How to get rid of Elderberry trees?

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Elderberry trees or Sambucus were initially categorized within the Honeysuckle family but were later re-categorized as Adoxaceae. They are a great addition to anybody’s garden for both their aesthetic quality and also their health benefits. Elderberry trees are also known for their fast growth which can also turn into excessive growth.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways to remove your Sambucus as well as kill their root system.

How to kill Elderberry trees?

Although a lot of the Sambucus varieties grow as vines, the Elderberry can reach up to a height of 10-13 feet. When it comes to killing Elderberries, you can choose from a variety of options. Each of them has its pros and cons both in terms of cost and efficiency. Let’s take a look at some of these methods.

  • Foliar Spray: This method is most suitable for smaller trees that are shorter than 14-15 feet. To use this method, simply spray the foliage of the tree with a weed killer of your choice. Make sure there is no wind that day as the chemicals can be carried away by the wind.
  • Cutting the tree down and treating the stump: This tree killing method is one of the oldest and most effective. Once you cut the tree down, depending on the species,there is a chance it might sprout back. Treating it with herbicide like tordon will prevent the tree’s further growth and kill the root system.
  • Gridling or ring barking: To use this method you simply have to remove a strip of bark around the circumference of the tree and treat it with a herbicide of your choice. If you prefer not to use herbicide, make sure the strip of bark is at least 4-6 inches wide. This will cut out any nutrients travelling from roots to the leaves.
  • Basal Bark treatment: To use this method, spray the bottom 20 inches or more with a basal bark rated herbicide.
  • Injecting the tree with killing chemicals: You will need to drill 1-2 inches deep holes along the circumference of the tree at a slight downward angle. After this, simply spray or squeeze in some herbicides into the holes. Diesel can also do the trick in this case.
  • Cut surface treatment: To use this method, make cuts every 2-3 inches of the circumference. Make cuts in the bark deep enough to expose the inner white surface. Then spray the cuts with a chemical like Tordon or Roundup.

It should be noted that even though any of the above methods can be used to kill Elderberry, depending on the location of the tree, it will still have to be taken down later on.

Another thing to note is that even after you kill the tree, you will have to watch out for sprouting. If the stump starts sprouting, it indicates that the tree was not killed completely.

The best way to kill a small Elderberry tree

Usually, a small Sambucus tree only grows up to be a shrub, vine, or a 4-5 feet tree. Besides uprooting the small bush, Foliar Spray would be most suitable here.

The most effective season to use this method is summer and spring as the foliage cover will be high and nutrients are actively flowing through the tree.

  1. Make sure there is no wind during this as the herbicide can get carried away.
  2. Use an effective herbicide like Roundup or Ortho. (Read more about them here)
  3. Spray the foliage or the leaves of the Elderberry with the herbicide.

The herbicide will be absorbed by the leaves and transported to the roots, killing the tree over time.

Alternatively, you can cut the tree down and treat the cambium layer with recommended herbicides like Tordon.

The best way to kill a big Elderberry tree

A mature Sambucus tree only grows up to be about 10-13 feet. Therefore, most of the killing methods will be fast and efficient here. There can be two varieties of Sambucus trees, one where the main bark and base are covered by dense foliage and vines, making it inaccessible, and the other with a clear base or a stump.

For the first variety, the Foliar Spray method as explained above would suffice. The large foliage and lower height will make the killing process fast and efficient. For the second variety, you can go for ringbarking.

Ringbarking would be the easiest, safest, and most efficient method for killing a large Elderberry or Sambucus as it will stop the nutrient flow from the roots to the stems and the leaves, killing the tree over time.

  1. You will need to either get a hatchet, or a chainsaw for this method.
  2. Simply remove a ring of bark around the entire tree.
  3. Spray some recommended herbicides along the exposed bark.

Removing the bark around the tree exposes the cambium layer to external conditions, which itself can be fatal to a tree. By applying herbicide you will increase the chances of killing the tree.

Killing a small Elderberry compared to a big Elderberry – What are the differences?

Usually in other species, some methods of killing trees might just not work with larger trees. But this is usually not the case with Sambucus. This is because the maximum growth of this species is only up to 10 feet. For example, the Foliar Spray method should work with both small and large varieties.

Hire a professional tree removal service

Hiring a professional can take care of a lot of your problems especially if you are dealing with a large tree. Even if Sambucus does not grow up to be very large, its dense foliage and extensive vines can be a pain to deal with. Another factor to keep in mind is that Sambucus can also be invasive, they can start growing rapidly within a short period of time. A professional can make sure that the tree does not sprout back to life.

Take a look at my tree removal cost guide here.

Things to consider while removing a tree on your own

If you are not experienced with killing or removing trees, there are some unexpected challenges that can come your way.

Sambucus trees will start decomposing once they have been killed, which increases their chance of falling down. Even though these are not very large trees, decomposing vines can create a mess.

If you kill the Sambucus tree during its fruiting season, there can also be an extremely bad smell once they start decomposing. This smell can take a very long time to go if it gets into the soil.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Sambucus roots invasive?

Sambucus roots can be invasive if the conditions for their growth are right. They don’t take a lot of time to grow and spread. You will have to be very throughout while removing any new shoots or stems which might start growing during the spring.

Do Sambucus Trees have deep roots?

Luckily, Sambucus trees have shallow roots. This makes the killing and removing process faster and easier.


The easiest method to kill Elderberry trees would be the foliar spray method. The herbicides sprayed on the tree will be absorbed into the leaves, carried to the roots system, slowly but surely killing the whole tree and its root system.

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