Preventing Small Tree Regrowth: 4 Methods + What To Avoid

Attempting to eliminate a tree from your property can prove to be a difficult undertaking, as even the removal of a small tree can result in the regrowth of both its roots and stump. This is a result of the tree’s robust root system, which aids in its rejuvenation.

How can you stop small trees from growing back? The best way to ensure that small trees don’t grow back is to dig out the stump and roots and dispose of them. You could also grind out the stump or use stump-killer herbicides to prevent the chances of any future growth. Another option is to remove new sprouts as soon as they appear on the stump. 

How you choose to deal with the small tree to prevent it from growing back depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to invest. Read more to find out the best ways to kill a small tree once and for all.

Ways To Prevent a Small Tree From Regrowing

Often after cutting the trunk of the tree, the stump and the roots don’t die. Even without the foliage and the leaves to photosynthesize sunlight, the roots continue to absorb moisture and nutrition and send them up to the stump.

Eventually, new sprouts emerge on the stump, which, if left to grow, will turn into a whole tree again. The following methods help you kill the tree and prevent any new growth.

Method #1 – Dig Out the Stump & Roots

If you’re fed up with the stump growing back and sprouting new growth everywhere, you can put an end to it by removing the stump and roots from the ground.

Depending on the size of the tree, you could get the job done within 3 to 4 hours. You’ll need a hatchet or chainsaw as well as pruning shears. Start by uncovering the roots around the stump.

Keep removing the soil and uncovering the roots until you see the roots thinning out. Now use the hatchet or chainsaw to cut the large roots. Smaller roots can be clipped with the pruning shears.

Now tie a rope around the stump, and pull it out of the ground. With no roots attached to it, the stump will come out easily. Fill the hole with soil, and cover it with mulch.

Method #2 – Grind Down the Stump

This method is a lot quicker than the first one, but you’ll need some equipment to get it done. Both a stump grinder machine and a chainsaw are required. You can rent them or hire a professional to get the job done.

Use the chainsaw to trim away the stump removing the new growth and bark. Then the machine will cut through the stump and roots, rendering them into chips. 

When you’re sure you’ve removed most of the main roots, discard the stump and roots, and cover the hole with soil and mulch.

Method #3 – Apply a Stump-Killing Herbicide

If you prefer an easier way to eliminate the stump that doesn’t involve a lot of cutting and searching for roots, a stump-killing herbicide will come in handy.

Follow the instructions on the package carefully as you apply the herbicide to the base of the stump. As the soil absorbs the herbicide, the lethal chemicals kill the roots and turn the stump into a piece of deadwood. 

You might have to use a few applications to kill all the roots. After that, you can remove the stump by tying a rope around it and pulling it out with a truck.

The downside to this method is that the soil will be contaminated with the chemicals for a long time and you can’t grow other plants there.

Method #4 – Remove Sprouting Growth as It Appears

This is the easiest way to ensure that the small tree will not grow back, but it’s also the least effective one. All you need is a pair of pruning shears.

Check on the stump regularly, and trim off any new sprouts you see. Most of the new growth appears in the spring, but some stumps won’t stop sending out new shoots throughout the spring and summer. 

With no leaves to generate plant energy and send it to the roots, the roots eventually die out, and the stump runs out of resources to send out new shoots.

Using Epsom Salt as a Homemade Tree Stump Killer

If you don’t like using herbicides to kill a tree stump, you can try this homemade recipe to speed up the rotting of the stump.

It involves Epsom salt in large doses so that the sulfur and magnesium kill the roots and eat through the wood at fast rates. The full decay of the stump with Epsom salt takes between 6 months and one year. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Use a power drill to make 1-inch wide holes in the stump.
  2. Sprinkle Epsom salt over the stump, making sure to fill the holes with the salt.
  3. Add water to get the salt moist.
  4. Place a tarp over the top of the stump, and secure the edges around the trunk with a rope.
  5. Check on the salt every few weeks, and add a fresh layer of Epsom salt before drenching it with water.
  6. The stump will die within 3 months, and the wood will decay fully within a year.

What NOT To Use as Tree Stump Killer

A lot of chemicals and laundry products around the house can be used to kill a tree stump. While some are more successful than others, you need to consider the ramifications on the soil, the environment, and the surrounding plants.

Here are some materials that should never be used to kill stumps.

  1. Diesel Fuel: Some people prefer to burn the stump and then let the wood decay. If you go that way, don’t use diesel fuel. It is toxic for the plants and doesn’t wash out of the soil easily.
  2. Bleach: Unlike Epsom salt, bleach is a chemical that kills plants and is hard to dilute. 
  3. Large Fire: If the stump is large or is close to a shed or other structures, then avoid using fire to burn the stump. The fire could get out of hand quickly. 
  4. Herbicides: Stump-killer herbicides are only recommended for stumps that stand alone in the yard with no plants around them. After spraying the herbicide, you can’t grow anything in the soil for a long time.

Related Questions:

How Can You Prevent Tree Roots From Growing Under a House?

If you plant a tree with a robust and aggressive root system near the house and you worry about the roots growing under the house, use root barriers.

These plastic or metal barriers block the path of the roots and force them to divert in other directions away from the house, wall, fence, or sidewalk.

Will Vinegar Kill Tree Roots?

You can use vinegar to kill the stump and eventually the roots. Spray vinegar over the leaves until they wither and die. Without photosynthesis, the roots eventually dry out and die. The stump will follow suit, and the natural decay of the wood will begin.


After cutting a tree in your yard, the stump and roots will continue to try to regrow back. You can dig out the stump and cut the roots to prevent future growth, or you can use a stump grinder machine to pulverize the stump and the attached roots quickly.

Other slower methods include stump-killer herbicides, Epsom salt, and removing new sprouts on the stump.