What Kills Trees Quickly?

Removing unwanted trees can be a big task, especially for people who are not experienced with the process. On top of this, you might want to remove a tree as quickly as possible and with all of the different techniques and herbicides out there, it can get confusing as to which one will get the job done the fastest. While some methods are more effective, they can take a lot of time to get the job done.

The fastest way to kill trees would be through cutting or uprooting them. Alternatively, Herbicides such as Roundup, Tordon and Relegate are some of the most efficient chemicals for killing trees quickly. You can apply them through various methods like Foliar Spray girdling or basal bark treatment depending on the size of the tree.

what kills trees quickly

Which Herbicides Are Best for Killing Trees Quickly?

Using the right herbicide can make a very big difference when it comes to killing trees efficiently.

Triclopyr, Ortho, and Tordon RTU (Amazon affiliate links) are some of the best options you can go for. Some of these herbicides are plant-specific, which means that they cannot be used on all varieties of trees.

Roundup and Ortho on the other hand are more versatile, they can be used on a large variety of species. The effects on the soil also don’t last for very long and in general, it is considered to be better for the environment when compared to the other herbicides.

How Should the Herbicides Be Used to Quickly Kill Trees?

Picking the right herbicide is only half the job done, knowing how to use them correctly is also very important. Depending on the size of the tree, the technique you end up using can vary.

How to Use the Herbicides on Small Trees?

The two most common methods used on small trees are the Foliar Spray method and Basal Bark Treatment.

Foliar Spray Method

Keep in mind that this method is only applicable if your sprayer can reach the tree’s foliage. Anything above 10 feet tall will be difficult.

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

Make sure there is no wind during this as the herbicide can get carried away. The leaves of the tree should not have water, frost, or snow on them before spraying the chemicals for maximizing absorption.

The best time to apply the herbicide would be when the tree is actively growing and in sunny, warm weather.

Make sure you are taking all the safety precautions before spraying the chemicals.

  1. Use an effective herbicide like Roundup, or Tricoplyr.
  2. Spray the foliage or the leaves of the tree with the herbicide.
  3. The herbicide will be absorbed by the leaves and transported to the roots, effectively killing the tree over time.

A small tree, less than 10 feet tall can die anywhere within 1 to 6 months depending on the species and time of the year.

Multiple applications of herbicide are recommended if the tree does not does die within the first 4 months.

Basal Bark Treatment

You should only use this method if the diameter of the trunk is less than 6-7 inches.

Make sure you are wearing protective gear while using this method.

You will need a backpack sprayer, a strong herbicide, and an oil-based solvent.

Ideally, you should choose herbicides that contain Trycloper or Trycloper Ester as the main chemical or use Imazapyr-based herbicides. Again Triclopyr from Amazon can be used here.

You can use diesel, basal oil, fuel oil, or kerosene as the solvent for this method.

The ideal proportion for mixing should be 1 part herbicide and 4-part solvent, so about 20-25% concentration.

Some types of herbicides in the market can directly be used for this method without needing to mix with anything like ‘Pathfinder II’. There are a lot of varieties in the market, so make sure to read the label before using it.

  1. Once you have the solution, spray the bottom 15-18 inches of the tree with this solution and let it dry out.
  2. Repeat this process a few times to increase its efficiency.

Just like the Foliar Spray Technique, make sure there is no frost, water, or snow on the trunk while spraying.

Similar to the Foliar Spray method, depending on the species of the tree, it can die within anywhere from 1 to 6 months.

How to Use the Herbicides on a Large Trees?

The techniques used on larger trees can differ a lot, most of the time you won’t be able to reach the foliage using a sprayer and therefore we have to choose a different delivery method for the herbicide. The three most common methods are Chemical Injection Method, Girdling, and Cut Surface Treatment.

Chemical Injection Method

For the chemical injection method, you will need a drill and an efficient delivery method.

  1. Take a drill and drill 2-3-inch-deep holes into the trunk of the tree at a downward angle.
  2. Fill a sprayer with a herbicide like Tordon RTU. and spray the herbicide into the holes. You can also pour or drip the herbicide.
  3. Let the tree absorb the chemicals.
  4. You can repeat this process after a week to increase its effectiveness.


Girdling would be the easiest and the most efficient method for killing a large tree as Girdling alone will stop the nutrient flow from the roots to the stems and the leaves, killing the tree over time.

  1. You will need to get a hatchet, or chainsaw for this method.
  2. Remove a ring of bark around the entire tree, about 4-8 inches wide.
  3. For extra measure, pray some herbicide along the exposed bark.

Girdling, although effective, can take a long time to kill a tree. With some species, it can take more than a year to die through girdling. That is why it is recommended to use herbicide along with either of the two methods below.

Cut Surface Treatment

Cut Surface is usually used on larger trees, but if the trunk is thick enough, you can use this method in conjunction with another to speed up the process.

You will need an ax and a herbicide along with a sprayer. Again Tordon RTU is very effective here.

  1. Make deep gashes into the trunk of the tree, along the circumference, 1-2 inch deep, at a downward angle.
  2. Immediately spray the herbicide into these gashes and let the herbicide be absorbed.
  3. Repeat the process after the first layer has been absorbed to increase its efficiency.

The effectiveness of the Cut Surface Treatment and Chemical Injection Method is very similar. In both methods, the herbicide directly reaches the vascular system of the tree.

Depending on the size of the tree, it can anywhere from 4 to 18 months for the tree to completely die.

You can use either of these methods together to increase its efficiency.

Uprooting and Cutting Down the Tree

For some trees and plants, you can directly cut them down or uproot them. For plants less than 5 feet tall, uprooting the tree would be the most efficient way of removing them.

Uprooting a Plant

You will need a herbicide like Roundup, a portable sprayer or dripper, and a spade or shovel. The herbicide will be needed only with trees that are invasive in nature like Elm tree and Poison Ivy For example.

  1. Take a shovel and uproot the plant directly from the roots.
  2. Dig the soil up to 6-7 inch and uproot the plant along with the soil.
  3. Put the plant along with the roots and the soil into a small plastic bag.
  4. The plant can survive in this bag for a few days, but will eventually die.
  5. Spray some Roundup on the soil where the plant was. This will end up killing all the remaining roots.

This method would obviously be the fastest as you are immediately uprooting the plant.

Cutting Down the Tree

For trees that are a little bigger, you can cut them down.

  1. Cut down the tree down to its stump using an axe or a chainsaw.
  2. Treat the leftover stump with a herbicide like Roundup or Tordon.

Make sure to take all of the safety precautions while handling a chainsaw or an ax. Also, pay attention to the surrounding area, even a small tree can damage nearby property.

If you are not experienced with cutting down trees, you can also consult a professional before doing so.

One thing to note is that you don’t have to treat the stump with a herbicide every time. Depending on the species of the tree, you might not need to use a herbicide to stop future growth.

That would include Oak, Fir, Maple, Aspen, Pine. If necessary I will build up a list of trees that need to be treated with herbicide after cutting them down.

Make sure to consult with an Arborist.

How Long Does It Take to Kill a Tree?

The answer to this depends heavily on the method used to kill the tree and of course on the characteristics of the tree as well. Keep in mind that certain tree species and larger trees, in general, will take a longer time to die.

If you choose to simply cut down the tree and remove its stump, then the results will be instantaneous. This would of course apply to both small and large trees, although with the latter, removing its stump might be trickier. You might need a grinder or an excavator to do this.

On the other hand, if you cut down the tree to its stump and treat it with a herbicide like Tordon, then the tree and its root system will completely die within a few weeks.

If you use the chemical injection method or cut surface treatment on the trunk of the tree itself, then it will take a little longer for the tree to completely die. A large tree can take up to 6-8 months to completely die. This time frame can also be longer depending on the species of the tree as well.

Methods such as Girdling will take much more time. A large tree can take up to a year to completely die due to girdling while a smaller tree can die within 6 months.

Basal Bark Treatment and Foliar Spray technique on smaller trees can give you effective results in less than 4-5 months.

Using natural methods such as salt or Epsom salt will take much longer when compared to a commercial herbicide. Similarly, using vinegar, bleach, or copper nails on smaller trees can also take a very long time, that is, even if the tree dies.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of the year to kill a tree?

The best time to kill a tree is usually before the summer season. This is because most trees have the highest nutrition demand during spring. This increases the killing process if you are using herbicides.

Can you use plastic on a tree stump to prevent it from growing?

Some people cover the stump of the tree with plastic to stop any oxygen and sunlight from reaching the tree. This can be an alternative to using herbicides but the effectiveness of this technique has not been tested scientifically.


You can kill a tree quickly using herbicides such as Roundup, Tordon, Relegate, Aligare Triclopyr, Garlon XRT, Forestry, etc. For small trees, you can use these herbicides using the Foliar Spray technique and Basal Bark Treatment. Alternatively, you can also cut down or uproot the trees as well. For larger trees, you can use girdling, cut surface treatment, and chemical injection methods in conjunction.

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