Looking for how to kill a tree stump?
You’re in luck! I already tried all the hokie pokie ideas on the internet like roundup, Epsom salts, copper nails, bleach and even tree girdling. None of which worked on getting rid of my thriving tree stumps.
I decided to REALLY figure out how to get rid of tree stumps so they didn’t continue to destroy my feces. I spent hours speaking with Arborists, people who kill trees for a living and discovered the best ways to kill tree stumps.
What I found was that most trees can be killed by simply cutting them down, however, the most resilient trees take a strong stump killer to die.
Here’s the full list of trees that need to be poisoned and which ones can just be cut down.
Okay, okay, using Epsom salts, bleach, roundup and copper nails have been known to kill trees. It just didn’t work on my Elm trees.
It may work on your trees so I will discuss in detail how to kill a tree stump with each of these methods in a later section of this article.
Most likely, the reason you are here is that you have a tree stump that won’t die. If you cut down a tree and branches are still growing out of the stump then you need a powerful tree killer.
If you use the right tree killer then the tree will die, roots and all. I couldn’t believe it was so simple.
The next 4 steps are what I found to be the most effective way for how to kill a tree stump fast so it will never grow back.
How To Kill A Tree Stump Fast (4 Steps)
Step 1- Getting Right Equipment and Tree Killer
Like I mentioned earlier, if your tree stump is still growing after being cut down, then you need to use the right stump killer. After surveying many Arborists I found the most recommended the tree stump killer called Tordon.
Tordon is great because you can quickly buy it on Amazon and it just works. It is the most affordable and effective chemical for killing trees. I will list and review the most popular tree stump killer products further down in this article.
Tordon will kill the hardiest trees, I only recommend using this product if you know your tree stump is one of the more resilient trees. Here is a full list of which trees need to be treated to die.
Use caution by following all safety precautions on the label. Arborists recommend wearing chemical resistant gloves, long sleeve shirt, and pants.
You will need a chainsaw for cutting the stump or if there are small branches sticking out of your stump you can use a handsaw. You will need gloves and safety glasses when operating a chainsaw.
After killing the tree stump you will need to rent a stump grinder. I will bring up a couple other more economical options in step 4.
You need Tordon or the stump killer of your choice on hand before moving on to the next steps. You will see why in step 3.
Step 2- Exposing The Live Tree
Now that you have all the right equipment and stump killer, it is time to kill your tree stump. Use your chainsaw to cut the trunk below where the live branches are coming out of the tree stump.
Make a cut across the entire stump to expose the live cambium layer or inner bark. This is where the tree transfers all the food supply from the roots to the branches.
Once cut, treat with a stump killer right away because the tree will immediately begin healing itself. Even after 30 minutes, the chemical will have less of an effect. The arborists I spoke to recommended cutting and treating the stump immediately after.
Step 3- Treat With A Stump Killer
Tordon is the most effective way to kill a tree stump but share a few alternatives including natural ways to kill a tree stump below.
Make sure you are wearing proper safety gear for handling Tordon, most importantly chemical resistant gloves. Pop the top open and begin treating the outer ring of the tree just past the bark.
You don’t need to cover the entire stump just the outer ring.
After treating, let it sit for several days to let the tree stump killer penetrate the deepest roots. Make sure to keep pets or kids away from the treated stump.
You can also kill the stump by cutting and treating each live branch growing out of the stump.
Step 4- Removing The Tree Stump
After several days the tree should be completely dead. At this point, all you have left is to remove the tree stump.
Here are a few of the most effective ways to remove a tree stump. Visit how to remove a tree stump for a more comprehensive guide.
Stump Grinder Rental
The best way to remove a tree stump is to get stump grinder rental. Renting a 13 HP Stump Grinder in my area for a four-hour minimum costs $104. This is the quickest and easiest way to remove a tree stump.
Cut and Pull
This is how they did it in the good-old-days. Dig around the stump to expose the roots below the ground. Cut the major roots then hook the stump up to a truck with a chain and pull it out.
Sometimes you can even simply cut the tree stump just below the ground and bury it. Be careful with your chainsaw because you may hit rocks.
Burn the Stump
Depending on where you live burning may be a great option. Check with your local fire department before burning. The downside of burning is you will need to wait till the stump is dry. Salt can be added to help it dry faster. Here are three ways to burn a stump.
Rocket Stove– One is to make the tree stump a rocket stove by drilling a hole down the center and 4 holes at the bottom of the tree. I have seen this work by my attempt at it didn’t quite work.
Swedish Candle– Crisscross a few cuts down the stump with your chainsaw and light on fire. The crisscross cuts should give the stump enough oxygen to burn well.
55 Gal Metal Barrel– The most effective way to burn a stump is to cut out the bottom off of a 55 metal barrel. Place it over the stump and pore charcoal or wood down around the stump then light and let burn.
Make A Fairy Garden
This is kind of a joke but not really because I have actually seen this done. Fairy Gardens are the rage these days and what better place to put one on than a tree stump. You could even put a birdhouse on top as well. This could be fun unless your tree stump is in your fence like mine was.
Tree Stump Killer Product Review
If you have a tree stump that is still sending up shoots then you are going to need a good stump killer.
Every stump killer has positives and negatives.
While I have only personally used two of these stump killers, I have read all of the reviews for each product.
I will review each so you can choose the best stump killer for your needs.
Best Stump Killer- Tordon
Most Arborists recommended Tordon when I surveyed them. Use caution by following all safety precautions when treating with it. This was the most helpful comment I found after researching Tordon’s reviews.
“This stuff really works with just one application. Turned the sprinklers off for 2 days just to make sure I did not interfere with the process. Very happy with the product. Be sure to follow all directions regarding use as it is toxic, Use a respirator and eye protection, gloves and cover all of your skin. Did not want to use a toxic product but had no choice after cutting down a tree that sent shoots everywhere and up to 30′ feet away coming up through my grass. Researched a lot to try and find something that would be effective and this did the trick.”
I never found a review where Tordon didn’t work. Just use caution and follow all safety precautions because “it is of moderate toxicity to the eyes and only mildly toxic on the skin.” See toxicity ratings here.
Roundup Tree Stump and Root Killer
From what I can find it looks like this specific product has been discontinued.
Regular Roundup Concentrate can be effectively used to kill tree stumps if mixed with two other chemicals. That’s the negative of Roundup.
You have to buy two more products and take the time to mix them.
Treating my stump with undiluted Roundup concentrate didn’t kill my Elm trees, however, it may work on your tree stump.
I found a homemade tree stump killer recipe that works on the most resilient trees.
The positive side of taking the time to mix this recipe is it’s “not toxic to humans” unlike Tordon. (That’s why they use Roundup on all our food…so we just die slowly. I personally think Roundup is toxic to humans so wear the proper safety gear.)
How To Kill A Tree Stump With Roundup
In order to kill the toughest tree stumps with Roundup, you need to add two additional chemicals to make the right mix.
Once you have mixed the recipe below you can treat any tree stump just like you would with Tordon.
Expose the live tree and immediately paint the Roundup mixture around the cambium layer or inner bark.
Roundup Tree Stump Killer Recipe
This recipe is taught by the Utah State Ag Extension in this video.
Each of these ingredients needs to be used in their concentrated forms. Add and mix them into a small container. A pint glass jar works great.
- 3 Tbls RoundUp Concentrate (Glyphosate)- An alternative to Roundup is Killzall.
- 3 Tbls Hi Yield Spreader Sticker (Surfactant)- For increasing spreading, absorption and sticking.
- 1 Tbls Ammonium Sulfate- Increases uptake of the roundup.
Mix these ingredients and apply with a paintbrush to the cambium, layer just inside the bark, immediately upon cutting the tree down.
Waiting even 30 minutes will lessen the effectiveness of this mixture.
You don’t need to paint the whole stump only the outer cambium ring.
Making this recipe costs more than Tordon and takes more time but it may be safer than Tordon.
Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer
I have used this product and it works great on baby weed trees. Mixing it in a gallon sprayer and spraying the leaves was really quick and easy.
They died in a few weeks. I haven’t tried directly treating a stump but many reviews attested it works well on brush and vines.
On treating stumps there are mixed reviews.
“Did nothing to kill my stump and I soaked it. Still keeps growing stuff.”
“2 weeks after following the directions and stump has new growth.”
The stump treatment directions say to fresh cut the stump and treat it undiluted. So if the review above followed these instructions it may not work as good as other stump killers.
Gordon’s Stump Killer
I have read a lot of mixed reviews with this product. Some say it worked amazing and others said the opposite.
Others said they had to treat multiple times.
One recurring comment I found said that it will kill surrounding trees and vines as well so use caution.
Here are some of the most helpful comments I found.
“Cut off a mulberry tree and drilled a hole down the stump, filled it with stump killer but now Sprouts are coming out. I should have used Tordon.”
“Put this on a cottonwood tree stump and it killed all the other live cottonwood trees within a 50 feet radius and they were over 50 years old. I am sick about it and cried.”
Sounds like this is a deep root tree stump killer and would be great if you want all the surrounding trees to die as well.
Bonide Vine and Stump Killer
Bonide Vine and Stump Killer received a 3.7-star rating on Amazon with 249 reviews.
Most of the 5-star reviews said it worked well when treating small trees and bushes.
A lot of the lower star ratings came because the product was leaking when it arrived or it didn’t kill the stump.
With all of these reviews some of the bad reviews are going to come from people not fresh cutting the stump but overall it sounds like a fine stump killer to use on smaller trees and bushes.
Natural Tree Stump Killer
The most natural ways to kill a tree stump would be to use salt, copper nails, vinegar or to just dig it out by hand or tractor.
How To Kill A Tree Stump With Epsom Salt
I tried killing my elm tree stumps with Epsom Salt and it didn’t work, however, it may work on less resilient trees. The best use for Epsom Salt is for quickly drying out the stump so you can burn the stump later. Here are the steps to killing tree stumps with salt.
Step 1– Cut the tree stump as close to the grown as possible.
Step 2– Drill holes with ½ drill bit as deep as you can into the stump. The deeper the more salt you can use.
Step 3– Cover it with a bucket or tarp and water it every couple weeks to help the salt dissolve.
Step 4– Let that sit for 6 months to a year and the stump should be decomposed.
One a funny note, one thing to watch out for is deer. I read a youtube comment where someone tried to get rid of their stump with salt and said,
“Thanks for nothing, got around 20 deer licking on my stump now, lol”
In my opinion, people who have killed tree stumps with Epsom salt probably used it on one of the trees that didn’t need to be treated. It is worth a try if you want an organic tree stump killer.
Do Copper Nails Kill Tree Stumps?
From everything I have researched copper nails will kill tree stumps.
I’m not sure which trees it will effectively kill and which it won’t.
What I did find is that using copper nails to kill a tree takes a really long time. Like over a year or longer.
The main problem I see with using tree stump killer copper nails is it takes a long time to actually work if it even does.
Copper nails will kill most tree stumps. That is as long as you don’t mind waiting a year or more to see if it works.
How To Kill A Tree Stumps With Copper Nails
The technique for using copper nails to kill tree stumps is quite simple.
Purchase 100% copper nails and pound them into the tree stump.
I have heard of people using one nail for smaller stumps.
For larger stumps hammering copper nails every couple inches all the way around the tree stump.
It would best if you cut the tree stump down to the ground and then pounded the nails into the live part of the stump and roots below the ground.
That way you don’t have a dead tree stump you’ll most likely trip over later on.
How To Kill A Tree Stump With Bleach
I haven’t tried to kill a tree stump with bleach but it may kill your tree stump. You can check out my article on everything I have learned on killing tree stumps with bleach.
The steps to kill a tree stump with bleach would follow the same steps as I discussed when treating with Tordon.
You may want to even drill a few holes around the outer layer of the tree stump.
That will allow more bleach to be soaked down into the tree roots.
Good luck killing your tree stump. As I learn more effective ways for killing tree stumps I will add them to this guide.