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A Quick Guide to Killing Conifers

A Quick Guide to Killing Conifers

Conifers, like pine trees, are great ornamental plants in homes and gardens, especially during the Christmas season. 

However, conifer roots tend to grow deep and sprawl, which interferes with other plants in the garden. Because they need plenty of nutrients and water to survive, they tend to compete with other plants in the garden. 

Whether your reason is to revamp your garden landscaping or to protect other plants, the only way out might be to remove those conifer trees completely. 

How to kill conifers

The best way to kill coniferous trees is to cut them down and remove their tree stump to prevent further growth. 

There are different ways to put these into action. Read on to learn more!

1. Cut down the tree.

Cut down the tree
Image: Checkatrade


  1. Sever the tree branches close to the trunk. 
  2. Make the undercut  – a downward cut made about 1 foot from the base and should be deep enough to go through ⅓ of its thickness. 
  3. If the tree has a circumference of fewer than 6 inches, one cut is enough. If the circumference is more than 6 inches, cut downward at a 45-degree angle. 
  4. On the opposite side of the tree, make the back cut – a straight cut that goes through a third of the trunk’s thickness. The back cut should be placed 2 inches above the bottom of the undercut 
  5. As a result of the undercut and back cut, a triangle portion will be removed and the tree will fall down. 
  6. Make sure to move to a safe distance – about 1 ½ times the height of the tree – as it falls down. 

2. Remove the tree stump.

Remove the tree stump
Image: Garden Tricks

At this point, the tree stump must be removed to prevent the conifer tree from growing back. 


  1. Using a chainsaw, cut and slice the conifer stump all the way to the ground. 
  2. Drill holes about 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart. 
  3. Add more holes at a downward angle outside the stump.
  4. Fill the holes with slow-release fertilizers, herbicides, or any stump remover.
  5. Cover the rest with soil.

After a week, the stump will rot so you can now easily pull the stump out of the ground.

How do you kill small conifers?

How do you kill small conifers
Image: Bunnings

Using a Foliar spray is the easiest way to kill a small conifer tree. 


  1. Spray the herbicide on the leaves of the conifer tree.
  2. Once absorbed by the leaves, the herbicide will be transported to the roots which will effectively kill the tree. 

It is recommended that this method be applied during the summer and spring seasons due to the high foliage count on coniferous trees. 

How do you kill big conifers?

How do you kill big conifers
Image: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

To kill big coniferous trees, ringbarking is the most effective method. 


  1. Remove about 4 to 8 inches wide from the ring bark around the entire tree.
  2. Apply herbicide so the nutrients will stop traveling from the roots to the branches and foliage of the tree.

You can also use this method if you still want to reuse the tree as furniture or firewood because the tree will slowly dry from this process.

What is the best time to kill a conifer tree?

What is the best time to kill a conifer tree
Image: Northwest Conifer Connections

The best time to kill a conifer tree is during the fall season. 

This is the time when there is a high foliage count and the sap tends to move downwards – all of which will transport the herbicide to the roots faster. 

Can you kill a conifer tree without cutting it down?

You can kill a conifer without cutting it down in different ways, such as the basal bark treatment, cut surface treatment, and girdling. 

1. Basal Bark Treatment

What is the best time to kill a conifer tree
Image: Woody Invasives

The basal bark treatment involves spraying the chemical 20 inches from the base of the tree. 

This ensures that the chemical will be absorbed by the bark near its roots which will kill the tree. 

2. Cut Surface Treatment


  1. Cut hashtag (#) patterns in every 2 to 3 inches of the circumference of the tree. 
  2. Make sure that the cuts expose the white surface of the bark. 
  3. Spray chemicals onto the cuts around the bark. 

3. Girdling

What is the best time to kill a conifer tree
Image: USDA Forest Service


  1. Remove a strip of tree bark, at least 4 to 6 inches wide, from the tree.
  2. Treating the exposed portion of the bark with herbicide. 

This method prevents nutrients from reaching the branches and leaves of the tree.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Will muriatic acid kill a tree?

Muriatic acid can kill trees. You can pour it directly into the roots or onto the tree stump and this will effectively kill the tree.

How do you get rid of conifer stumps?

To get rid of conifer stumps, follow these steps:

•Slice the conifer stump to the ground. 
•Drill holes about 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart. 
•Fill the holes with stump remover chemicals.
•Cover the rest of the stump with soil. This will speed up the rotting process of the stump, making it easier to pull out from the ground.

Do conifer roots grow back?

Conifer roots do not grow back. Once the trees and branches have been cut, the roots cannot grow anymore because of a lack of nutrients for root regrowth.

What sort of root system do conifers have?

Conifer trees have a shallow root system that grows from 6 to 12 feet deep. Conifer roots tend to grow deep and sprawl competing with other plants for nutrients and water supply.

What happens if you cut the top off a conifer?

Cutting the top of a conifer tree will cause it to grow in a crooked and bent shape, instead of an upward manner. It will also expose the conifer to diseases and parasites that can infect it. 

Will bleach kill a conifer?

Bleach will not kill a conifer tree. It can only cause the leaves of the tree to shed or fall but it cannot infiltrate the tree’s root system.

That’s it for our roundup of the best ways to kill conifer trees. Which method have you tried? 

Share your experiences in the comments below!

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