How to Kill A Tree Using Salt?

Salt is arguably the most common household product; you can find it almost anywhere. A lot of people have also been using salt to kill trees. But is it really effective and what is the correct method of using it?

Salt can be used to kill trees by using an injection technique. Drill 2-3-inch-deep holes into the trunk, stump, or roots of the tree and fill the holes with salt. Pour water slowly into the salt-filled holes to ease the absorption. Alternatively, you can make a saltwater solution and pour it directly into the holes.

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killing trees with salt and how to

How Does Salt Kill A Tree?

A lot of people are surprised when they hear that salt can be used to kill trees. But it is actually true and there is a scientific explanation for this.

Although salt in small amounts is not only good but also essential for the growth of a tree, when used in excess, the salt ions end up preventing the flow of magnesium and potassium through the root system. These elements are essential to the growth of the tree and without them, the tree will end up dying over time.

As a matter of fact, ‘salting the earth‘ was used by the ancient soldiers to prevent the enemy to grow any plants or vegetation.

What Trees Can Be Killed Using Salt?

Although most species are affected by excess salt, potassium and magnesium both are essential nutrients for a tree’s growth. Some species can be more resistant to salt when compared to others.

For example, Russian Olive Trees can handle saline conditions much better when compared to species such as Douglas Fir.

As another example, small Poplar and Sweet bay trees can be killed using salt at a young age. Though salt is not as effective as using herbicides.

Make sure to check which species you are dealing with and whether you will require more salt to get the results.

How to Correctly Use Salt to Kill A Tree?

For the first method, you will need a drill.

  1. Drill holes into the trunk, stump or roots of the tree at a downwards angle.
  2. The holes should be 2-3 inches deep and make as many holes as you can around the entire circumfence.
  3. Fill each of these holes with salt, leaving about a small cap from the surface.
  4. Once filled with salt, slowly pour water into these holes, make sure it doesn’t overflow.

Using water will soften the salt and aid in its absorption.

The second method which you can use is to make a salt-water solution.

Mix 2 cups of water with 1 cup of salt, if you think you can add more salt, and it will effectively dissolve in the water then go for it.

Pour this solution near the roots of the tree, if the roots are visible, you can pour it directly on them as well.

You can also use this solution to fill the holes if you have a drill. If you do not have a drill, you can use an ax to slash deep gashes into the trunk of the tree, and then saturate the gashes.

Although the second method is a good alternative, it should be noted that drilling the holes will give you much better results.

Here is an article on how to make tree-killing solutions.

How Much Salt Do You Need to Kill A Tree?

The growth stage of the tree will also affect how much salt will you need to effectively kill it. A tree that is in its initial stages of growth is much more sensitive to salt and other chemicals. For such trees, you will need to use much lower quantities of salt when compared to mature trees.

If you are dealing with a small plant, then you only need to perform the above method 2-3 times for effective results.

If you are dealing with a larger tree, then you need to repeat the injection process every couple of weeks until seeing any results. To effectively kill a large tree, it can take around 2-4 lbs of salt.

What Kind of Salt Kills Trees?

You can use the most common varieties of salt to get the job done. Rock salt, Table salt, sea salt are excellent choices. Even Epsom Salt is a suitable tree killer (although technically not a salt).

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Kill A Tree with Salt?

This can depend on a lot of factors. Small plants and trees can die within a couple of months while larger trees can take up to a year.

Do Salt and Vinegar Kill Tree Stumps?

Yes, a combination of salt and vinegar can be used to kill small plants and grass. But vinegar is not as effective on medium to large size trees.

Is Salt an Effective Method for Killing Trees?

Although salt can be used to effectively kill small to medium-sized trees, it is recommended to use commercial herbicides to efficiently kill large trees. Herbicides will get the job done faster while requiring smaller quantities of it.


The best method to use salt to kill a tree is by applying it directly into the cambium layer of the tree. This can be achieved by drilling 2-3 inches deep holes into the tree and filling the holes with a salt-water solution. Repeat the process every couple of weeks until you see results.

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