How To Kill Tree Roots

Trees are essential in shaping your home landscape. They provide shade and a habitat for birds and other animals. However, they can become a nuisance once the web of roots starts outgrowing the tree’s location.

The root system tends to spread out even after the tree gets cut down. It can cover up to 20 feet or more in the soil. Once you let the roots grow out this deep, they can cause severe damage such as cracks on your house foundation. It could also interfere with your sewer line.

If you are experiencing this in your home yard, you can choose a natural or chemical method to fix the problem. These alternatives vary depending on how extensive the root development is. Let’s dive into some of these solutions.

1. Chemical Methods

Chemical products are popular tree root killers. Homeowners depend on them because they tend to work faster. However, as much as they are effective, they could cause other issues if not handled properly.

When using chemical treatments, keep them away from your children and pets. Also, protect yourself with the proper protective gear. Here are chemical methods you can use.

Use Bleach

You can kill the tree roots using bleach from your home. Start by exposing the roots you need to eliminate. Then, you can use a drill to cut into them.

Using a paintbrush, cover the roots with bleach and fill the exposed holes. This method may take some time and might require you to do it more than once. Also, with multiple applications, the root system will eventually die down.

Use Chemicals to Treat Your Pipes

Overgrown tree roots affect drain pipes, sewer lines, and septic tanks in your home. To remove them, you can use copper sulfate to help clear the problem. For instance, you can flush the chemical down the toilet bowl and let it sit for 8 -12 hours without adding any water. This precaution gives the chemical time to kill the roots.

For your sewage line, you can use foaming herbicides to make to get rid of the roots. The amount differs according to the type of pipe in your home; therefore, always check the label. As a plus, you can hire a plumber to help with the process, especially when dealing with corrosive products.

Use Root Killer Herbicides

Use chemical herbicides as soon as the tree gets cut for fast and effective results. As you shop for a herbicide, go for one that contains a glyphosate concentration of more than 40% or triclopyr amine. Roundup concentrate is a good alternative due to its chemical composition.

You can achieve these results by doing the following:

● Use Herbicides on the Stump

Once the tree is cut, the remaining living tissue remains exposed on the stump. Before mixing the chemicals, wear safety equipment to prevent harmful exposure. It would be best if you had on latex gloves, safety goggles, long-sleeved clothes, and closed shoes.

Mix the glyphosate herbicide solution with water according to the specifications on the label. You can also dilute the concentrate in an equal amount of water.

Then, continue to spray the solution on the exposed cambium layer. For effectiveness, you can use a paintbrush or garden sprayer to apply the herbicide.

The inside of the bark ring has living tissue that will transport the chemical to the tree roots. During this process, make sure you target only the tree location to avoid harming the surrounding grass or other trees.

For your family’s safety, dispose of the application items and herbicide bottles in a designated space for hazardous waste.

● Use Herbicides on the Trunk

You can also target the entire tree by applying the herbicide to the trunk. This technique works as an alternative to cutting down the entire tree.

Homeowners can execute this by chopping wedges on the trunk at an angle. Then using a spray nozzle, directly apply some herbicide in the open cuts.

You could place 1 ml of the chemical or less according to the specified amount for each cut. Within a few weeks, the tree branches and dead wood will start falling off.

You may encounter stubborn trees which require several coats of chemical. In this case, you can continuously make new cuts and repeat the process. After the tree dies off, you can remove the stump with a shovel to prevent the roots from growing back.

● Use the Herbicides on the Suckers

Suckers sprout after you’ve cut down the roots. To prevent new growths, selectively target the suckers with a herbicide that contains glyphosate or triclopyr amine. This process should be well-executed to prevent spraying other plants nearby.

Choosing this procedure may be repetitive, especially if new suckers keep coming up. This is because you have to spray them each time until they can’t survive.

2. Natural Methods

Despite the popularity of tree root killers, you can still choose to use natural methods to eliminate the problem in your yard. Unfortunately, these techniques take longer than chemical products. If you prefer less toxic ways, here are some tips to help you.

● Dig Out the Roots

This method does not affect other plants nearby. However, you will need to commit to a very labor-intensive process with this technique. To remove the roots, you will need to dig the area around them and cut them using a saw.

For a more complicated root system, it might help to dig a trench near the tree. You will need to cut the roots manually every year or more, depending on how aggressive the root system is. Once you dig the trench, you add a barrier that will block the roots from advancing towards your house or driveway to make things easier.

● Clear the Pipes Mechanically

Once the root system completely blocks your sewage lines or drain pipes, a chemical concentrate won’t help much. For this, you can hire a plumber to remove the roots using a mechanical tool. This process unblocks your pipes without causing any environmental harm.

After clearing the pipe, you will need to replace your pipes to prevent any more root growth. In addition, you might need to manually cut off the roots of larger trees to prevent them from getting back to your sewer lines.

● Cut the Tree or Stump

When you cut down your trunk, the roots will continue growing. Therefore, it’s better to remove the entire tree and stump. However, before you go ahead with this, it’s best to research the type of tree species in your yard and how it grows.

Cut the trunk and leave a stump tall enough to grab on when pulling it off the ground. You can then proceed to excavate the area around the stump using a shovel to reveal the roots. Finally, tie the stump to a winch which you will use to pull it out of the ground.

Using a track or another tree as the anchor, pull the stump until it loosens from the ground. With the stump now released, you can cut or pull out any remaining roots. This process ensures that there are no suckers left in the soil. You can now fill up the hole with soil and plant grass or any plant of your choice.

● Use Natural Homemade Herbicides

Homemade alternatives such as vinegar can help in the removal of tree roots. As an organic method, you will need to make multiple applications for it to be effective.

When using this technique, you add undiluted white vinegar to a spray bottle. Thoroughly coat the leaves sprouting from the tree stump with the vinegar.

Using this method works by destroying the leaf growth, which stops transportation of food to the roots. If the tree roots can’t get any nutrients, they automatically die.

● Apply Epsom or Rock Salt

Compared to chemical herbicides, this method takes much longer. However, it’s effective in killing tree roots by denying them water.

To start the process, dig deep holes along the roots. You should then add then the salt to the hole and water on top. Be careful to overfill the holes because this solution is harmful to the nearby vegetation.

This process does not work after one application. You will need to re-do it for several months until there is no new root regrowth. With the subsequent application, the tree roots will eventually die.

● Use a Stump Grinder

Digging out the roots can be quite a challenge. You can use a stump grinder to make the removal process quicker. First, remove any rocks around the tree stump that would interfere with the grinder.

Use the grinder to cut down the stump until the roots get exposed. Then, using a shovel, dig up the tree roots to completely get rid of them.

Once you complete this process, treat the area by either raking or planting grass seed to spark new growth. Besides, you can also cover it using mulch.

● Use a Compost

You can get rid of the roots by killing the tree stump. This process involves building a homemade compost pile on top of the stump. The compost will accelerate the decaying process and kill off the stump.

The lack of nutrients will affect the roots. The more they don’t receive food, the faster they die. You can use this method if your tree’s location is in the backyard and not in a visible area in your home compound.

However, if it’s at the front of your house, you can decoratively use the stump as a flower container. This method also fastens the decomposition process, making it easier to kill off the tree roots.

How to Kill the Tree Roots Without Harming the Tree

Most people would prefer not to lose the entire tree. You can carefully target the tree roots by only cutting and pulling out the troublesome ones. Using a paintbrush, apply the root killer on these roots without touching any roots that are still connected to the tree.


Trees have their benefits to your compound. But we have established that tree roots can be damaging when they encroach other parts of your property.

In addition, cutting the tree is not a permanent solution; the roots can still grow back. Therefore, as a homeowner, you need to understand how far the root system has gone, your type of tree, and which method will work best.

If using chemical herbicides will damage the rest of the vegetation in your yard, it’s better to use natural methods. You can also contact a professional to assist if the problem persists.

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