How To Kill An Elm Tree (Completely Dead Fast)


Looking for how to kill an elm tree? I own a rental property that has 5 Chinese Elm trees that needed to go. They were destroying my fences and outgrowing my Rose of Sharon. I have tested several ways of killing them but only was successful. Here’s what worked for me.

The best way I found to kill an elm tree is to cut it down and immediately poison the stump with Tordon. I tried killing them with salt, roundup, the hack and squirt method, and girdling. None of which worked. On small elm trees under 4 feet, I  successfully killed them by just spraying the leaves with Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer. Here are complete instructions on how I successfully killed all my unwanted elm trees.

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Joseph OBrien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

How To Kill SMALL Elm Trees

You might have noticed that elm trees throw out thousands of seeds each year. When these seeds land they start growing. Killing all my unwanted small elm trees is something that I have to do every year at my rental.

It’s not bad if they start growing in the lawn because the mower seems to do the job. The trees that start growing next to a bush or in the fence are the ones that become the problem. Even just one year of growth can make it take more drastic measures to get rid of them.

With 4 large Chinese Elm trees that I intend on keeping for shade, I have had to find the best way to get rid of a lot of small elm trees fast. What I found works the best is Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer.

I just follow the instructions for mixing one gallon in a small sprayer and that is more than enough to get the job done. An herbicide like Round Up or Killzall would work as well. Use that if you already have some concentrate on hand.

I quickly go from tree to tree spraying all the leaves. I am able to kill all the small trees on my property in about 30 minutes. Within a few days, you will start to see the leaves dry and fall off. And later it will completely die.

You could try pulling them by hand after a good rain storm. The problem with pulling them is if you leave much of the root in the ground a new tree will grow. The fastest and most reliable way to kill small elm trees is to spray the leaves.

What I have found is that if an elm tree is larger than about 4 feet, spraying the leaves like this won’t completely kill the tree. It will kill the branches but next year you will see new branches shooting up next to the dead ones. If your trees are larger, then keep reading because here is what I had to do to get rid of them.

How To Kill LARGE Elm Trees

Its kind of funny but I posted a video on Youtube on the 5 Best Ways To Kill A Trees and each method I described in the video didn’t work. A couple months later I was surprised to see the trees I killed in the video were still alive and well.

At the time of writing this, the video has over 55K views. Sorry people who watched my video.

Since then I have done a lot of research and found what ACTUALLY kills elm trees. I will tell you right now its not salt, roundup, copper nails, or all the other crazy ideas you will read about online.

After surveying a bunch of arborists (people who kill trees for a living) I found that the most common product they used to kill resilient trees like elms is called Tordon.

Here are the steps to successfully kill large elm trees so they will never come back.

1. Cut the elm tree down to a stump.

If your elm tree is under 15 feet tall then go ahead and just whack it down. For larger elm trees you can start by cutting the lowest branches working your way up the tree and then work your way down cutting the trunk in manageable pieces until you are left with a stump.

If you plan on pulling the stump out with a vehicle then leave the stump longer so you can wrap a rope or chain around it. If you plan on grinding it or really removing the stump in any other way then cut it as close to the ground as you can.

2. Treat the Stump with Tordon.

The key here is to be ready to immediately treat the stump as soon as you cut it down. Even waiting 30 minutes can decrease any tree killers effectiveness.

Make sure you are wearing protective clothing like a long sleeve shirt and pants. Be sure to use chemical resistant gloves because you don’t want to get Tordon on your skill. It will turn you into an Umpa Lumpa…or a smurf…just kidding.

I read Tordon’s Toxicity Rating and it said it was “of moderate toxicity to the eyes and only mildly toxic on the skin.” I don’t want you or I to be the 10-year human test study. What?! Mercury is bad for humans? Just be safe.

You don’t need to treat the whole stump just the outer ring, just inside the bark. Pop the top and treat the tree.

Let it sit for 3 to 5 days just to be sure it is completely dead before removing the stump.

There are a few other ways you can treat an elm tree that will completely kill it. Tordon is just the easiest and fastest that I have found.

Will Roundup kill an elm tree? 

Roundup will only kill an elm tree if you mix a few other ingredients. You need a surfactant and Ammonium Sulfate. You can get the recipe I found from the Utah Ag Extension in my article on how to kill a tree stump.

Gordons Stump Killer

Gordons Stump Killer will kill an elm tree but I read a review that said it will kill other trees in proximity and it’s harder to find.

Seal The Stump

I just talked to a guy who said he has killed his elm trees by sealing the top of the stump with plastic. He said it worked for him but I personally haven’t tried this yet. So if you are looking for a natural way to kill an elm tree try this out.

3. Remove the stump.

There are several ways to remove a tree stump. The quickest but most expensive is to rent a stump grinder and grind the stump. If you have a lot of stumps this may be worth the investment.

If you are looking for cheap ways to remove the stump then you can remove the stump by hand by digging and cutting the roots until you can pull it out.

Depending on the size of your elm tree you could try pulling the stump out with a vehicle or tractor. You may still need to dig it out a bit to cut some of the larger roots.

You can burn the stump by making it a Swedish candle or using a burn barrel.

I tried to decompose a stump using Epsom salts and covering it with a tarp but that didn’t work. I saw a Youtube video where a woman did this and she said it works but it didn’t work for me. My stump was still really hard many months later.

My last idea is to make your stump a fairy garden. Fairy gardens are the rage these days. This might not work so well if the stump is in your fence.

Those are all the steps I have successfully used to completely kill my and remove my elm trees. Now, what should you do with all the wood?

Don’t throw it away!

What To Do With Your Elm Tree Wood

The last thing you should do is throw your elm tree wood away. Here are a few things you can use it for that hopefully convinces you to keep it.

#1 Firewood

The least you can do is chop all your wood into nice firewood. Elm is a very dense wood and burns for a long time. If you don’t have a fire pit you can let your kid sell it and make some money.

#2 Hugelkultur Raised Bed

Basically, you bury the wood in a mound and then you can plant your garden or other trees on top. When you bury the wood it acts like a sponge, holding tons of moisture. Once your plants mature you won’t need to water them much. I have even seen this done in raised grow boxes.

Put a bunch of wood in the bottom and fill the rest with soil and compost and you will have the most amazing raised garden grow bed that will take way less water.

#3 Natural Playground

I kept my large logs and used them as a border for my kids’ sandbox. But you could also do a lot of other fun things with the logs that your kids or grandkids can play on. Just google natural playground and you will see loads of great ideas for using all your logs.

Well, I hope I convinced you. At least now you know exactly how to kill an elm tree successfully.

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