When tree roots are growing up out of your lawn, clogging your pipes or lifting up sidewalk it’s nice to be able to kill those roots without killing the tree. Here is how to kill tree roots without killing the tree.
To kill and remove a tree root without killing the tree, first, use a shovel or pick to dig around the root. Cut the root from the tree. Dig and pull out as much of the root as you need. Most tree roots will die if cut, however, some roots will need to be treated with a tree killer. Paint tree killer onto the cut root. Don’t get any tree killer on any roots that are still connected to the tree.
There are many reasons you might need to kill the roots without killing the tree. I am going to explain in detailed steps how to kill tree roots for each of the most common tree root problems without killing the tree.
How To Get Rid Of Roots In Sewer Line and Drain Pipes
Tree roots are notorious for entering pipes and clogging them to get access to the water and nutrients inside. Sewer pipes and drain lines are the most affected. Mainly because they often have openings for roots to enter.
The most permanent solution killing roots in sewer pipes would be to replace them, however, that can be very costly. To temporarily kill tree roots in sewer pipes or drains use a tree root killer like Rootx or Copper Sulfate. Pour it down your toilet or drain and it will kill all the roots in the pipe without killing the rest of the tree.
For more information on the best tree root killers check out my tree root killer guide. If your drain or sewer is completely clogged call a plumber. They can mechanically cut the roots out to unblock your pipes. Treat with a tree root killer after because often cutting roots will onset rapid regrowth.
Even though the roots in the sewer or drain pipe will be gone, the openings for more roots are still there. So you will need to continue to treat your pipes every year to continue to kill roots growing in your sewer or drains.
Many old sewer and drain pipes used to be made with materials that break down and corrode over time like clay and cast iron. Installing new sewer pipes shouldn’t allow roots to enter if properly installed.
How To Get Rid Of Tree Roots In Yard and Lawn
There is nothing more annoying than a tree root sticking out of your lawn. It looks bad and it could damage your lawn mower. The reason roots do this is that they are trying to get access to all the water at the surface from your sprinklers.
A more permanent solution would be to plant a raised flower bed around the tree but you can remove the root as well.
If you’ll rather have that root gone then use a shovel or pick to dig around the root. Cut the root from the tree. Dig and pull out as much of the root as is sticking out of the ground.
Once cut most tree roots will die, however, some roots will need to be treated with a tree killer. You can see a list of trees that need to be treated and ones that don’t here.
Treat trees like poplars, elms, and cottonwoods with a tree killer to prevent a new tree from growing.
Paint the root with a tree killer like Tordon onto the cut root. Make sure not to get any tree killer on any roots that are still connected to the tree. Common herbicides like roundup will not work.
Replace the dirt and grass and you shouldn’t have to worry about a root in your lawn for at least a couple years.
How To Kill Tree Roots Lifting Driveway, Sidewalk, and Pavers
Trees planted next to a driveway or sidewalk will almost always lift and crack the cement. It’s a shame to kill the tree but that may be your best option. You can cut the root so it won’t do further damage and I will explain how to do that below.
If the best option is to kill the tree before you do plant some trees further away from the driveway or sidewalk. Once they are grown you can cut down the tree that is causing problems.
The best way to get rid of tree roots that are lifting up your driveways it to cut them from the tree. Dig a trench next to where your driveway or sidewalk is getting lifted. Cut the roots doing the damage. This will prevent further damage to your driveway for a least a couple years until a new root grows back.
One way to prevent the tree root from growing back in the same place would be to get some hardibacker board or cement board. Place it as a barrier next to your concrete where the root was going under the cement.
That way the root will have to go under the board. This may not be a permanent solution but it should buy you more time from that root growing back under you cement.
Applying a tree killer to the root is not necessary. Getting your driveway back to normal is going to be really difficult and you may want to just leave it as is or hire a professional concrete lifter. You could cut out the concrete and re-pour new cement. Honestly, that may be the best way to fix the damaged area.
When tree roots are lifting pavers then you can pull up the pavers and just re-level the ground and replace the pavers. Unless the root is at the surface, then you will need to dig out the root cut it from the tree and replace the pavers.
How To Stop Trees From Sending Up Shoots
Aspens, Poplars, Cottonwoods and Elms are the worst I know of for sending up shoots in your lawn. Getting rid of them will very for each type. Most trees will send up shoots when the tree is under stress.
The best and first method is to make sure your tree is getting adequate water, sun, and nutrients. There are some products that say they will stop suckers from sprouting in your lawn. Be very careful about using those products because they may kill your tree and I am doubtful they are effective.
Most arborists will recommend the best way to get rid of tree suckers in your lawn is to just cut them with pruners. But let’s be real a mower is way faster.
Aspens are some of the largest living organisms in the world. They are one tree all connected at the roots. If you use an herbicide you may risk killing the large aspen trees in your yard. That only really leaves you with two options. You can dig up and remove roots or just mow your lawn every week to keep them down.
My cousin just spent hours digging up some of his aspen roots that were sending up shoots. He found that it just stimulated rapid regrowth and he had the same problem after a couple months.
The best solution for getting rid of aspen shoots in your yard is to just keep them mowed. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear. Unless you want to completely get rid of your aspen trees that’s the only real option.
Poplars & Cottonwoods
Poplars and cottonwoods are very closely related trees. They both send out seeds and send up shoots from their roots. The safest way to kill suckers shooting up in your yard without killing the main tree is to just cut them with pruning shears.
It is hard to tell if they are growing from a seed or from the roots. Your best option is to just use pruning shears. I have read reviews where someone used a tree killer to kill one of his cottonwood trees and all the rest died.
Needless to say, he was pretty heartbroken. So be careful unless you don’t care if your other poplars and cottonwoods die as well.
I have a ton of elms in my yard and they are constantly sending out seeds. The nice part is they don’t usually send up suckers from their roots. So you are free to kill them with chemicals.
It’s defiantly quickest to just mow the ones that are popping in your lawn. Any that you miss you can spray with an herbicide. Just mix and spray the leaves. I mix a gallon of an herbicide in a sprayer and am quickly able to kill all the elm tree sprouts that I missed with the mower. In a couple weeks they will completely die.
Cut down and treat elm trees larger than about 4 feet with a tree killer that works like Tordon or 2-4-D.
That’s how you get rid of tree roots without killing the tree. Whether you have tree roots growing in and clogging your sewer pipes, lifting up your driveway or cumbering your lawn you should know the best way for how to kill tree roots without killing the tree.