How to Kill an Apple Tree

Updated February 21, 2017

A wide variety of apple trees are planted in home gardens, and the resulting fruit is used in fresh and processed forms. Apple trees grow well in areas of full sun in well-drained, fertile soil. Standard-size trees grow up to 20 feet tall. Despite the functional and ornamental value of apple trees, there often is the need to kill one and remove it from the landscape. The best way to kill an unwanted tree, shrub or plants is to use recommended herbicide, according the Ohio State University Extension.

Cut the tree down to a stump, making sure the surface is as smooth as possible to keep the chemical from flowing off. Remove all sawdust from surface. A chain saw or axe works best for taking down the tree.

Spray the entire stump surface with glyphosate herbicide to kill all the way down to the roots, according to the Washington State University Extension. Follow the product label instructions for application details. The chemical will be translocated to the roots by the tree's tissues.

Treat the entire surface on trees that are 3 inches or less in diameter. On larger diameter stumps, treat only the 2 to 3 inches next to the bark.

Spray the stump with the herbicide after cutting on fresh wood for best efficacy. If you were not able to treat the stump right away, make a fresh cut before applying the glyphosate.

Remove the dead stump by grinding it down to 1 foot below the soil line or removing it entirely by wrapping a chain around the stump, hooking the chain to a truck or tractor, and pulling it out.


Use undiluted, water-soluble herbicide formulas rather than the esters, as the former are more effective. The best time to kill the tree with herbicide is during late spring and early summer.


Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that will affect all vegetation indiscriminately. Use carefully to avoid contact with non-target plants. Do not use on windy days to minimise drift to other landscape areas.

Things You'll Need

  • Chain saw or axe
  • Glyphosate
  • Stump grinder
  • Chain
  • Truck or tractor
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About the Author

Irum Sarfaraz is a freelance writer with over 20 years of nonfiction writing experience in newspaper op-eds and magazine writing, book editing, translating and research writing. Sarfaraz is originally from Pakistan and has been published in both American and Pakistani newspapers and magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, and diplomas in nonfiction writing.