How to treat tree stumps

Updated July 20, 2017

Trees are tough creatures and can live for hundreds of years, therefore killing an unwanted tree can be a challenge, even after it has been cut down, because the stump will often sprout new shoots in an effort to stay alive. To avoid this, some people prefer to remove the stump and root system manually or with chemicals. You, however, may wish to turn your stump into an attractive ornament or bench. If this is the case, there are measures you can take to ensure your stump does not regrow.

Dilute a tough killing herbicide with water. If you apply an undiluted solution to the stump, you will kill only the first cells with which it comes into contact, preventing the chemical from infiltrating the whole plant. To kill the tree from the tip of the stump down to the roots, the solution must be weak enough to travel around the entire plant system and then kill off cells. Each brand has its own recommended dilution; check the packet carefully.

Brush the tree stump with the herbicide to kill the roots and prevent regrowth. It is important to do this while the stump is freshly cut. If you wait a few weeks, the stump will form a tough outer later and not absorb the herbicide as well.

Check the stump for regrowth every two weeks. If you see sprouts, cut them off and reapply the herbicide mixture. Be patient; killing the whole root system can take two months or more.

Sand the top of your stump down, once it is dead, with an electrical sander and paint with a good quality outdoor varnish to turn your tree stump into an interesting decorative feature.


Your stump has less chance of re-sprouting if you cut the tree down in autumn and begin treatment then. This is because the plant is moving its energy stores (carbohydrates) down toward its root system for the winter and so the herbicide is more likely to be absorbed right down to the root tip. In spring, however, the tree will begin moving its energy stores to its branches. The herbicide is less likely to penetrate the root system and the plant will want to continually sprout new shoots.


Remember to choose an herbicide that will not kill grass or other plants in the area and is safe to use around children and pets.

Things You'll Need

  • Large paint brush
  • Strong herbicide
  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sheers
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