How to Kill a Tree Without Cutting It Down?

There are a lot of reasons why you would want to kill a tree, maybe the species is invasive, or the roots are damaging your property. Cutting down a tree might not always be an option. There is no need to worry though, there are plenty of ways to kill a tree without needing to cut it down. Let’s take a look.

If you are dealing with a small, shrub-sized tree, the Foliar Spray method or Basal Bark treatment would be the ideal choice. On the other hand, for larger trees, Girdling, Chemical Injection Method, and Cut Surface Treatment are the most efficient methods.

killing trees without cutting them down

What Is the Best Way to Kill A Tree Without Cutting It Down?

The ideal method for killing a tree without cutting it down will differ depending on the size of the tree you are dealing with.

  • For Shrub-sized tree, or bush use foliar spray technique
  • For trees with a diameter less than six inches use basal bark treatmen
  • For medium to large sized trees use cut surface treatment, chemical injection or ringbarking

How to Kill A Small Tree Without Cutting It Down?

The two most ideal methods for killing a small tree are:

Foliar Spray Method

Keep in mind that you can only use this method if the foliage of the tree is accessible using a backpack sprayer. This method is most effective during calm and hot weather.

To kill a tree you need an effective herbicide. A lot of times roundup is recommended, but Triclopyr 4 is more effective. (Amazon affiliate link) Other than a suitable herbicide, you will need a backpack sprayer.

Make sure you are wearing protective gear while spraying the herbicide. Also, ensure that there is no wind while you are spraying as the herbicide will be carried away potentially hurting surrounding wanted plants and trees.

  1. Use an effective herbicide like Roundup, Tricoplyr 4 or Ohto Brush Killer. (Recommended products here) You can also add some type of a dye to the herbicide to mark the trees which have been treated.
  2. Spray the foliage or the leaves of the tree with the herbicide. Make sure you spray it from all the angles to increase its effectivity.
  3. The herbicide will be absorbed by the leaves and transported to the roots, effectively killing the tree over time.

Basal Bark Treatment

Basal bark treatment is another effective method for killing smaller trees. Keep in mind that this method is only effective on trees with trunks smaller than 6 inches in diameter

For this method, other than a herbicide, you will need a portable sprayer and an oil-based solvent.

Triclopyr4 from Amazon is some of the best options you can go for. Ideally, you should look for herbicides that have Trycloper or Trycloper Ester as the main ingredient.

You can use diesel, basal oil, fuel oil, or kerosene as a solvent. The ideal proportion for mixing should be 1 part herbicide and 4-part solvent, so about 20-25% concentration. Some herbicides like ‘Pathfinder II’ can be used without needing to be mixed with anything but these tend to be more expensive.

  1. Once you have the solution, spray the bottom 20-24 inches of the tree with it and let it get absorbed.
  2. For invsive, hard to kill species, repeat this process a few times for better absorption.
  3. To ensure maximum absorption, make sure the tree is dry and remove any flaky bark beforehand

How to Kill A Large Tree Without Cutting It Down?

Some of the most effective methods for killing a large tree are:

Chemical Injection method

For performing this method, you will need a drill and a herbicide to go along with it.

Make sure that you have taken all the safety precautions before handling the chemical.

  1. Drill 2-3-inch-deep holes into the trunk, base or roots of the tree.
  2. Fill or spray these holes with a herbicide like Tordon RTU and let it get absorbed.
  3. Repeat the process after few weeks if you do not see any visual signs of the tree dying.

Cut Surface Treatment

This method is very similar to the chemical injection method. The only point of difference is that instead of using a drill to make holes, you can use an ax or chainsaw to make deep gashes into the trunk of the tree.

Spray or pour the herbicide into these gashes and let it get absorbed completely.


Girdling is one of the most efficient and easy-to-use methods for killing trees.

You will need a hatchet, and a chainsaw to get the job done.

  1. Remove a ring of bark around the circumference of the tree, make it about 4 inches wide.
  2. And that’s it! For extra measure you can spray some herbicide along the exposed bark.

While removing a ring of bark ensure that a ring of Phloem is removed as well. It is located right under the bark. The Phloem is responsible for transporting sugars and amino acids from the leaves to the rest of the tree. This will end up starving the roots and subsequently the entire tree to death.

This method is one of the oldest ones in the book. However, it can take up to a couple of years to be effective without the use of herbicides.

Some Alternative Methods for Killing Trees

Other than the above methods, you can also use some alternative methods to get the job done.

You can salt or Epsom salt instead of a herbicide with the chemical injection method to get the job done. Using a herbicide will be more effective.

You can also use copper nails to kill a tree, although they will be effective on smaller trees and still will take a really long time to see results.

Some people claim that bleach can be used to kill trees, but in reality, it only stunts the growth of a tree. Another option is to use Homemade tree and stump killer.

What Chemicals Can You Use to Kill A Tree?

It’s very important to choose the right herbicides otherwise the tree might not completely die, or they might take very long to die.

For example, Ortho brush and weed killer, Tryicloper, and Tordon from Amazon are some of the best options you can go for. (Affiliate links) But some of these herbicides are most effective with some specific species.  

A roundup of Glyphosate on the other hand is more versatile, they can be used on a large variety of species.

What’s the Fastest Way to Kill A Tree Without Cutting It Down?

The fastest way to kill a tree other than cutting it down would be to use a couple of methods in conjunction with each other.

For example, you can use the chemical Injection method along with cut surface treatment and girdling to speed up the process.

The time it will take for a tree to die will also depend on the size, age, and type of tree you are dealing with.

What Will Kill the Trees Quickly?

If you want to kill a tree quickly, Tordon RTU is considered to be one of the fastest tree killers out there. Even arborists prefer to use it over other, industrial herbicides.

You can also use Tordon with Chemical Injection Method, Cut Surface Treatment, and Girdling to speed up the processes.

If you want to kill a tree in a more subtle way, you can inject Tordon directly into the roots of your tree, and it will be just as effective.


You can kill a small tree without cutting it down using the Foliar Spray method or Basal Bark treatment. For larger trees, you can use Girdling, Chemical Injection method, and Cut Surface treatment. Alternatively, you can also use salt, Epsom salt, copper nails, or vinegar to get the job done.

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