Compounds for Rotting a Tree Stump

Updated February 21, 2017

Removing the stump is often the last step in the process of clearing an unwanted tree from the landscape. There are many options for removing the stump, including doing nothing and allowing the stump rot away naturally. This takes years or even decades, depending on climate conditions and the species of the tree. Other options include hiring a tree stump service to grind down the stump below ground level. Adding chemicals to the stump increases the rate of decay but still takes time.


The most common chemical used on tree stumps is potassium nitrate, which serves as a fertiliser to the fungus and bacteria that facilitate the decaying process. Commercial manufacturers produce stump removing chemicals containing this or other chemicals.

Application Process

Chemicals are added to the stump via holes drilled into the top surface. Commonly, the powdered chemical is added to the bottom of inch-wide holes with water added. Multiple applications of the chemical over a period of up to two months are often necessary to bring about decay. Cutting the tree as close to the ground as possible minimises the size of the stump that will decay.


The final step to removing a stump by chemical-enhanced decay is to burn the stump. Dry scrap lumber is piled on top of the stump, kerosene is added and the whole pile is set on fire. Some local governments prohibit open fires, however, because the process can be dangerous. A stump fire can actually smoulder for several days, posing a danger to children and pets.

Other Options

Stump removal by shovel and axe is commonly the cheapest, if most manually labour-intense method of tree stump removal. Stump grinding by a tree professional usually produces the cleanest ground surface and requires little labour, although the cost varies. Stumps can also be turned into bird or wildlife feeders or incorporated into the landscape in other decorative ways.

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About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.