How to kill a willow tree stump and roots

How to Kill an Established Weeping Willow | Home Guides

By Jean Godawa

At a time when environmental consciousness is not just fashionable but necessary for the health of our communities and planet, killing a tree may seem unreasonable. However, a weeping willow that damages sewage systems with its extensive roots, grows too large for your yard or drops branches indiscriminately is a hazard that requires drastic action. Both mechanical and chemical options exist for willow extermination. Use either method or a combination of both, depending on your expertise and comfort level. Before attempting any tree removal, check with the city and county public works department. Some trees on private property are considered “significant” or “landmark” and are protected by the municipal code.

Mechanical Method

  1. Trim extending branches with a chainsaw or handsaw to prevent damage to surrounding structures and vegetation as the tree falls. Use extreme caution if operating the chainsaw while on a ladder.

  2. Gather, bundle and remove the trimmed branches from your work area to prevent tripping hazards.

  3. Cut the tree trunk close to the ground leaving the smallest stump possible. After the tree falls, cut the trunk into manageable pieces for firewood or disposal.

  4. Use a stump grinder to break up the remaining stump and roots.

Passive Mechanical Method - Girdling

  1. Cut a 1- to 1.5-inch-deep groove around the tree trunk just below the lowest branches using a chainsaw or ax.

  2. Extend the groove until it is 6 to 8 inches wide, encircling the entire trunk and fully exposing the interior wood.

  3. Monitor the cut regularly to ensure that the gap remains open and no heal-over occurs. This girdle prevents the flow of water and nutrients up the tree, which eventually kills it.

Chemical Method

  1. Apply tryclopyr to the lowest 18 inches of the willow trunk in early spring. Repeat this bark treatment application throughout the summer until mid-autumn at intervals recommended by manufacturer.

  2. Spray-apply imazapyr or glyphosate to the foliage of trees under 15 feet tall following manufacturer’s instructions. Repeat the foliage application as recommended throughout the growing season.

  3. Use a paintbrush to cover a newly cut stump with glyphosate. Repeat as recommended by the manufacturer to ensure that the herbicide reaches through the stump and into the roots. This step replaces the need for a stump grinder and has greater success in accessing and killing the willow’s widespread root system.

  4. Apply herbicide by spray or paintbrush to the cut created by the girdling method to speed up the extermination process.


  • City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Works: Significant and Landmark Trees
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Controlling Undesirable Trees and Shrubs Conservation Practice Information Sheet
  • USDA Forest Services Pacific Northwest Region: Glyphosate Herbicide Information Profile
  • University of Arizona Cooperative Extension: Cut Stump Application of Herbicides to Manage Woody Vegetation


  • The girdling method can take a year or more to be fully effective. For best results, girdle the tree in spring or early summer.


  • Before starting to cut, verify the falling branches will clear overhead wires and other structures.
  • The chainsaw and stump removal method is recommended only for individuals trained in the use of this equipment.
  • Read and follow the safety instructions for herbicide application. Confirm that your chosen herbicide is appropriate for your landscape and will not interfere with aquatic or other sensitive species.

Writer Bio

Jean Godawa is a science educator and writer. She has been writing science-related articles for print and online publications for more than 15 years. Godawa holds a degree in biology and environmental science with a focus on entomology from the University of Toronto. She has conducted field research in the tropical rainforests of southeastern Asia and South America.

How To Kill And Remove A Willow Tree (Completely) – BACKYARDABLES

Looking for how to kill a willow tree?

Willow Trees are great because they grow really fast but because of the fast growth, they are a messy tree and can even drop whole branches in a heavy wind storm.  

Here are the steps for killing and removing a willow tree completely so it doesn’t grow back.

Start by cutting off the willow tree’s branches so you are left with a stump. Larger branches may need to be cut in multiple chunks. Treat the stump with a tree killer immediately after cutting for best results or the tree will grow back. Apply tree killer to the outer ring so the roots will absorb the poison. After a few days remove the stump.

That’s the basics but for a few more details including my favorite tree killer that works every time keep reading.

(Hint, not all tree killers actually kill willow trees.)

Step 1 – Cut The Tree Down

Willow trees are a bit unique because they don’t have one trunk going straight up; they can have multiple large branches coming off the main trunk. 

That being said, to cut the tree down you should start cutting off the closest branches to the ground.

Depending on the size of your willow tree, larger branches may need to be cut off in a few chucks, especially if the tree is close to your house or structure that could be damaged by falling limbs.

Use a ladder or rent a boom to get high enough in the tree to cut branches in smaller chunks.

Make sure to take all necessary safety precautions. There is a reason that Tree Removal is one of the most dangerous professions.

After all the branches are cut off you should be left with a tall stump. At this point you need to determine how you will be removing the stump. 

If you are going to pull out the stump you want to leave the trunk tall so you can have more leverage.

If you are planning on burning or grinding the stump out then continue cutting the trunk off as low as you can without getting your chainsaw in the dirt.

I’ll talk about a few of my favorite ways to remove the stump in a few more steps but first we need to kill the stump or it will grow back.

Step 2 – Treat The Stump

A Willow is a resistant tree, so just cutting it down won’t kill it completely. 

If you skip this step or do it too late, the tree might grow up from the stump again or unseen roots may keep sending up shoots. So follow the next steps closely.

If you are opposed to using chemicals then I have a few natural ways you can kill the tree as well.

Make sure you’re ready for this before you finish cutting it down because you have a 30 minute window to treat your stump with a tree killer to ensure its demise. 

Okay. Get your tree killer (I recommend Tordon because it actually works on willows.) and pour it on the entire outer ring of the stump.

Generally, you should cover the outer 3 inches with a tree killer. You can tell the difference between that ring and the rest because the core wood will be a bit darker than the rest. 

Let the stump sit and soak in the tree killer for the next few days to a week to fully kill the tree. From there, we can move onto Step 3 and remove the stump.

Now that we know the tree is dead, we can remove the stump from the ground, and as long as you followed the last step, nothing should come up again. 

There’s a number of different ways you can remove the stump, but here a just a few different ways I would suggest: 

  • Grind the stump. This is probably the best way but it also can be the most expensive. You can hire it out or rent a stump grinder. It may be cheaper to hire it out than it is to rent a stump grinder so go here if you want to get a bid from a tree stump removal expert in your area. 
  • Pull it out. If you have a tractor of some kind or a 4 wheel drive vehicle this can work well. Depending on the size of your tree of course. Larger willows will need to have the roots dug up and cut before pulling out. Smaller willows can just be pulled out. Use a chain or a heavy-duty tow strap and connect to the top so you have the most leverage. 
  • Burn the stump. Make sure it’s dead and dry, and in a safe area first. It can take a couple of months for a tree to dry completely depending on your climate or time of year. Once it is dry build a fire on your stump and have a hot dog roast. 
  • The cheapest and easy way.  If you are not opposed to a little physical labor then this is a great option. Dig around the stump about 8 inches deep. Use your chainsaw to cut the stump a few inches below the surface. Really as long as the stump can have a few inches of soil on top you can plant grass over the top and let Mother Nature do the rest.
  • If you want more ways to remove a stump then here is a full list of all the best ways to get this done.

That is the 3 steps to killing and removing a willow tree. If you have more questions about how to kill or get rid of a willow tree, keep reading to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Will Salt Kill Willow Trees?

Salt may be able to kill a Willow Tree but it takes a lot of salt.

I tried killing an elm tree with salt and it didn’t actually kill the tree. I had to end up using a tree killer like Tordon to finish the tree off.

Technically, I think salt would kill a willow tree if you poured salt on top of the ground in a complete ring around how big the tree was but then it is going to kill everything else there as well and that would be pretty expensive.

In my experience, salt doesn’t work and is not really worth it.

Will Copper Nails Kill A Willow Tree?

I have tested copper nails but I am doubtful if it really will kill a willow tree.

Many of the ways you read about online for killing trees don’t actually work on resilient trees like Willows.

That is why I decided to get to the bottom of what actually kills trees and what doesn’t.

The funny thing is that most trees don’t need to be treated to be killed.

For example, a pine tree will die if you just cut it down.

I think where copper nails and a lot of these other wives’ tales came about was from people putting copper nails into a pine stump and then magically it worked.

Well, that pine tree would have died without the copper nails.

Will A Willow Tree Grow Back From A Stump?

Yes a Willow Tree will most definitely grow back from a stump. That is why you have to treat the Willow Tree stump with a tree killer on a fresh cut.

It won’t take too long before you will have a willow bush if you don’t treat it before cutting it down.

How To Kill A Willow Tree Stump?

If you made the mistake of not treating a willow stump after cutting it down you can still kill the stump.

The best way is to take a chainsaw and make a fresh cut below where all the branches are coming out of the stump.

Within 30 minutes of cutting treat the outer ring of the stump with a tree killer like Tordon.

Let it sit for a couple days and your stump will be completely dead roots and all.

If you are interested in a natural way just tie a goat around the stump for a couple of months and that will work as well.

How to get rid of stumps and tree roots on the site: 4 ways

Sooner or later, every owner of the site is faced with the problem of removing stumps. Even if they didn’t exist initially, they will definitely appear over time. Aging and diseases of fruit trees, the need for redevelopment of the territory - there can be a lot of reasons. We will analyze several working methods on how to remove a stump from the site quickly and easily.

All about uprooting stumps yourself

Is it always necessary
4 working methods
— Manual uprooting
— Burnout
— Chemical destruction
— Mulching

The easiest way to solve the problem of removing large and small stumps is during the development of the site. If the territory has not yet been ennobled, special equipment is ordered. With its help, in just a few hours, they clean the site. The disadvantage of this method is obvious: heavy machinery and destructive mechanical uprooting will leave numerous marks on the site. But if the territory is still going to be ennobled, it's not scary.

It is much more difficult to choose the right solution, how to get rid of a stump in an already developed area. There can be a lot of options, but each of them has certain disadvantages. First of all, you need to understand whether it is really necessary to get rid of a piece of wood. After all, you can benefit from them. For example, an interesting landscape decor is obtained from the rest of the trunk. In order to make it, the core is hollowed out and a fertile substrate is poured into the cavity. The resulting "bed" is used to grow flowers, vegetables or berries. Such a flower bed or garden bed can become the center of an interesting multi-tiered composition. A good option is growing mushrooms. Their spores are inhabited by the remains of wood, where mushroom families germinate very quickly.

It turns out an unusual and useful “decoration”. Honey mushrooms or oyster mushrooms will give several harvests over the summer. At the same time, the mycelium actively destroys wood, because it needs food for growth. In five to six years, mushrooms will completely destroy the remains of the tree. Flowers or vegetables "work" in a similar way, however, they need much more time to destroy.


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If the stump stands where it is planned to set up a flower garden or beds, or somehow interferes with the improvement, you have to think about how to uproot the stump on the site. You can invite specialists with a cutter. A powerful technique will crush the wood, deepening 20-30 cm. This is enough to get rid of the roots. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to use the services of specialists. Then use the methods available for independent use.

1. Manual uprooting

In order not to mess with the remains of the tree, when sawing, you can cut the trunk at ground level. This is done if they do not interfere and it is possible to leave them to rot in the soil. To speed up the process, the cut is chopped with an ax. Sooner or later, the rhizomes will rot, but this will not happen very soon. All the time, while the processes of overheating are going on, it will not be possible to break a garden bed, put up any building, etc. at this place.

When there is no time to wait, choose manual uprooting. This is a very labor intensive method. To begin with, they dig a hole around the hemp, exposing the rhizome. It is important to expose all root processes in the trunk area. You can not remove the soil with a shovel, but wash it off. To do this, put a drain chute in the pit and “wash” the rhizome with a stream of water under strong pressure. The bare root shoots are cut. This must be done very carefully so as not to get hurt. It is extremely inconvenient to work in the pit, the roots are most often mixed up and very hard. But it is imperative to cut them, otherwise, when the hemp is pulled out, the long rhizome will easily destroy the adjacent path, fence or building foundation. A snag with chopped roots is fixed to a winch or any other lifting mechanism and pulled out of the ground. If it is not possible to use mechanical devices, the stump is split, loosened and untwisted fragments, removed from the ground.

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Uprooting takes a lot of time and effort, so not everyone is ready to do it. There are ways to remove the stump without uprooting. They are much easier. Let's analyze the most effective of them.

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2. Use of fire

A very simple but rather dangerous method. It can be used with certain restrictions. First of all, the remains of the tree must be removed from buildings, fences, underground and air communications, power lines. It is impossible to carry out the procedure on peat soils (peat bogs ignite quickly and can smolder for a long time). Putting out an underground fire is very difficult, almost impossible.

Burning is carried out in calm, dry weather. All flammable items are removed to a safe distance and be sure to prepare a supply of water in case the situation gets out of hand. Start by drilling two channels inside the hemp. Drill to the maximum possible depth. One is lowered strictly vertically, and the second is placed at an angle to it. In the first there will be a fire, through the second it will receive the air necessary for combustion. In large snags, it is advisable to drill several holes for air. This will speed up the burning.


A flammable liquid is poured into the central cavity. It is best to take lighter fluid or diesel fuel. Gasoline will burn very quickly, which will not give the desired effect. A cotton wick is lowered inside the hole and lit. The only thing left to do is keep the fire going. Depending on the condition of the wood, it will last from 13 to 16 hours.

You can speed up the process if you remove the stump using the Tsiolkovsky method. In this case, "caramel fuel" is used as fuel. This is a mixture of ammonium nitrate and sugar in a ratio of 7:3. The ingredients are mixed and carefully poured into the drilled hole. You need to know that the mixture gives a very strong flame. In a matter of minutes, the entire snag, including the roots, burns out. Therefore, it is imperative to observe precautionary measures: it is necessary to ignite the fuel from a certain distance; for this, a gasoline “path” is laid to it.

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3. Chemical destruction

The essence of the method is the decomposition of root residues with the help of chemicals. This is an effective, but slow way to get rid of tree roots. Different preparations are used for destruction, but the method of their application is approximately the same. To begin with, as many deep holes as possible are drilled in the saw cut. This is best done in the fall, two to four weeks before the first frost. The chemical substance will have time to penetrate into the most remote root shoots before the cold weather and will destroy them all winter.

Chemical reagent is poured into the holes. Most often it is carbamide, aka urea. This is a well-known fertilizer that decomposes wood in large quantities. The granules are tightly packed in the cavity, spilled with water, covered with plastic cut and the film is securely fixed. You can plug filled holes with corks or cover with clay. After a few months, the snag will soften, it will be easier to remove it from the ground. Urea, even in large quantities, is relatively safe for the site.

The same cannot be said about potassium or sodium nitrate. They are also used to destroy wood residues. Nitrogen salts are toxic in high doses, so the technique is not suitable for areas where there are new plantings near tree residues. Saltpeters act differently than urea. They dry up the root, which is then easily taken out of the ground. If the soil is not peaty, you can simply burn it, because it is saturated with a substance that stimulates combustion. To destroy a hemp with a diameter of 15-16 cm, it is necessary to lay 2,000 g of any reagent.

Salt will help solve the problem of how to remove stumps from freshly cut trees. Tree juices will quickly spread it throughout the rhizome, which the salt will “dry out” in a year and a half. The removal procedure is the same as described above. You need to know that a high concentration of salt will not allow plants to develop in this place for several years.

Copper or iron sulphate can also be used as a chemical reagent. Each of these preparations is a highly effective insecticide and fungicide, toxic in large doses. Vitriol is used for chemical uprooting of diseased stumps. No other way can prevent the infection of nearby plantings.

Herbicides work quickly and effectively. They process only a fresh cut, pour the roots with a solution. Autumn processing allows you to remove the rhizomes from the ground in the spring without any problems. But the soil turns out to be contaminated with herbicides, nothing will grow here for several years.


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4. Mulching

The essence of the technique is that the mulch layer blocks the access of air to the saw cut. Without oxygen, the roots slowly die. True, it takes a lot of time. Mulching is more suitable for destroying small stumps. For example, it will be a good solution for getting rid of cherry or plum roots.

The trunk is cut at ground level or slightly above. The saw cut is covered with a dense layer of mulch 20-25 cm high. It is desirable to cover the entire near-trunk circle. Any organic matter is suitable as mulch: chopped grass, leaves, plant debris. The rhizomes will rot for a long time, for several years. All this time, organic matter will have to be added, as its layer is thinning.


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There are many ways to uproot trees. The optimal one is chosen taking into account the prevailing conditions. So, effective mechanical uprooting is not suitable for an already ennobled area, but on a newly developed area it will help to get rid of rhizomes quickly and easily. In order not to spoil the landscape design, they invite specialists with a cutter, they can remove any stumps in a short time. Or use the safest chemical uprooting. Burning is effective, but it must be done very carefully. The risk of fire and fire is too great.

Prepared by

Inna Yasinovskaya

How to destroy the stump and roots of a felled tree

Clearing a new site, as well as cutting down old fruit trees, is always associated with the fact that stumps remain in the ground. It’s good if special equipment can be driven to this place, which will uproot them in no time. But what if the stump is located deep in the planted area or other trees or shrubs grow next to it?

I encountered a similar problem when we cut down an old apple tree that had perennial flower beds and a lawn around it. Full uprooting did not suit us, since overgrown roots, when pulled out, could destroy ornamental plants.

Contents of the article

  • Why remove stumps?
  • Choice of method
  • Uprooting
  • Urea
  • Saltpeter
  • Other methods
  • Summary

Why remove stumps?

But really, why? There is a stump and it stands, you can even masterfully beat it in landscape design. I wanted to leave it, but they dissuaded me in time, citing a number of significant arguments:

  • a dead tree will gradually collapse, attracting pests from all around to rotten wood, which subsequently migrate to healthy individuals;
  • in the case of sawing a stump below ground level and then backfilling the soil, the solution will become temporary, since over time the roots and the rest of the trunk will rot and the soil will sag;
  • if a fruit tree was cut down due to disease, the stump left behind will serve as a source of "infection" for other crops.

In addition, the left stump will take up useful space on the site. I decided that it was better to work on the problem a little and remove an unnecessary element from the ground than to wait until the roots rot on their own.

Choosing a method

So, I decided on the need to remove the stump, it was up to the choice of method. To solve this problem, you can use physical (uprooting) or chemical (use of drugs) methods. It is they who will give the desired result and help get rid of both the stump and the overgrown roots of the sawn tree.

Of the chemicals used to destroy the stump and roots, urea and saltpeter are used. The latter works effectively, but it can adversely affect the composition of the soil, and as I said, I had a flower garden next to the apple tree. Urea is more useful for the garden, but carries with it a lot of nitrogen, which can greatly acidify the soil. I was afraid to use chemicals, so I turned to the uprooting method, and transplanted perennial flowers to another place where they successfully adapted over the season.


The quickest and easiest way is to call for special equipment, which will uproot all the stumps in the area in no time. But this method is possible only on empty lands, not yet fenced with fences and without beds, flower beds and garden paths. For me, the involvement of technology turned out to be an impossible task, I had to convene men and manage their physical strength.

After carefully transplanting perennials, I outlined the scope of work for my men:

  1. First, a half-meter circle around the stump is cleared from the soil. The earth is broken with a bayonet-shovel, and the shovel is thrown aside onto the bedded polyethylene. It is necessary to expose the entire stump and the main roots extending from it.
  2. Next, we dig out the roots diverging to the sides, releasing them from the ground. If it seems to you that the thickness of the root indicates that it will end soon - try to pull it or chop it off altogether. The small fragments remaining in the ground during decomposition will not greatly spoil the relief of the site.
  3. When most of the excavation work is completed, you can start uprooting. It will be ideal if you have a winch with which you pull the stump with the roots in the "up" direction. If it is not there, you will have to work hard: tie the rest of the trunk with two or three ropes, winding the ropes under large roots in order to fix well. After that, the ends of the ropes are parted on different sides, and the stump swings back and forth until you succeed and extract it along with the roots.

You can open the upper root system in a less time-consuming, but more "dirty" way - with a hose. This method shows itself especially well on sandy soils, which are easily washed away by a powerful jet of water. To drain dirty streams, it is advisable to dig a hole in a free place nearby. After the earth dries up, you can proceed directly to uprooting.


If the time-consuming method of destroying a tree stump does not suit you, you can try the urea method. To do this, you need to arm yourself with a puncher or a drill with large diameter drills. The tool needs to drill as many vertical holes as possible in the stump, into which urea is poured.

After that, the stump should be watered little by little throughout the day so that the urea crystals dissolve and go through the tissues of the underground part of the felled tree. Then you need to take a cut of a dense black film, wrap the stump with it and fix it with tape.

This is not a quick way to destroy the stump and roots of felled trees - the process of destruction and decomposition will take 1-2 years, and all this time an unaesthetic composition will stand on the site. But in the end you will have a place fertilized with nitrogen and decaying wood.


This chemical will help you get rid of the unwanted stump and its roots, but it is quite dangerous for crops growing closer than 1.5 to the work site. If there are fruit trees and shrubs next to the sawn tree, or perennial crops grow, it is better to abandon this idea.

The work algorithm is similar to the method described above: the stump is drilled with vertical holes, potash or sodium nitrate is poured into them (approximately 2 kg per tree with a diameter of up to 15 cm). In order for the wood to be impregnated with chemicals, it must be carefully spilled several times with water, and then wrapped in polyethylene and tightly bandaged. In this state, the stump remains until the next season: during this time, the saltpeter will kill the roots and artificially dry the wood.

The next year, all you have to do is build a fire around the stump and wait for everything to burn out. To speed up the “setting” of wood by fire, you can pre-drill new holes and pour gasoline or lighter fluid into them.

This method is well suited for the destruction of stumps of freshly cut trees prone to the formation of undergrowth - sea buckthorn, poplar, etc. Pickled immediately after felling, the residue will free you from additional trouble. It is also worth noting that the method based on the ignition of saltpeter should absolutely not be used in areas with peat deposits - smoldering roots will lead to underground fires.

You will learn how to destroy the roots of felled trees using saltpeter in a video:

Other ways

There are other ways to get rid of stumps or use them effectively on the site:

  1. Planting a young tree in a stump . The rest of the trunk is sawn off at ground level, then a “landing pit” is organized in the center using tools that are suitable for the root system of the young growth. The recess is filled with nutrient soil, in which a small seedling of a fruit tree is planted. As it grows, it will feed on the decaying roots of the sawn tree.
  2. Filling with water before winter. It is necessary to drill several holes in the stump, into which water is poured before the first frost. If you have the opportunity to come to the site in early winter, continue to water the rest of the sawn tree with water, as if “glazing” it. The ice formed inside the wood will destroy it, and in the spring you will only have to manually remove the rotten stump.
  3. Table salt. This method is suitable for eliminating overgrowth in places that you do not plan to use in the coming years for planting crops. The average stump takes about 300 grams of salt, which must be poured into the drilled holes in the wood, and then spilled with water. After wintering, the rotten part is removed, and the remains are covered with earth.
  4. Herbicides. Apply a herbicide solution to a fresh saw cut, wrap the stump in polyethylene and leave it for the winter. In the new season, you can easily remove dead residues from the site.

You can use hemp as a bed for mushrooms, especially since you can buy spores for mycelium at an affordable price in garden stores, and you can find instructions for growing mushrooms and oyster mushrooms on the Internet. A year after laying the mycelium, you will be able to harvest a bountiful harvest right on the site.


In order to get rid of the stumps of felled trees along with the roots, you can use several methods:

  1. Mechanized uprooting. In the presence of a convenient entrance for special equipment and the absence of closely growing crops, it is best to use the services of a tractor driver or bulldozer operator.
  2. Manual uprooting.

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