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How to Kill Elderberry Trees: 6 Ways

How to Kill Elderberry Trees

Are elderberry trees gatecrashing your property and overstaying their welcome like obnoxious houseguests? Worry not! We’ve concocted a foolproof plan to evict these botanical troublemakers. 

So grab your gardening gloves, embrace the challenge, and let’s give those troublesome trees the boot while celebrating our victory dance as we cheer on the restored order of your green domain!

How to Kill Elderberry Trees

Foliar Application

Foliar Application
DifficultyMedium ●●●○○
SpeedMedium to slow
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Herbicide

• Sprayer

Foliar application is a nifty way of applying herbicides or other chemicals directly to a plant’s foliage, aka its fancy leaves. 

When it comes to giving an elderberry tree the boot, foliar application means giving those leaves a good spray with herbicide to control and eventually kick out the tree.

How to Do Foliar Application

1. Choose the right herbicide.
Opt for an herbicide that possesses covert abilities and a personal vendetta against elderberry trees. 
Look for formulations containing glyphosate, known to be the tough contenders in tackling those tenacious woody plants.
2. Ensure proper dilution and stirring.
Stick to the herbicide manufacturer’s instructions regarding the precise dilution ratio. 
Utilize clean water and a fresh container for mixing, avoiding the use of recycled containers that could introduce unwanted complications.
3. Spray with precision.
Adjust your sprayer nozzle to achieve a fine mist or spray pattern, ensuring comprehensive coverage of leaves like a seasoned professional. 
Begin from the bottom and work your way up, ensuring every leaf, stem, and branch receives an ample dose. Coat both the upper and lower leaf surfaces, but exercise caution to avoid excessive pooling of the herbicide on the ground.
4. Reapply as needed.
Sometimes, a single application just doesn’t cut it. 
Depending on the effectiveness of the herbicide and the size of the elderberry tree, it may be necessary to repeat the process multiple times. Remember to allow a break between applications, or as advised on the herbicide label. 
8. Clean up properly.
Once the task is completed, it’s time for cleanup duty. 
Follow the instructions on the herbicide label to rinse and clean your sprayer and any other tools used during the process. Dispose of any remaining herbicide or empty containers responsibly, following the guidelines set by your local authorities. 
And don’t forget, keep the herbicide securely stored away from curious children, pets, and any potential hazards.

Planter’s Tips:

Always prioritize reading and adhering to the instructions provided by the herbicide manufacturer. They serve as the secret recipe for achieving success, ensuring that you carry out the task safely, effectively, and with the environment in mind.

Basal Bark Application

Basal Bark Application
Image by Alabama Cooperative Extension System
DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
SpeedMedium to slow
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Herbicide

• Paint brush or any other applicator

Ever wondered how to bid farewell to those pesky elderberry trees? Well, one nifty technique is basal bark application. It’s a method where you apply herbicides directly to the trunk’s lower part. 

How to Do Basal Bark Application

1. Select the right herbicide.
When it comes to herbicide selection, opt for a product specifically labeled for basal bark application and effective against elderberry trees. 
Look for herbicides that contain triclopyr or glyphosate. These formulations are well-equipped to handle these sturdy woody plants.
2. Mix the herbicide.
Obtain a penetrant or basal oil and carefully follow the instructions provided by the product. 
3. Apply the herbicide.
Start the application from the base of the tree and work your way upward, focusing on thoroughly treating the lower 12 to 18 inches of the trunk.
Maintain a gentle touch while spraying, employing low pressure. Vigilantly observe the tree for any bark injuries or accessible cracks where the herbicide can seep in. 
We want to ensure comprehensive coverage so don’t forget to apply the herbicide all the way around the trunk.
5. Monitor reapplication and timing.
Timing is crucial, so consult the herbicide label to determine the ideal timing for both initial application and subsequent reapplications. 
For larger and more resilient elderberry trees, multiple applications may be necessary. 
6. Maintain proper cleanup and disposal. 
Thoroughly clean the sprayer and any other tools used to prevent contamination. Dispose of any unused herbicide and herbicide containers responsibly, following the guidelines and regulations in your local area. 
Lastly, ensure the safe storage of herbicides, keeping them well out of reach from children, pets, and the pantry. 

Planter’s Tips

Basal bark application is most effective on younger or smaller elderberry trees. Dealing with larger specimens may require additional effort or repeated applications.

Patience and persistence are crucial for this method. Always consult the herbicide label for specific instructions, as herbicides tend to be quite adamant about their dos and don’ts.

Girdling or Ring Barking

Girdling or Ring Barking
Image by Woody Invasives of the Great Lakes Collaborative
DifficultyEasy to moderate ●●○○○
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Sharp pruning saw or ax

• Paint brush or any other applicator

Girdling, also known as ring barking, is a great trick to bid farewell to trees by disrupting their nutrient and water flow. It’s like cutting off their lifeline!

Now, let’s get down to business and figure out if girdling is the right move for that elderberry tree. 

How to Do Girdling or Ring Barking

1. Select the cutting location.
Choose the ideal spot to make the girdling cut. 
Find a comfortable height, approximately at chest level, to avoid unnecessary strain or discomfort.
2. Execute the girdling cut.
Create a complete ring-shaped cut through the bark and cambium layer, encircling the trunk entirely. 
Maintain a width of about one to two inches for the cut. Ensure your cut is smooth and precise, without any loose or ragged edges. 
Take a thorough look at your cut. Ensure that it is continuous and has completely encircled the trunk. If any sections have escaped the cut, make additional slices.
6. Provide post-treatment care.
Monitor the tree’s progress and ensure it doesn’t pose any safety risks. If it does, consider its safe removal.

Planter’s Tips

Girdling requires patience, my gardening friend. The tree won’t kick the bucket immediately. 

The timeline depends on the tree’s size, health, and the surrounding environment.

Keep a vigilant eye on its decline and don’t hesitate to employ supplementary methods if necessary. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. 

Injecting with Chemicals

Injecting with Chemicals
Image by
DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
SpeedMedium to slow
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Herbicide

• Injection system

Injecting chemicals directly into a tree’s trunk is a nifty method for getting rid of specific tree species, like those pesky elderberries. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of how it works, without putting you to sleep:

How to Do Injection with Chemicals

1. Select the appropriate chemical.
Identify a herbicide specifically designed for injection, ensuring its effectiveness against woody plants. 
Opt for renowned options such as glyphosate or triclopyr formulations, known for their remarkable efficacy in eliminating unwanted trees.
2. Drill and inject the herbicide. 
Grab your drill with an appropriately sized bit and start creating holes at a slight downward angle into the tree trunk. 
Ensure the holes are evenly spaced around the trunk. Remember to penetrate the outer bark and cambium layer, reaching the sapwood where the herbicide can take effect. 
Insert the injection plugs or capsules into the holes. These plugs will securely hold the herbicide, facilitating its distribution throughout the tree. 
Next, attach the herbicide applicator to the plugs, following the instructions provided by the equipment manufacturer. Gently squeeze the applicator, injecting the herbicide into the tree. 
3. Seal and clean up the areas.
Once you’ve performed your injection, promptly remove the injection plugs and seal the holes using a tree wound sealant or a similar product recommended by the herbicide manufacturer.
Dispose of leftover herbicides, containers, and equipment in accordance with local regulations and guidelines.

Planter’s Tips

Herbicide injection is a serious undertaking, so avoid injecting substances indiscriminately. Adhere to all safety precautions and follow local regulations diligently.

If you feel uncertain or uneasy about the process, there’s no harm in calling upon the professionals! An arborist or tree care specialist can handle the injection task effortlessly, ensuring successful results.

Cut Surface Treatment

Cut Surface Treatment
Image by University of Florida
DifficultyEasy to moderate ●●○○○
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Chainsaw or handsaw

• Herbicide

• Paintbrush, sprayer, or any applicator

Cut surface treatment is a genius way to stop a tree from making a comeback after you’ve given it the old chop. Basically, you apply a strong herbicide directly to the freshly cut surface of the tree to say, “Nope, you’re not sprouting back!”

How to Do Cut Surface Treatment

1. Make the cut.
Using your trusted chainsaw or handsaw, aim for a clean and level horizontal cut as close to the ground as possible. 
Avoid any slanted or uneven cuts because precision and tidiness are key. And make sure that the tree is well-supported and won’t unexpectedly come crashing down. 
2. Prepare and mix the herbicide.
Prepare your concentrated herbicide, preferably one containing glyphosate, a reliable choice. 
You can use a sprayer or a brush bottle, but take care not to inadvertently spray or apply the herbicide to your beloved nearby plants. We want to avoid any unintended damage!
3. Apply the herbicide immediately.
Timing plays a crucial role in treating the cut surface. 
Generously apply the herbicide to the entire cut surface, ensuring that every exposed wood area is covered. This prevents the tree from sealing the wound and allows the herbicide to work its magic.
4. Let the herbicide soak in.
Allow the herbicide to permeate the cut surface by giving it time to soak in. 
The duration may vary depending on the product and weather conditions. Avoid sudden rain showers or garden sprinklers for at least 24 hours to ensure the herbicide can work undisturbed.
But if rain does occur, don’t worry. Simply repeat the application as needed, and you’ll be back on track.
Optional step: Apply wound sealant
For an extra touch of security, you have the option to apply a tree wound sealant over the cut surface. Although this step is not mandatory, it can provide additional protection against regrowth and pesky infections. 
Follow the instructions on the sealant package to ensure proper application.
5. Ensure proper herbicide disposal.
Dispose of any leftover herbicide responsibly. 
Avoid pouring it down the drain or discarding it in locations that could contaminate the water supply. Remember to always follow local regulations and do the right thing.
6. Monitor and reapply as needed.
Periodically check the treated area for any sneaky signs of regrowth. 
If you notice new shoots or sprouts, promptly take action by applying more herbicide or physically removing them. Repeat the treatment as necessary until that elderberry tree becomes a thing of the past. 

Planter’s Tip:

Each neighborhood may have its own specific rules and restrictions regarding herbicide use and disposal, so it’s wise to maintain a good relationship with your local gardening experts.

Cutting Tree Down

Cutting Tree Down
Image by Lawn Love
DifficultyModerate to difficult ●●●●○
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Chainsaw or handsaw

Taking down your elderberry tree doesn’t have to be a wild circus act or, heaven forbid, a heart-stopping thriller! We’re here to make your life a breeze with our handy-dandy guidelines.

How to Cut the Tree Down

1. Evaluate the situation.
Take a thorough assessment of the tree and its surroundings, paying close attention to its height, size, and placement. 
It is essential to determine if the tree can be safely felled without causing any complications. Stay vigilant for any potential obstacles such as structures, power lines, or other trees that could obstruct the process. 
2. Strategize your cuts.
Begin by making a horizontal undercut on the side of the tree facing your intended falling direction.
Ensure that this undercut is approximately one-third of the tree’s diameter and extends around one-fourth of its circumference. Precision is key; let’s avoid guesswork.
3. Execute the felling cut.
Shift to the opposite side of the tree and create a horizontal cut slightly above the undercut. 
Leave a small portion of uncut wood to serve as a hinge because even trees need support. Gently angle the felling cut to guide the tree in your desired direction. 
4. Carefully monitor the tree fall.
Pay close attention as you near the completion of the felling cut. 
If you hear any cracking or popping sounds, it indicates that the tree is preparing for its grand finale. Stand on the opposite side, maintaining a safe distance from the tree, and ensure you have a clear path to escape if necessary. 
5. Ensure proper post-felling procedures.
Confirm the fallen tree’s stability to prevent any unexpected tumbles.
Remove any remaining branches or debris from the fallen tree. It’s also an ideal opportunity to tidy up the entire area.
6.  Divide the tree into sections.
Begin from the top and gradually work your way down the trunk, dividing it into manageable pieces.
Exercise caution when using chainsaws or other cutting tools, and adhere to the safety guidelines provided by the manufacturer.

Planter’s Tip:

When it’s time to bid farewell to the branches and debris, ensure they are disposed of appropriately in accordance with your local regulations. 

How to Kill Elderberry Stumps and Roots

Looking to bid farewell to those stubborn elderberry stumps and roots? No worries! We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves that’ll do the job. 

Stump Grinding

Stump Grinding
Image by
DifficultyModerate to difficult ●●●●○
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Stump grinder
How to Do Stump Grinding

1. Turn on the machine and grind the stump.
Use a smooth side-to-side motion to grind away at the stump, gently rocking it back and forth. Take your time and continue grinding until the stump is well below ground level. 
Aim for a depth of six to eight inches. Also, keep an eye out for those elderberry stumps with extensive root systems. 
You might have to look for those larger roots and grind them out as well. Once you’ve triumphed over that stubborn stump, move the grinder aside and thoroughly inspect the area. 
2. Make sure to clean up.
If you happen to spot any lingering roots playfully peeking out, grab a shovel or an ax and finish the job.

Planter’s Tips

Stump grinders are serious machines that demand respect. Ensure your safety by following all the necessary precautions and guidelines. 

If you ever feel uncertain, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals. They will ensure that those elderberry stumps and roots bid you farewell in the safest and most efficient manner possible.

Chemical Stump Removal

Chemical Stump Removal
Image by OPE Reviews
DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
SpeedMedium to slow
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Drill

• Herbicide

• Tarp or plastic sheet
How to Do Chemical Stump Removal

1. Create holes in the stump.
Prepare your power drill along with a sturdy drill bit, and commence the process of creating perforations within the stump.
Ensure that each hole measures approximately one inch in width and maintain even spacing across the entire surface.
2. Pour the chemicals in. 
Carefully pouring water into each hole. The water will permeate, working its way toward the decomposition process. 
To prevent rainwater from disrupting our plans, diligently shield the elderberry stump with a tarp or plastic sheet. 
3. Monitor and wait for results.
Periodically monitor the stump’s progress to assess its condition. When the stump exhibits a soft and spongy texture, easily yielding under the pressure of a shovel or ax, it’s time to make it go away.
Break apart that decomposed wood. The softened wood will be effortlessly removable, and even the most stubborn roots will relinquish their grip more readily.
Dispose of the stump and its roots appropriately.

Planter’s Tips

Chemical stump removal demands more time compared to alternative methods, but it can yield favorable results. Patience is important alongside vigilant monitoring of the stump’s progress.

Stick to the instructions provided by the product, prioritize safety, and demonstrate environmental responsibility. 

Stump Burning

Stump Burning
Image by YouTube
DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Fuel
How to Do Stump Burning

1. Prepare the area.
Once you have obtained the necessary materials, it’s crucial to ensure the immediate vicinity of the stump is free from anything that can catch fire. 
Remove any dry plants, debris, or structures that may be at risk. Locate a suitable and safe spot where the fire won’t cause any disturbances. 
Stack up dry wood, kindling, or charcoal neatly on top of the elderberry stump. Make sure to arrange them in a manner that aligns with the responsible environmental principles. 
2. Ignite the flames.
Now, retrieve your matches or trusty lighter, and carefully ignite multiple spots on the stacked materials to ensure an even burn. 
Keep a close watch on the fire as it progresses. It’s prudent to have a fire extinguisher, water source, or sand readily available nearby in case things become too intense to handle. 
Allow the fire to work its magic, adding more fuel as necessary. Over time, you’ll witness the stump and its elusive roots burning away.
As the stump gradually shrinks, gently use a shovel or rake to guide any remaining pieces into the fire. 
3. Allow the burnt stump to cool off.
When the fire has fulfilled its purpose and all that remains are ashes, thoroughly douse them with water. 
It’s important to ensure that the embers are completely extinguished. Dispose of the ashes responsibly. 
If they are free from any chemicals, consider repurposing them as compost and embrace the concept of sustainable stump removal.

Planter’s Tips

Before embarking on any fire-related activity, always confirm that it is permitted and safe to do so. Safety should always remain a top priority and be your constant companion.

Keep a vigilant eye on the fire, being mindful of potential hazards such as spreading flames or irritable neighbors. 


What is the best way to kill a small elderberry tree?

The best way to kill a small elderberry tree is the cut surface treatment method. It’s simple, effective, and prevents regrowth. 

If the cut surface treatment method isn’t an option or you’re exploring alternatives, the next best methods for eliminating small elderberry trees are foliar application and basal bark application.

What is the best way to kill a large elderberry tree?

The best way to kill a large elderberry tree is to cut it down. This is because large trees are difficult to control using other techniques alone. 

If cutting down the tree isn’t feasible or preferred, the next best option is a combination of methods. Girdling or ring barking can be used along with injecting herbicides into the trunk to weaken the tree and hinder its growth. 

Can I cut down an elderberry tree without treating the stump?

You can cut down an elderberry tree without treating the stump. While cutting down the tree removes the immediate presence, treating the stump is crucial to prevent regrowth. 

Applying a concentrated herbicide to the cut surface is recommended to ensure complete elimination.

Are there any natural alternatives to chemical herbicides for killing elderberry trees?

There are natural alternatives to chemical herbicides for killing elderberry trees. For instance, vinegar or boiling water can be used to kill small elderberry trees. 

However, they may not be as effective for larger or more established trees and may require multiple applications.

Is it necessary to remove the entire root system when killing an elderberry tree?

It is not necessary to remove the entire root system when killing an elderberry tree. While this is ideal, it can be challenging for large or mature trees. 

Focus on removing the major roots and applying treatments to the cut surface to prevent regrowth.

Can I transplant an elderberry tree instead of killing it?

You can transplant a small elderberry tree instead of killing it. Transplanting mature elderberry trees is difficult due to their extensive root system.

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