Ways to Kill a Tree

By Michelle Strait

Trees are generally beneficial to the environment. In the summer, trees provide shade from the sun's rays. Trees also improve air quality, and provide a place for wildlife to call home. In spite of the benefits, trees are sometimes undesired. You can kill unwanted trees if they're causing a problem. However, only use these methods if you're sure you want a tree dead.

Several methods rid you of unwanted trees.

Pruning Methods

Some gardening methods, that many people consider safe, can actually kill a tree. For example, it's possible to prune a tree to death. According to the Trees are Good website, "topping" is the most harmful tree pruning technique anyone can use. In spite of the danger, professional and nonprofessional gardeners top trees on a regular basis. The technique involves cutting away 50 to 100 percent of a branch either because the tree is too tall or might become too tall. Removing branches removes leaves, which the tree needs to receive nourishment. As a result, topping a tree can cause it to starve. If the tree is unable to produce new leaves to replace the ones you cut, then the tree can weaken and die. Topping also can kill a tree by leading to wood decay.

Chemical Methods

Herbicides are chemicals that can kill a tree. Several brands of herbicides are available. In addition to different brands, different application methods exist as well. For example, one method of application is the soil treatment method, applying herbicides to the soil surrounding the tree. When you water the area or it rains, the ground absorbs the herbicide, which will eventually poison the roots of the tree. Take care when applying soil herbicides because they can possibly damage or kill anything growing around or near the tree you're trying to kill. Some herbicides are available only if you have a pesticide applicator's license. However, herbicides specifically designated for home use are available to the general public.

Mechanical Methods

Some of the tools you have around your home can kill a tree. Chopping down a tree with an ax or chainsaw will remove it. Once the limbs and main tree are gone, you can apply an herbicide to the remaining stump in order to kill the roots. You can return later and remove the dead stump. Another way to kill a tree is to damage its trunk with a tool such as a chisel or chainsaw. The technique is known as "girdling," and it means removing the bark from a tree. You can achieve the same result by damaging a tree's bark with a lawn mower. When you strip the bark from a tree, the tree cannot get the nourishment it needs to survive.


Never kill trees that aren't located on your property. If a neighbor's tree blocks your view or you just don't like the tree, there's nothing you can do about it. Unless the tree poses a direct threat to your home, you have no grounds for wanting the tree gone. If you take steps to kill the tree, then the neighbor can press charges against you. However, if your neighbor's tree has branches that hang in your yard, you can remove the portion of the branches that are on your property.