and cause damage. (Learn How To Get Rid Of A Tree Stump With Charcoal)

Root killers come in many mixes that all work. They employ copper sulfate and other chemicals, including dichlobenil, to clean tree roots from sewer systems, drainpipes, and septic tanks.

We have already seen you can use baking soda, vinegar, salt to make a natural-toxic tree root killer, and you can mix these before you flush them into your home’s lowest drains. Once this root killer is in the pipes, the salt leaches into offending roots. It can be effective, yet it takes a while to kill root systems this way alone to end up with dead roots.

Killing Tree Roots With Bleach

If bleaching a tree stump can cause it to die, the same things should happen with tree roots. Cut into the roots you want to remove with your power tool. You can use a drill to remove roots, and all you need to do is drill holes into the roots. Pour bleach onto the roots where you filled them with holes. If the tree root killer doesn’t work right away, repeat the process, as it can take several applications and time.

Tree-Killing Chemicals

The herbicide glyphosate, found in Roundup and other brands, is the fastest and most effective way to kill trees. Check the active ingredient is glyphosate and at least 41%.

Other effective tree killers include Hi-Yield 2,4-D, diesel fuel, and Ferti-Lome Brush Stump Killer. Using any tree-killing chemicals like these will kill your tree root in a few days.

Method1: Chemical Herbicide

The fastest, most effective way to kill roots is with chemical herbicide, as soon as the tree has been cut down.

  • Saw
  • Watering can
  • 41% Glyphosate herbicide
  • Small bucket
  • Garden sprayer

If the tree was cut days ago, make a fresh saw cut across the new tree trunk.

  1. Cut the whole surface of the trunk of trees three inches in diameter or smaller. Larger trees: expose two to three inches of fresh flesh.
  2. Soak with 2–3 inches of water on the cambium layer, the outer ring under the bark.
  3. This outer layer is still alive because of the liquid’s ability to carry herbicide from living tissue to tree roots.
  4. Apply a 50/50 glyphosate herbicide/water solution to the exposed cambium layer.
  5. Your choice of sprayer or paintbrush will suffice. Apply with caution to avoid splashing and damaging plants or grass around the trunk. Tree roots should die out in a few weeks.

Method2: Flush Copper Sulfate

Invading tree roots in sewer lines and septic systems should be addressed quickly to avoid an invasive plumbing charge. Copper sulfate products are effective for killing tree roots in water lines. How to use:

  1. Pour a ground-floor toilet with the copper sulfate root killer.
  2. Make a flush to get the copper sulfate in the pipes
  3. If possible, do not flush for 8–12 hours. So the copper sulfate may work its way through the pipes and destroy invasive roots
  4. This easy method will wipe out a root system that plugs and ruins pipes.

How To Kill Tree Roots (1)

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