How to Kill a Tree (3 Easy Methods)

There are three main ways to kill a tree without engaging the services of a professional tree feller.

Most arborists will agree that killing and removing a tree from your garden is a decision not to be taken lightly.

However, sometimes this is necessary if the tree poses a safety risk or there’s a danger of it damaging your property. 

Bear in mind, that in most parts of Australia, especially in urban areas, you need to obtain permission from your local council before you attempt to kill and remove a tree on your property.

What are the best ways to kill a tree?

ways to kill a tree | Plant care

There are primarily three effective ways to kill a tree without engaging the services of a professional tree feller to come and cut it down.

Depending on the tree species, you may need to use more than one method in order to get the job done effectively.

The three most common methods are:

  • Ring barking the tree
  • Using chemicals to poison the tree
  • Inserting copper nails into the trunk

We’ll look at each of these methods in more detail.

How to poison a tree

One of the most effective ways to kill a tree is to use a herbicide such as Roundup. Yates also has a product specifically designed for this purpose.

These products contain a chemical that interferes with the tree’s ability to synthesise proteins. This eventually leads to the death of the tree.

If using Yates Tree Killer, follow the instructions on the bottle.

If using Roundup, the method is as follows:

  • Expose the wood behind the bark on the trunk of the tree in several places
  • You can do this by using an axe to cut a wedge out of the trunk or by drilling holes into the trunk
  • Make a mixture of 2 parts water and 1 part Roundup or similar
  • Apply this solution to the exposed wood
  • For large trees, you may need to repeat the application to kill the tree
  • It should take around one to three weeks for the tree to die

How to ring bark a tree

Ring-barking a tree is another common method for killing it. It’s a method that’s been used successfully for centuries to kill unwanted trees.

Here’s what to do:

  • Make a cut with a chainsaw right around the circumference of the trunk
  • Make a similar parallel cut above or below the first one
  • Remove the bark in the middle of the ‘ring’ you’ve created
  • Ensure that you cut deep enough into the wood of the trunk so that you remove both the outer phloem and the vascular cambium layer
  • This cut will stop the tree from being able to transport water and energy from the roots to the leaves and top-growth

How to kill a tree using copper nails

This is one of the slowest methods of killing a tree but it can still be very effective.

It’s best to use long copper nails that will go deep into the tree’s heartwood. You’ll also find that larger nails will be more effective.

To get the best results, it’s recommended that you hammer several long nails into the trunk in a ring close to the base of the tree.

This increases the concentration of copper and is helpful for large trees.

How to kill a tree stump

tree stump | Plant care

One of the most effective ways to kill a tree stump quickly is by using a chemical such as Spectracide. This product contains potassium nitrate which is more commonly known as saltpeter. 

To kill the stump, you need to drill 2.5 cm deep holes both into the top and the sides of the stump.

Then, just pour the chemical into the holes and add some water. The water will activate the chemical.

Once you’ve done this, make sure that you keep children and pets away from the stump by using chicken wire or similar to cover it.

It might take several months for the stump to eventually rot and break down completely.

You can also kill a stump using chemical herbicides such as Roundup by using the same method of drilling holes and then pouring the undiluted chemical into each hole.

Yates Tree Killer is also suitable for killing tree stumps.

How to kill tree roots

tree roots | Plant care

If you use the methods above for killing the tree stump, this should effectively kill the roots of the tree as well.

However, if you have a problem with tree roots in your sewerage or drainage pipes, you can use various methods to kill the roots. 

You can use a solution of half a kilo of rock salt and water that you pour down the toilet so that it ends up in your drains. This process should be repeated so that you end up pouring a total of 1 kilo of rock salt down into the drains.

Once you’ve done this, refrain from flushing water down into the drains for around 8 to 12 hours.

Alternatively, you can use a commercial product such as Roaming Root Killer that you can also flush down into your drains.

Roundup also has a product called Advance Roundup Weedkiller which is regarded as a systematic root killer.

The best tree poison in Australia

One of the most effective tree poisons in Australia is a product called Tordon.

However, it is quite expensive and must be purchased from an agricultural chemical supplier.

It also has the possibility of killing other surrounding trees as it leaches into the soil. Therefore, it’s not registered in Australia for home use but is available to the agricultural and commercial sectors.

A better alternative is to use a product containing glyphosate such as Roundup.

Using the method described above for poisoning a tree should give good results if you follow these instructions completely.


Can you kill a tree with Roundup?

Yes, you can definitely kill a tree using Roundup if you follow the correct steps.

Can you kill a tree with copper nails?

Yes, it’s possible to kill a tree using copper nails, although it is usually a slower process than other methods.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


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