What Kills Trees Quickly? (5 Best Ways)

I own a couple of rental properties where I always have weed trees growing up in the fences, flower beds, and next to the house.

With limited time it’s great to know what kills trees quickly. Here is what I have found to be the most effective and fastest way to kill trees.

The size of the tree will determine the fastest way to kill it. If the tree your killing is under 4 feet you can use a general brush killer. Just spray the leaves and the trees will die. This works well if you have weed trees popping up everywhere. For larger trees, cut them down and immediately treat the stump with a Tordon. It’s the most effective tree killer. Depending on the tree you may only need to remove the tree.

More explanation to follow.

What Kills Trees Quickly, How To Kill a tree fast, Fastest way to kill a tree

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5 Fastest Ways To Kill Trees

I have briefly explained the fastest way to kill a tree but depending on the type of tree you are trying to kill may warrant a different approach. Here are the fastest and most effective ways to kill trees large and small.

To create better content and resources to help you kill and remove trees please tell me a little about your situation in this ONE Question Survey and recieve 50% off any future tools and resources…from Steven Cooper.

Spray Trees

At one of my rentals, I have large Chinese Elm trees. The shade is great but they put off loads of seeds and every year. As a result, I get baby elm trees popping up everywhere. The best approach I have used is to spray them with an herbicide like Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer. Roundup or Killzall would work as well. I mix it in a gallon sprayer and go to town. Quickly spray all the leaves and that’s it. All your weed trees should die pretty fast. I found that trees larger than about 4 feet won’t die by just spraying the leaves. That takes cutting it down to a stump and treating the stump like I will describe below.

Cut and Remove Tree

If your tree is not a weed tree you may only need to cut it down. Some of the most common trees like pine, palm, oak, and maple don’t need any chemicals to kill them and will die by just cutting and removing them. I made a list of the most common trees with pictures to identify the ones that need to be treated and the ones that don’t. You can check that out here.

Best Chemical Tree Killer

I wanted to figure out what the professionals used to kill trees. The most popular and recommended tree killer used by arborists is called Tordon. Simply apply Tordon to a freshly cut stump (within 30 min)and Tordon will kill even the hardiest of trees. My neighbor hired an arborist to cut down and kill two massive Elm trees in his front yard. Elms are some of the hardiest trees and Tordon did the job. Within a few days, both trees were completely dead. For more steps, pictures, and info on how to kill a tree with Tordon and other chemicals in my article on How To Kill A Tree.

Seal Stump with Plastic

I went to buy a pig this morning the owner told me an awesome natural way to kill a tree. He said he has effectively killed his elm trees by cutting the tree to a stump and sealing the top of the stump with plastic. I would suggest using a heavy-duty black plastic. Place the plastic over the top of the stump and secure it with a tie-down, rope, or Bungie. I haven’t tried this method myself yet but he said he has effectively killed Chinese Elm trees which are some of the most resilient trees.

Call An Arborist

This is a no-brainer but really what is your time worth? How many Saturdays do you want to give up to cut and remove your own trees? After reading the methods I have listed above it may be worth hiring a professional to come to kill and remove your tree. After killing and removing several trees myself it always amazes me at how long it takes when you don’t have all the right equipment.

For the fastest and easiest way to get a few free quotes from local professionals in your area I highly recommend HomeAdvisor. It’s fast and free!

The nice part about having an arborist kill your tree is you know it will be done right and you won’t have to worry about damaging any property when you cut down and remove the tree. An arborist will have all the right equipment for safely bringing the tree down, chipping the branches which are awesome for the garden or keeping weeds down in your yard and they can remove the wood and stump so you don’t have to worry about it.

What Doesn’t Kill Trees Quickly

There are a lot of ideas on how to kill a tree on the internet. Many of which I have tried and they didn’t work on my Chinese Elms. It may work on your tree but regardless these take a long time to completely kill. Here are a few methods that I would avoid if you’re trying to kill a tree fast. I am convinced that the methods listed below worked for people because their tree was already killed by just cutting it down. They may work but they didn’t work for me.


I followed all the steps. I cut my tree down to a stump, drilled holes all over the stump and filled with salt and water. Then I covered with a tarp and rocks. The tree stump is still alive. I have read where people continued to lift up the tarp and add water to the stump every week for several months which killed the tree but seriously,”Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Copper Nails

I haven’t personally tried this yet but everything that I have read says it takes over a year to kill the tree. Definitely not the fastest way to kill a tree. Basically, you buy copper nails and nail them around the trunk of the tree. The copper will leach into the tree and slowly kill it after a year or so.


Girdling a tree is where you cut out a ring of bark around the tree. This works well on pine trees, oaks, maples, and trees you wouldn’t need to poison. Girldiling was a method used by Native Americans and Homesteaders to create a reserve of dry dead wood for burning and building their homes. Today it is not practical to girdle a tree the better method would be to just cut it down and remove the tree. I tried girdling on of my Chinese Elms and it did die above where I girdled the tree but below kept sending out shoots.

Diesel & Motor Oil

I have read where people have used diesel or motor oil to kill a tree. I haven’t tried this myself yet but I don’t think it would kill my elms. After cutting your tree to a stump you cover the top with diesel or motor oil and that is supposed to kill a tree.

**I don’t recommend this because I have recently learned that using Diesel like this is very illegal and it doesn’t work.

2 More Fast Tree Killers

I didnt mention above other chemicals that work for killing trees effectively because weighing out all the positive and negatives Tordon is my first choice. Thats why I recommended it first. There are several other tree killers that work well for killing trees quickly.

Homemade Tree Killer

Roundup or Killzall by itself won’t kill the most resilient trees but by mixing a few other chemicals it will do the job every time. Here is the recipe I picked up from the University of Utah Agriculture Extension.

Each of these ingredients needs to be used in their concentrated forms. Add and mix them into a small container like a glass jar.

Mix these ingredients and apply with a paintbrush to the cambium layer, just inside the bark. Treat immediately upon cutting the tree down. The tree will begin healing itself right away so to have the greatest effect apply within 30 minutes.

You don’t need to paint the whole stump only the outer cambium ring. Unless you already have most of these chemicals on hand it is cheaper to just buy Tordon.

Gordon’s Stump Killer

Gordon’s Stump Killer also works to kill trees quickly however in reading the reviews it looks like it may kill surrounding trees and bushes as well. So if you decide to use this product make sure you don’t mind killing any trees within a 40-foot radius from your tree. I haven’t used it myself but I have read reviews saying it works well. To kill a tree with Gordon’s Stump Killer you would follow the same steps as you would use with Tordon or the homemade roundup mixture. Cut the tree down to a stum and apply it to the outer ring of the tree. Let it sit for a few days and then you are good to remove the stump.

I hope this answers your question of What Kills Trees Quickly. I tried to think of every scenario where you might need to kill a tree fast so hopefully, this article was the solution to your tree situation.

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