Tips for removing problematic trees

A professional tree service can safely remove trees and stumps from home landscapes. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Amy S.)

A professional tree service can safely remove trees and stumps from home landscapes. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Amy S.)

by Angie Hicks

Dear Angie: We have a tree that grows right next to the house, and I believe the roots have grown under the moisture-barrier of the foundation. We have tried cutting it down, but it keeps growing back.

We need to kill all the roots and would prefer not to use extremely toxic chemicals, in case we want to plant something else in the area. Any suggestions?
– Donna K., Birmingham, Ala.

Dear Donna: There are a few ways you can permanently get rid of the tree. If you want to avoid chemicals all together, then it’s important to remove all new leaf growth as it occurs. Leaves help supply the nutrients needed for trees to thrive through a process called photosynthesis.

By removing new leaves, you are actually inhibiting the needed carbohydrates from reaching the cells of the roots, so the tree itself dies. This is the most natural way, but it is also a long-term effort and will require much work on your part.

You could also hire a tree removal professional to grind down the stump. Done effectively, this should destroy the trees roots and prevent them from resprouting.

As you mentioned, you can also use chemicals to kill the tree. You should first cut the tree down – or cut it down again – and then paint the stump with glyphosate, the active ingredient found in many weed killers.

It’s important to follow the product instructions if you choose this route, as the product will need to be diluted based on the product recommendations. This product should degrade quickly and show no residual effect to the fertility of the ground.

Homeowners in Alabama are allowed to make such a chemical application, but if someone else makes the application, that person needs to be licensed to do so. In Alabama, the Department of Agriculture & Industries requires a license in Ornamental and Turf Pest Control, as well as a Professional Services Permit.

If you hire a professional, in addition to state licensing, look for a specialist who is a Certified Arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). This will help ensure that you are effectively addressing the problematic tree and that the treatment is safe to other plants, animals and children.

Angie's List collects about 40,000 consumer reports each month covering more than 350 categories of home-related services. Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angie’s List to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at

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Options for tree stump removal

After all the hard work of felling a tree, what may be the hardest job of all still remains: getting rid of the tree stump. The following is an overview of the different options for removing the stump.


bamboo can be killed with thorax weed killer. pour it on straight from the bottle. the bamboo will die from the top down.

To kill a tree stump. Cut horizontal close to the ground. Cut a trough in the cambium layer just inside the bark to a depth of about half an inch. Fill this trough with undiluted round-up. I have been in the tree business for decades and this works. Also, using an ISA certified arborist does not guarantee anything. You are much better off finding a tree expert with years of experience who is licensed. One can obtain an arborist certification with little or no experience in the field. No certification can substitute for years of experience. Trust me on this one. I own a tree surgery company and "ISA certified" arborists have never held much weight with me.

I had 2 Tree of Heaven and thought they were AZ Ash..all my yard started to die and this tree kept spreeding all over. I found out that this tree kills all vegetation any where near it and I was told it would eventually even kill my trees. I cut them down and tried to kill it by putting some kind of shrub- tree killer. I had to paint it on but it did not kill it. One of the turnks died but one simply started to grow more out the sides and then they started popping up EVERY WHERE!! There were a FOREST of them!! Pulling them out when ever I foudl a young seedling became impossible. Also, they grow in nooks that you are not even aware of. So, winter is here and they are "dead" but as soon as spring comes they will start flourishing again. How can I kill a yard FULL of these little trees? I am at my wits end. I enve hired a gardner to deal with it and he sprayed that stuff and ended up picking out the trees with his hands...It took two of them a whole day. Please anyone know how to kill this tree off?

Tree Of Heaven (Ailanthus) is a very problematic tree to remove. If the tree is removed without poisoning the stump the roots will sprout a new tree every few inches and the tree quickly becomes the tree of hell. I have seen these trees completely engulf houses! Immediately after cutting down the tree cut a half inch deep trough in the cambium of the stump and fill with undiluted round-up. Better yet have a licensed applicator apply 2-4-D to the stump. If you have already cut the tree out and the suckers have already started coming up,... Good luck! You will need it!

I have two clumps of Bamboo------------------I hate it------------------I can not get rid of it Can you offer some kind of advice to get rid of it-------------------I have tried many things

Bamboo is a grass. Let the leaves form then spray grass killer.

I have an old Rose of Sharon tree next to my driveway. It is about 10 - 12 foot tall. In the spring, I prunes back the low hanging branches so I could mow around it. Now, the several trunks are sagging towards the outside leaving a hole in the middle. The branches are now only 3 - 4 foot from the ground. Should I severly prune the branches back to relieve the weight or try corral all the branches with a nylon rope and try pulling them up in a circle hoping they will grow straight again?

My 25 y/o son had a unique solution for an dangerous rose bush that was constantly overflowing across a very busy sidewalk. After several years of continued severe pruning and cutting it down to ground level it continued to have suckers coming up from the original root stock that the climber was grafted to. I asked my son if he could dig it out (again). When I got home from work he had dug a trench ~9" wide and 12+ " deep around the bush. Then he squirted a little charcoal starter on the tap root (easily 6 inches in diameter) and LIT IT UP! Neighbors from up and down the block were sitting there roasting marshmallows and hot dogs. The smell of the fire was amazing! Real Rosewood smell! When the small fire died down he drowned it w/water, and kept digging till he had uncovered the unburned root to be sure the thing wouldn't keep burning. Next morning he filled in the hole back in, spread grass seed on it and vole' no rose bush just continuous green lawn. Ten years later neighbors still laugh at the impromptu little neighborhood bonfire. His was a unique solution. Obviously torching the thing is not suitable for every location and circumstance. But it worked well in this situation.

We used to have roses that grew on both sides of our sidewalk that lead to the front of our house, but, two of the biggest rose bushes with the giant flowers had elm trees that keep coming up in the middle and amongst the stems of the flowers. Even tho I removed and pulled all that I could see (and had lots of battle scars and broken thorn tips in the back of my hands through my gloves, the trees continued to grown and became more entangled with my roses to the point that even if I dug up the whole bushes and started off new (these same roses my great grandmother had planted 35 years earlier, same ones) the trees would still come up where the roses where. Well, the lil ol lady of the neighborhood told me, if I want to stop the trees without harming the roses this is what i do....(this works best when fall is nearing as this is when plants start to return nutrients back down their stems to the roots and/or bulbs to return the following year. You cut the branches of tree all off and dig a little bit under soil so part or rootball/roots and exposed, you want to cut the tree back say 1 or 2 inches below soil and on the "scar" of what you just cut off, you tear a piece of duct tape and wrap around root around it so it makes like a cone shape that is closed at the bottom tight so it wont leak. The pour some salt, sidewalk salt (not chemical deicer,, salt, table salt will work but is fine and might get through tape killing roses as well. (I find ice cream salt works well, even though expensiver, you're only going to use small amount. Using enought salt in this "cone" that the stem within cone is covered with salt, begin to wrap and tighten duct tape over and around stem and closing so that salt remains on stem , add more duct tape over it if you need to. don't want salt to leak into soil to kill rose. Then you cover back up with soil, maybe even slightly deeper. The following year, the rose comes up, and ONLY the rose. (The salt was sucked into the tree rootts killing the roots permanently not harming your roses. This souonds hoe ky but, i acutally did it and it actually worked on every rose i did it too.. Works on trees growing in fence line that even are 3-4 inches across stem size. I don't have to prove any of these or tell you where to find info.....these are things that i have actually done for myself and worked to used on fendeline trees. Duct tape protected everything else, soil grass etc. WAH LAA!.. Now whether duct tape still exists in ground i don't know, never checked for left over tape later. Hope this helps another one like me who was at wits end with ideas that never worked or back fired....these all worked for me everytime I did them.

I live on an estate on which aspens have been planted. They should not be in a place like this. They grow to majestic size and send out suckers which have roots as thick as iron. How can we get rid of the suckers permanently.

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