How to Remove Shrub Roots

Updated March 23, 2017

Bush roots can grow to be quite deep. Even worse, they can grow back as a full bush, given time. Therefore, removing or killing roots so they don’t grow back the following spring is important to those homeowners who have other landscaping plans in mind—or who just want to protect their foundations from encroaching roots. Options include pulling roots up with a backhoe, pulling them out with rope attached to a car, or poisoning them in place. The quickest but most laborious approach is to use heavy equipment to lift roots out.

Cut the shrub down to the stump with an axe, a chainsaw, or a hacksaw.

Dig down under the plant in order to have a gap under the stump to thread a rope through. Wrap the rope around and under the stump. Snake it through the stronger roots as well.

Tie the rope to a solid portion of your car (not the bumper!) and accelerate in short bursts. If the remnants of the bush break free suddenly, you don’t want to drive through the neighbour’s fence before you find the brake.

If the first attempt fails, chop at some of the roots with a hatchet to reduce the resistance and then try pulling again. Cut the roots far from the stump, though. Repeat until you succeed.

Instead of using a car, you can also rent a backhoe to finish the job. That may be easier, but it will obviously be more expensive.

If you plan to poison the shrub instead, time the poisoning around autumn or winter, when the shrub’s nutrients (and therefore poisoning agents such as salt and bleach) will be sucked down into the root system. This will help poison the root system more effectively.

Cut the shrub down to the stump with an axe, a chainsaw, or a hacksaw. Then pour bleach and/or salt into the centre of the trunk.

Cover the stump with an opaque tarp, to block the sunlight. Even if there are no green leaves left, the shrub still uses sunlight.


Don’t set the stump on fire. “Top-killing,” as this method is called, won’t kill the roots. They’ll just grow back again in the spring.

Things You'll Need

  • Axe or Chainsaw or Hacksaw
  • and
  • Rope
  • Car or Backhoe
  • or
  • Copper spike or several copper nails
  • Hedge trimmers
  • Bleach or salt
  • Tarp
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About the Author

Paul Dohrman's academic background is in physics and economics. He has professional experience as an educator, mortgage consultant, and casualty actuary. His interests include development economics, technology-based charities, and angel investing.