How to Kill Tree Roots in Yard

While essential for tree health and stability, tree roots can sometimes become a nuisance in our lawns and gardens. They can disrupt the structure of our landscapes, damage foundations, and interfere with other underground utilities. There comes a time when the only solution is to kill and remove these invasive roots. This guide will explore the reasons for removing tree roots, how to prepare for this task, and five effective methods to accomplish it safely and efficiently.

Preparing Your Land for Root Removal:

Before you begin killing your tree roots, it’s crucial to have the right tools on hand. Essential tools include spades, hoes, saws, and loppers for manual removal. Also, gather materials like rock salt or Epsom salt for chemical methods. Preparing your land involves:

  1. Identifying the roots that need removal.
  2. Clearing the area around these roots to ensure easy access and minimal disturbance.
  3. Assess the potential impact on your lawn or garden and plan for post-removal restoration.

Five Methods to Kill Tree Roots:

Manual Removal

Manual removal is a hands-on approach, ideal for smaller root systems. Here’s how to proceed:

  • Exposing the Roots: Start by digging around the base of the stump to expose the roots.
  • Loosening and Cutting: Use a spade or hoe to pry the roots loose. For larger roots, employ a power saw or lopper to make cutting easier.
  • Removal: Gently pull up the roots from the ground, ensuring complete removal.

Rock Salt Method

Rock salt is an effective way to dehydrate and rot the roots. Follow these steps:

  • Drilling Holes: Drill holes into the stump or the large roots.
  • Filling with Salt: Fill these holes with rock salt, then add water to help the salt penetrate.
  • Repeating the Process: Repeat every two weeks until the roots wither, then remove them by hand.

Herbicide Application

Glyphosate-based herbicides can effectively kill roots. Use this method cautiously:

  • Preparation: Saturate the stump and roots with water.
  • Applying Herbicide: Dilute the herbicide as directed and apply it thoroughly over the stump and roots.
  • Waiting Period: Wait for two weeks for the herbicide to take effect, then manually remove the dead roots.

Stump Grinder Usage

A stump grinder is a powerful tool for dealing with larger stumps and roots:

  • Grinding the Stump: Use the grinder to break down the stump and adjacent roots into small pieces.
  • Depth Limitation: Grind down to about 6 to 8 inches below ground level.
  • Final Removal: The remaining roots can be treated chemically or removed manually.

Root Pruning

Root pruning is a selective method used for living, healthy trees:

  • Consultation with an Arborist: Before attempting, consult a professional arborist for guidance.
  • Cutting Near the Tree: Carefully cut the roots near the tree, ensuring they are outside the tree’s drip line.
  • Post-Care: Special care of the tree is necessary after cutting its roots to ensure its health and stability.


Killing and removing tree roots can be challenging but necessary to protect your property and maintain a beautiful landscape. These methods will help you effectively deal with invasive roots. After removal, consider soil treatment, reseeding, and replanting to restore your lawn or garden. Always check for utilities before digging and consult professionals for large or complex root systems.

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