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How to Kill a Ficus Tree?

How to Kill a Ficus Tree

Not everyone is a fan of ficus trees, especially when they grow so big they become tyrannical garden giants! To get rid of them, we’ve listed several ways that include some manual labor as well as chemical means to ensure their demise.

So how would you know which one to pick? We’ve listed all the methods to help you get a bird’s eye view!

Basal Bark Treatment

Basal Bark Treatment
Image by YouTube

In the mood to spray ficus tree trunks with chemicals? Then this method is perfect for you. 

By applying herbicides to the base of the tree, you slowly kill the unwanted ficus tree as the toxins get absorbed into its system.

DifficultyIntermediate ●●●○○
Estimated Time for Tree to DieMonths to years
Ideal Tree SizeSmall to medium
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment
• Herbicide of choice
• Sprayer or preferred applicator
• Marker or flagging tape, optional

How to Perform Basal Bark Spray
1. Choose the appropriate herbicide.
Select a herbicide specifically labeled for basal bark treatment. Read and follow the instructions and precautions mentioned on the herbicide label.
2. Mix the herbicide.
If required, mix the herbicide according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some herbicides come ready to use and do not require dilution.
3. Identify the target tree.
Locate the tree or trees you wish to treat. Basal bark treatment is effective for small to medium-sized trees.
4. Prepare the herbicide application.
Pour the herbicide into a spray bottle or backpack sprayer. Ensure the sprayer nozzle is set to deliver a fine mist or spray pattern.
5. Apply the herbicide.
Standing close to the tree, spray the herbicide mixture directly onto the lower 12 to 18 inches of the tree trunk, targeting the bark. Apply the herbicide evenly around the entire circumference of the trunk.
Avoid spraying onto surrounding vegetation.
6. Cover the entire trunk with the herbicide.
Make sure to cover the entire trunk from the ground level up to where the first branches emerge.
7. Check for absorption.
Observe the bark after spraying. The herbicide should be absorbed by the tree’s bark. If any runoff occurs, reapply the herbicide to ensure proper absorption.
8. Dispose of excess herbicide properly.
Dispose of any unused herbicide or rinse your equipment as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
9. Repeat as necessary.
Depending on the herbicide used, follow-up treatments or monitoring may be required. Read the herbicide label for any specific instructions regarding reapplication or additional measures.

Foliar Spray

Foliar Spray
Image by Haifa Group

Some homeowners spray their vegetation with fertilizers for growth. But if it’s unwanted, then bombard them with herbicides to make sure they stay away!

By targeting the foliage with absorbed toxins, you ensure that the ficus tree dies a bit faster compared to most of the methods we’ve listed.

DifficultyIntermediate ●●●○○
Estimated Time for Tree to DieWeeks to months
Ideal Tree SizeSmall to medium
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment
• Herbicide of choice
• Spray or preferred applicator

How to Perform Foliar Spray
1. Pick and prepare the right herbicide.
Select an appropriate herbicide specifically formulated for foliar application. Read and follow the instructions on the herbicide label carefully, as different products may have specific usage guidelines.
2. Choose the right time to apply.
Timing is crucial for effective foliar spraying. Plan to apply the herbicide during the tree’s active growth phase, typically in spring or early summer when the leaves are fully developed.
Avoid extremely hot or windy days, as it can cause the herbicide to evaporate or drift away from the target.
3. Dilute the herbicide as recommended.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to dilute the herbicide to the recommended concentration. Use a sprayer or spray bottle suitable for foliar application.
Ensure the sprayer is clean and in good working condition.
4. Prepare the area for application.
Clear the area around the ficus tree from any desirable plants or vegetation that you want to protect. Cover any nearby plants or sensitive areas with plastic sheets or use cardboard to shield them from overspray.
5. Spray the foliage.
Stand a suitable distance away from the tree to ensure good coverage without excessive runoff. Start spraying from the bottom of the tree and work your way up, covering both sides of the foliage thoroughly.
Apply the herbicide evenly, but avoid excessive dripping or runoff.
6. Repeat if needed.
Depending on the herbicide and the tree’s resilience, you may need to repeat the foliar spray application after a specific interval. Refer to the herbicide label for any recommended follow-up treatments.
7. Dispose of used equipment and containers.
After use, clean the sprayer or spray bottle thoroughly following the herbicide label instructions. Dispose of any leftover herbicide, empty containers, and cleaning materials properly, according to local regulations.

Cut Surface Treatment

Cut Surface Treatment
Image by Deep Green Permaculture

Channel your inner artist and paint your ficus tree away to oblivion. Although you might have to do a bit of heavy lifting at first, you’ll get to your chemical canvas once your tree is cut and ready!

DifficultyIntermediate ●●●○○
Estimated Time for Tree to DieMonths to years
Ideal Tree SizeSmall to medium
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment
• Chainsaw or handsaw
• Herbicide labeled for tree stump treatment
• Brush or sponge applicator

How to Perform Cut Surface Treatment
1. Assess the ficus tree.
Ensure the tree is suitable for cut surface treatment. This method is typically effective for small to medium-sized trees.
2. Determine the cutting height.
Decide on the height at which you will make the cut. We recommend making a cut as close to the ground as possible.
3. Cut the ficus tree.
Using your preferred cutting tool, make a clean and level cut through the tree trunk. The cut should be as close to horizontal as possible.
Ensure the cut is smooth and even, without any jagged edges or splintering.
4. Apply the herbicide.
Immediately after cutting the tree, apply the herbicide to the exposed surface. Follow the herbicide manufacturer’s instructions regarding the amount and method of application.
Pay extra attention to covering the outermost layer of the tree’s growth rings, as this is where the herbicide will be most effective.
5. Dispose of debris from the tree as well as the herbicide properly.
Remove and dispose of the tree branches and trunk following appropriate waste management procedures. Properly dispose of any remaining herbicide according to local regulations.
6. Monitor the treated tree regularly for signs of decline and dieback.
If the tree shows signs of regrowth or survival, consider reapplying the cut surface treatment or using an alternative method, such as chemical injection or calling for professional tree removal.

Manual Removal

Manual Removal
Image by Go Tree Quotes

This method is a great stress-busting exercise to get rid of lingering negative vibes. While this does call for a bit of physical labor, think of it as a great way to get yourself a bit stronger.

DifficultyBeginner to intermediate ●●●○○
Estimated Time for Tree to DieImmediate
Ideal Tree SizeSmall to large
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment
• Hand saw, chainsaw, ax

How to Perform Manual Removal
1. Assess the ficus tree.
Determine the size, condition, and location of the tree. Ensure that the tree is within your capabilities to remove safely.
If the tree is very large or poses a risk to nearby structures, we recommend getting a professional tree removal service.
2. Plan the tree removal process prior to the activity.
Decide on the direction in which the tree should fall, ensuring it will not cause damage or pose a risk to people, buildings, or utility lines. Clear the area around the tree, removing any obstacles.
3. Begin cutting the ficus tree.
Start by making a horizontal cut, also known as a notch, on the side of the tree facing the desired falling direction.
The notch should be about one-third of the ficus tree trunk’s diameter. Plus, it should be made at a height that’s at a comfortable working position.
4. Make the felling cut.
On the opposite side of the tree,start making a straight cut horizontally through the trunk. It should be a few inches above the notch, so do this until you reach the notch cut.
This cut should be slightly above the bottom of the notch.
5. Stay at a safe location.
As the tree begins to fall, quickly move to a safe area away from the tree’s path. Be aware of any potential hazards and maintain a safe distance until the tree has fallen completely.
6. Clear away branches and trunk.
Once the tree is on the ground, cut off the branches using pruning or chainsaw. Cut the trunk into manageable sections for easier disposal or further processing.
Depending on your preference, you can choose to leave the stump in place, dig it out manually using tools like a shovel and axe, or employ other methods like stump grinding or chemical stump removal.

Girdling or Ring Barking

Girdling or Ring Barking
Image by Woody Invasives of the Great Lakes Collaborative

Girdling or ring barking is effective because it slowly chokes the tree to death from lack of water and nutrients. It’s like giving your ficus tree a deadly corset for its imminent and glorious death!

DifficultyIntermediate ●●●○○
Estimated Time for Tree to DieMonths to years
Ideal Tree SizeSmall to medium
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment
• Hand saw or chainsaw

How to Perform Girdling or Ring Barking
1. Pick the right time for the activity.
Girdling is most effective during the tree’s active growth phase, typically in late spring or early summer. Choose a day when the weather is dry and mild.
2. Identify the girdling area.
Choose a spot on the trunk where you want to create the girdle. The location should be about waist height or slightly higher for easier access.
3. Make the initial cut.
Using the knife or pruning saw, make a vertical cut approximately an inch wide through the bark and into the cambium layer. This layer can be found just beneath the bark.
The cut made should encircle the entire circumference of the trunk.
4. Create the girdle.
Extend the initial cut by making another parallel cut about an inch apart from the first one. Remove the strip of bark and cambium between the two cuts, exposing the inner wood.
Ensure that the girdle is cut clean and relatively smooth.
5. Inspect the girdle.
Double-check that the entire circumference of the trunk is girdled, with no intact sections of bark or cambium remaining. A complete girdle is essential to interrupt the tree’s nutrient flow.
6. Monitor the tree.
After girdling, observe the tree periodically. Over time, you should notice signs of decline, such as wilting leaves, branch dieback, or yellowing foliage.
These indicate that the girdling has been successful in disrupting the tree’s nutrient transport.
7. Follow up with treatments if needed.
While girdling alone can cause the tree to die, you can speed up the process by combining it with herbicide application.
When in doubt, consult a local arborist or horticulture expert to determine suitable herbicides and application methods.
8. Remove and dispose of dead ficus tree.
Once the tree is dead, arrange for its safe removal and disposal. Check local regulations and consider hiring professional tree removal services to ensure the process is carried out safely and efficiently.

Chemical Injections

Chemical Injections
Image by YouTube

Here’s one way to play doctor: injecting horse chestnut trees with herbicides! Performing chemical injections for tree removal involves injecting herbicides directly into the trunk or root system of the tree to kill it.

DifficultyAdvanced ●●●●○
Estimated Time for Tree to DieMonths to years
Ideal Tree SizeMedium to large
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment
• Herbicide of choice
• Drill, drill bits
• Injection system of choice

How to Perform Chemical Injections
1. Choose a suitable herbicide.
Select a suitable herbicide for tree removal. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, including dosage recommendations and any safety precautions.
2. Pick the right time for the activity.
We recommend injecting the herbicide during the tree’s active growing season. This is typically in late spring or early summer when sap flow is highest.
3. Prepare your tools and equipment.
Check that your injection system includes capsules, injection plugs, or specialized tree injection equipment available in the market. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for assembling and using the injection system.
4. Drill holes into the ficus tree.
Carefully drill holes into the tree trunk. The number and placement of holes depend on the tree’s size and the herbicide product instructions.
Typically, the holes should be evenly spaced around the trunk and angled slightly downward.
5. Prepare the injection system into the drilled holes.
Insert the injection capsules, plugs, or syringe into the drilled holes. Ensure that there is a secure fit upon installation.
Follow the instructions provided with the injection system for proper insertion and sealing. If using a specialized tree injection system, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for operating the equipment.
6. Apply the herbicide to the injection system.
Slowly and evenly inject the herbicide into the tree through the injection system. The herbicide will be absorbed by the tree.
As a result, the herbicides affect the internal tree systems and eventually lead to decline and death. When injecting, take caution to avoid spills, splashes, or contact with the herbicide.
7. Seal the injected holes.
After injecting the herbicide, remove the injection capsules, plugs, or syringe, and then seal the holes. You can use a tree wound sealant or a similar product to prevent infection and aid in the tree’s healing process.
8. Monitor and follow up with suitable treatments as applicable.
Keep an eye on the treated tree over time to assess its response to the herbicide treatment. Depending on the tree species, size, and health, it may take several weeks or months for the tree to show signs of decline.
Follow any additional instructions or recommended follow-up treatments provided by the herbicide manufacturer.

Controlled Burning

Controlled Burning
Image by Wikipedia

Controlled burning requires expertise. Unless you’re completely skilled in it, we strongly discourage attempting it without proper training, as it’s complex and potentially dangerous. 

Trained professionals familiar with local regulations, safety protocols, and the environment should undertake it. 

Since controlled burning involves intentionally setting and managing fires to achieve specific goals, specialized skills and training are essential for controlled burning.

If you still believe a controlled burn is necessary for your ficus tree, contact your local fire department, forestry service, or land management agency. 


Can salt kill a ficus tree?

Salt can potentially kill ficus trees, but it’s not a recommended or efficient method. Since salt has a detrimental effect on plant growth, it also has negative consequences for soil fertility and the surrounding environment.

Will Roundup kill ficus trees?

Roundup can kill ficus trees. Roundup is a herbicide containing the active ingredient glyphosate, which is effective against many types of weeds and plants. 

How do you get rid of ficus roots?

You can get rid of ficus roots through manual removal, stump grinding, or chemical treatments. Depending on your method, the results can be as quick as immediate or as long as several months or years.

What herbicide kills ficus trees?

Glyphosate-based herbicides and herbicides containing triclopyr, or imazapyr can kill ficus trees. When using herbicides, it’s important to carefully read and follow all the instructions on the product label. 

Will a ficus tree grow back if cut down?

A ficus tree can’t grow back if cut down completely. There are instances when ficus trees can sometimes regenerate from root suckers or adventitious shoots if the roots are left in the ground.
To prevent this from happening, it’s advisable to remove the entire tree, including the stump and as many roots as possible.

What is the lifespan of a ficus?

The lifespan of a ficus tree is around 20 to 50 years. However, some ficus species, are known for their longevity and can live for hundreds of years. 
The lifespan can be influenced by factors such as climate, care, and diseases that may affect the tree’s health and longevity.

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