How to get rid of a Sweet Bay Tree?

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Sweet Bay or Magnolia Virginiana belongs to the Magnolia family and can be categorized as both evergreen and deciduous depending on the region it is located in. This species is usually used as an ornamental tree because of its clean-looking foliage and the beautiful white-colored scented flowers. They can grow up to about 100 feet tall and are considered to be fast-growing.

Let’s take a look at how you can kill Sweet Bay and the tree’s root system.

How to Kill Sweet Bay Trees?

Some of the most popular killing methods are:

  • Foliar Spray
  • Cutting the tree down and treating the stump with Herbicides
  • Gridling or ring barking
  • Basal Bark treatment
  • Injecting the tree with killing chemicals
  • Cut surface treatment

All of the above methods have their own pros and cons, if you wish to learn more about them then make sure to go through my more detailed article about killing trees.

The best way to kill a small Sweet Bay tree

A small Magnolia Virginiana is considered to be up to 10 feet tall. Their root system is widespread and can damage nearby property if it is planted near a house.

The preferred method here would be the Foliar Spray method.

Alternatively, you can also simply cut down the tree and treat the stump with a herbicide like Tordon RTU or Roundup to kill the root system and prevent further growth quickly.

This product can be a good option for stump treatment.

Foliar Spray Method

First of all, wear protective gear and make sure there is no wind while performing the foliar spray method as the herbicide will get carried away in windy conditions.

Secondly, the method is the most effective if the herbicide is sprayed on dry leaves. In short, foliar sprays should be used in nice calm weather when the leaves of the Bay tree are dry.

  1. For this method, you will need a backpack sprayer and a herbicide to go along with it.
  2. Use an effective herbicide like Roundup, Ortho, or Triclopyr. (More info about herbicides here)
  3. Add some type of a dye to the herbicide to mark the trees which have been treated. This will come in handy if you have to kill multiple trees.
  4. Spray the foliage or the leaves of the Magnolia Virginiana with the herbicide. With this species, it will take multiple coatings of the herbicide.
  5. The herbicide will be absorbed by the leaves and transported to the roots, slowly killing the tree and the root system.

If the tree in your region is deciduous in nature and you want to kill it when it doesn’t have any foliage cover, the easiest method would be to simply cut it down.

The best way to kill a large Sweet Bay tree

A large Magnolia Virginiana can grow to about 100 feet tall. The trunk of this tree is divided into multiple thinner trunks right from the base.

The preferred method for the small Bay tree would be the chemical injection method.

Chemical Injection Method

  1. You will need a drill and a herbicide for this method.
  2. Drill holes, 2-3 inches deep along the circumference of the tree, about 2-3 feet above the ground. The angle of the holes has to be downward.
  3. Inject a strong concentarted herbicide like Roundup or Tordon RTU into these holes and let it absorb. This is the recoomended herbicide by professionals. (Amazon affiliate link)
  4. After about an hour, inject more herbicide into these holes to increase the efficiency of this method.

Drill holes and apply herbicide to each of the separate trunks.

What is the best time to kill a Magnolia Virginiana?

If the tree is Deciduous in nature, then you should kill it once all the leaves have fallen down. On the other hand, if the tree is evergreen in nature, you can effectively kill the Bay tree all year round.

Should you hire a professional tree removal service?

If your Magnolia Virginiana is young and small, you can manage to get it done by yourself. On the other hand, if the tree is big, it can get quite tricky. Alternative ways to remove a small tree.

From killing trees to getting them cut down and transported, there are a lot of factors to consider. Hiring a professional will take care of most of these problems. Professional service providers will also consult you, and in some cases even help you fix the damage that the roots have caused to your property.

Take a look at my tree removal cost guide article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you kill a Sweet Bay without cutting it down?

Yes, you can kill this species without cutting it down. The preferred method to kill a Bay tree would be to use the Foliar Spray method for smaller trees, and the chemical injection method for larger trees.

Can you kill Magnolia Virginiana using salt?

Although salt can damage the Bay tree, it will be nearly impossible to completely kill an established Sweet Bay tree with salt. Using salt to kill trees is more effective on young trees, smaller than 10 feet,

Can you pour herbicide directly on the roots to kill Magnolia Virginiana?

Pouring herbicides directly on the roots is not recommended method for killing Sweet Bay. The preferred method would be to drill holes or make cuts on the roots and then pour the herbicide into the damaged area.


To kill a small Magnolia Virginiana the Foliar Spray method would be the best option. For mature trees, it is recommended to use the chemical injection method. Alternatively, you can cut down the tree and treat the stump with herbicide.

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