A tree ties your garden together. It acts as the focal point of the landscape or the backdrop to a more flashy perennial or a flowering plant. Either way, your garden won’t look the same without it. But when it comes time to cut down the tree for any reason, the tree stump sticks out like a sore thumb. A tree stump killer will remove this unsightly stump for you.
Tree stumps are notoriously hard to remove. After the contractor cuts the tree, you’re left with an ugly and stubborn stump that literally sticks out of the ground. You could take an ax to it, but that would do you no good. So what you need is a tree stump killer to finish the job for you and reclaim your beautiful landscape.
Most tree stump killers use chemicals that work on the roots of the tree and make it easier to remove the stump. But others use a more forceful approach and get the job done with nails driven into the stump. Whatever approach you use depends on the size of the tree stump, its location, and safety concerns.
We put together these tree stump killer reviews that cover the most popular products in the market right now. The buying guide at the end walks you through the key features to look for and answers some of the questions you might have about how to remove tree stumps without turning the garden inside out.
Best Tree Stump Killer Reviews
Tree stump killers come in two types, either mechanical or chemical. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks. Here’s a rundown of the top tree stump killers in the market. We start with our editor’s choice.
What one needs out of a tree stump killer is simplicity, effectiveness, and ease of preparation and use. And in that, the Dow AgroSciences RTU548 Tordon RTU delivers in spades. It doesn’t freeze which means it will stay effective for a long period of time preventing new sprouts and penetrating deeper where the tree roots are.
As a chemical-based tree stump killer, Tordon RTU comes ready to use out of the bottle. The two main ingredients in the product are picloram and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. These two compounds are effective against over 20 types of trees and are easily absorbed by the tree trunk. The liquid is blue which makes it easier for you to follow the saturation lines and measure the progress of the material down the tree stump’s texture.
Another feature we liked was the no-freeze compound that is added to the liquid. Unlike other products which are only suitable for warm weather usage, Tordon RTU can be used any time of the year and even when the temperature drops in the winter. The anti-freeze quality means that liquid will stay usable and the stump will absorb it even in cold temperatures.
As an added bonus, you can use this effective product to control brushes and other invasive plants in your yard. However, you’ll need to use it judiciously. Due to its high potency, Tordon RTU is not safe to use when you have plants near the tree stump you want to kill. It can easily damage your rose bush, flowering plants, or young trees in the vicinity.
- Easy to use and doesn’t require preparation or measuring.
- The blue dye helps you track the progress of the material.
- Effective against 20 woody species.
- No-freeze makes it usable all year round no matter how cold it gets.
- Kills tree stumps in inaccessible locations such as near the fence.
- Shouldn’t be used near crops, plants, or other growing trees.
For an inexpensive chemical-based tree stump killer, Bonide (BND272) – Ready to Use Stump Remover does a good job killing stumps by accelerating their decomposition without the need to chop at the stump or resort to more aggressive measures. It also allows you to burn the stump down to the root and get the job done in a shorter time.
So let’s unpack all of that. First, the active ingredient of the Bonide is sodium metabisulfite. This compound is more effective and environmentally safer than other chemical ingredients such as potassium nitrate. Sodium metabisulfite doesn’t contaminate the soil and tends to dissipate much faster than other chemicals that remain in the soil and prevent the growth of plants.
Bonide is also easy to use and you don’t have to make any preparations or measure ingredients. It comes in the form of granules that are ready to use out of the packet.
Since the active ingredients in the liquid speed up the decay of the wood, it can work on different tree species and of all sizes. All you need to do is dig four holes in the stump, pour the granules into the holes then add water. It usually takes between 4 to 6 weeks for the stump to decompose. If you’re in a hurry, just pour gasoline over the granules and set the stump on fire. It will turn into ash within a few hours.
On the downside, you cannot use this product on freshly cut tree stumps. It only works on aged wood that has been left under the elements for at least one year.
- Environmentally safe active ingredients.
- Accelerates the decay of the tree stump.
- Can be used to burn down the stump.
- Doesn’t require chopping or digging.
- Affordable price tag.
- Doesn’t work on freshly cut tree stumps.
Some chemical tree stump killers come ready to use out of the packet while others are concentrated and need to be diluted. The BioAdvanced 704701A Stump Remover belongs to the first group. What this means is that you don’t have to hassle with diluting the liquid or struggle with water and liquid ratios. Moreover, the 704701A goes a step further and provides a battery-powered sprayer for easy application.
The active ingredient in the 704701A is triclopyr which is effective against over 70 tree species. But it also works with other brushes and invasive plants such as poison oak, bramble, kudzu, poison Ivy, and blackberry among others. But perhaps the one quality that makes this product stand out is the speed with which it kills the tree stumps and brushes. Depending on the size of the tree stump, you could see it disintegrate in front of your eyes within one week. Large and more stubborn stumps could take up to 6 weeks after treatment to fully decompose.
Another feature we liked about this stump remover from BioAdvanced is that it’s safe and convenient to use in otherwise inaccessible areas. Along driveways, around tight corners, and narrow spaces, the sprayer allows you to get to the tree stump and brushes wherever they are. This will help you clear up the tree stump even if it’s locked up between walls or buildings and it’s not practical to remove it any other way.
On the downside and as with handling most chemicals, caution is paramount when using the sprayer. You’ll also need to be extra careful if you have pets who might get in the line of the sprayer and get inadvertently sprayed.
- The active ingredient is triclopyr.
- Works against many tree species and brushes.
- Easy to apply in inaccessible places.
- Shows quick results.
- Not safe to use around pets or other growing plants.
- Slightly expensive price tag.
When a tree stump stands out like a sore thumb in your landscape then you need a fast-acting and powerful stump remover. Spectracide HG-66420 Stump Remover hits the mark with its powerful chemical ingredients and easy application.
The active ingredient in this chemical-based stump remover is potassium nitrate. It works on many tree species with varying degrees of success. However, if safety is your main concern then you should use caution when applying this powerful product.
Ease of use is the distinguishing feature of the HG-66420. It works by speeding up the natural decomposition of the wood. So all you have to do is dig holes in the stump and fill them with the Spectracide granules. Pour hot water and leave the stumps to decompose. It might take up to 4 weeks for the stump to turn into a pile of debris. If you’re in a hurry, you can burn the stump down after the chemical granules have taken effect.
Unlike other chemical products in this category, Spectracide doesn’t have any odors. Even after it dissolves in the hot water, it doesn’t emit any odors or funky vapors. And since the method of application is both localized and contained, you won’t have to worry about other plants in the vicinity of the tree stump.
One disadvantage of the Spectracide that prevented it from making it to the top of the list is that it only works when the stump has aged and the air temperature is in the mid-70s Fahrenheit and above. This limits its usage to either the late spring or summer every year. It also doesn’t work on fresh stumps or stumps that have already sprouted.
- Doesn’t have odors.
- Speeds up tree stump decomposition safely.
- Doesn’t harm vegetation around the tree stump.
- Doesn’t require mixing or preparing.
- Only works in warm weather.
- Doesn’t work on freshly cut stumps or those with sprouts.
With a dual effect on both stumps and brushes, VPG Fertilome 32295 32Oz Brush Stump Killer provides a powerful solution that makes maintaining the landscape an easy chore. The small capacity container has only 32 ounces of fluid but that’s enough to treat a 4000 square foot area. That gives you an idea of how powerful the VPG Fertilome really is.
Unlike other products, you don’t need to dig holes in the stump to use this product. You just apply the liquid on the tree stump using a paintbrush to cover it with a thick coating. Even though this is a concentrated product, it doesn’t require you to dilute it before application. So this saves you the trouble of mixing hazardous chemicals or getting the measurements wrong.
Interestingly you’ll need to apply the same method of treatment with brushes and invasive plants. First, you’ll have to cut the brush, then cover the stumps and cut stalks with the VPG Fertilome.
The active ingredient in this product is triclopyr. This organic compound doesn’t remain in the soil for long and degrades quickly in water. That’s good news for gardeners who want to remove the tree stump and reuse the area quickly. You can start planting in the treated spot within one month after applying VPG Fertilome. To speed up the breaking up of the material, water the soil frequently and keep it wet.
The product is also convenient to use around homes, cabins, non-crop areas, and along roadsides. It kills vines, poison ivy, and other undesirable woody plants that could ruin your landscape. We also like that the VPG works on freshly cut stumps as well as aged ones. You can start applying it immediately after cutting down the tree without having to wait for a year or more as is the case with other products.
On the downside, you shouldn’t use this product near growing plants or young trees. It could damage any crops or veggie patches near the tree stump or vines you apply the product to. If you need to apply it in a garden, you’ll have to erect barriers to protect the surrounding plants.
- The active ingredient is triclopyr.
- Works well on freshly cut as well as aged stumps.
- Effective against tree stumps, vines, and other woody plants.
- The package covers about 4000 square feet.
- It damages any growing plants in the vicinity.
Different tree stump killers use different strategies to destroy the stump and make it easier to remove from your garden or lawn. Some products on the list use a direct attack method to accelerate the decomposition of the wood. Others use a more roundabout route and go for the roots. Roebic K-77 Root Killer belongs to that latter category. Used mainly to kill tree roots clogging sewage pipes, it is also effective against removing tree stumps.
To use it on a tree stump, you’ll have to do some serious digging around the base of the stump to reach the roots. Once you have exposed the roots, you just pour the liquid into the hole and wait. The active ingredient in this product is copper sulfate pentahydrate which is lethal to the roots. Not only does it kill the roots, but it also prevents any root growth as long as the material is in the soil.
You might have to dig more holes around the stump to make sure all the roots are destroyed before you can remove the tree stump. For small to medium-size trunks, about 4 holes would be enough. But for large stumps, it would take between 8 to 10 holes.
This form of treatment usually takes longer than other products that work directly on the stump. Also, copper sulfate pentahydrate in the soil could damage the roots of other trees or plants near the stump. And once the tree stump is removed, you’ll need to replace the contaminated soil since this chemical remains in the soil for a long time.
- Targets the roots of the tree stump rather than the wood.
- The active ingredient is copper sulfate pentahydrate which is lethal to the roots.
- Prevents regrowth of roots.
- Can be used to unclog septic systems and pipes.
- Takes a longer time than other products.
- It damages the soil and other tree roots nearby.
If a chemical solution is not what you’re looking for and you prefer a more environment-friendly way to kill your tree stump, then Dubbs Hardware 12 PACK USA MADE! Copper Nails is the right solution. Rather than contaminating the soil with chemicals and threatening the plants near the stump, you use nails to penetrate the roots. Although it requires some more work, the results are more satisfactory and the soil is ready to plant immediately.
This American product comes in a pack of 12 nail spikes. The nails are made from pure copper which has a lethal effect on the roots. They work on any type of tree stump whether it’s freshly cut or aged. Even stumps with sprouts can still be killed without the need to kill the sprouts first.
Each nail is 5.3 inches long and a half-inch thick. To use the nails, you’ll need to remove the bark of the tree and expose the pulp. Then drill a pilot hole before you hammer the nail spike in the hole. Space out the nails around the base of the tree. If the tree stump is more than two feet in diameter, you will need to use the whole 12 nails in the pack.
The copper nails have a corrosive effect on the roots of the tree stumps but they will not contaminate the soil nor impact other trees around the stump. That said, the nails take at least 3 months to kill the tree stump. It could take a little bit longer on larger stumps.
- Environmentally safe.
- Doesn’t pose a risk to trees or plants in the vicinity.
- The soil is ready to plant once you have removed the tree stump.
- Kills both freshly cut tree stumps as well as aged ones.
- Works all year round.
- Takes about 3 months on average to kill the tree stump.
- Requires drilling in the tree base.
Unlike other chemical tree stump killers, Gordon Stump Killer Ready-to-Use penetrates to the roots of the tree and kills them. That way the tree will not sprout back and you can easily remove the stump with minimum hassle. Ease of use the main feature of this product as it comes in a spray bottle ready to apply to the stump.
You don’t have to drill holes in the stump or even remove the bark. You simply squirt the liquid on the tree stump and wait for it to be absorbed. The material makes its way down the stump to the roots where it kills them and prevents their regeneration. With the roots dead, the stump will decay making it easy for you to burn it down or dig it out of the soil. This stump killer from Gordon comes prepared and ready to use out of the spray bottle. So you won’t have to worry about mixing chemicals or using water to dilute it.
When applied properly, the material will not affect the grass or other vegetation around the tree stump. It also doesn’t remain in great quantities after removing the stump. So you won’t have to do intensive soil treatment to make the garden ready to plant again.
But since the active ingredient here works on the roots rather than on the wood, the decay of the stump will take longer than other products that accelerate the decomposition of the wood. That means that you’ll have a dead stump lying around in your garden for months waiting for nature to take its course.
- Kills the tree roots and prevents regeneration.
- Easy to apply from the spray bottle.
- Doesn’t require preparation, diluting, or mixing.
- Doesn’t damage other plants around the stump.
- Doesn’t accelerate the decay of the wood.
Tree Stump Killer Buying Guide
After reading these best tree stump killer reviews, it’s obvious that the products differ not just in the active ingredients but also in how to use them and the time it takes for you to finally remove the stump. This tree stump killer buying guide helps you make an informed decision based on your specific requirements.
Stump Size and Location
The first thing to consider when looking for the top tree stump killer is the tree stump itself. How big is the stump? And where does it stand in your garden? Unlike weeds, vines, and other unwanted vegetation, a tree stump needs more work and patience to finally uproot it.
Some of the products on this list are specifically designed for medium to large size tree stumps. Dow AgroSciences RTU548 Tordon RTU is one such product that is both heavy-duty and comes in a large quantity. The larger the stump, the more material you’ll need. This is true for chemical stump killers that need more time to penetrate the soil and reach the roots of the tree.
The same thing applies to how many tree stumps you have. If you have more than one tree stump, then consider purchasing a product that comes in a large size that saves you money.
The location of the tree stump is another factor to consider. If it’s located near other trees or in the middle of a veggie patch or a rose garden for example, then you might want to use a mechanical option such as the Dubbs Hardware 12 PACK USA MADE! Copper Nails that doesn’t contaminate the soil and affect the nearby plants.
Ease of Application
There’s no doubt that a tree stump standing in the middle of your garden or yard that threatens to come back to life at any moment is a real headache. Removing the stump the old-fashioned way by digging it out is a lot of hassle. So the tree stump killer should be easy to apply. As we have seen, some products come ready to use right out of the container without the need to mix, prepare, or dilute.
It would be even more convenient if the container came with a sprayer. Our premium pick, BioAdvanced 704701A Stump Remover comes equipped with a battery-powered sprayer for easy application. Other products such as Dubbs Hardware 12 PACK USA MADE! Copper Nails require drilling and hammering making them the most difficult to use. Not to mention that they also require extra equipment such as a drill, a hammer, and a blade to remove the bark.
Products that come in the form of granules, also require drilling holes and pouring warm water on the granules. So in terms of ease of use, liquid chemical products are the most convenient while nail spikes are the most difficult. Granular products are somewhere in the middle between those two types.
When it comes to chemical tree stump killers, be they liquid or granules, the active ingredient should be an important factor in your decision. After all, you’d want to know what chemical you’re pouring into your soil so that you’ll know how to treat the soil and make it good to plant again. The four active ingredients you’ll find are the following.
- Triclopyr: A highly effective organic compound that kills the roots and prevents regeneration. It also has a low toxicity effect on the soil and you can easily wash it off by flooding the area with water. This is the active ingredient in VPG Fertilome 32295 32Oz Brush Stump Killer.
- Potassium nitrate: Also known as saltpeter, it is a popular compound that is used in many tree stump killer products. It is often the active ingredient of choice for granular chemical products. It is the active ingredient in Spectracide HG-66420 Stump Remover.
- Glyphosate: This is the active ingredient in most weed killers. It has high potency against the roots of plants so you’ll need to be careful not to damage the surrounding plants.
- Magnesium sulfate: If you use Epsom Salts at home, this is the active ingredient in these health products. As such it’s quite safe to use and doesn’t cause any irritations if it comes in contact with the skin.
Safety with Tree Stump Killer
Whether you’re using a chemical tree stump killer or a non-chemical product, safety should always be your main concern. Not just the safety of the plants and trees around the tree stump in question, but the safety and health of the people and pets in the household. Some chemical-based products are hazardous and have to be treated with caution. This is the case for products such as Roebic K-77 Root Killer which are in fact herbicides with high toxicity.
So always treat these products with respect and wear protective gear when applying them. This applies to non-chemical products as well. When using power tools such as drills and hammers you should use the recommended safety procedures.
Probably the safest products to use are those that don’t require drilling. Liquid chemical tree stump killers such as Dow AgroSciences RTU548 Tordon RTU don’t require mixing or preparation. You just squirt them on the tree stump and let the active ingredient accelerate the decomposition of the wood.
Tree Stump Killer FAQs
If you still have questions regarding the use and application of tree stump killers, we provided the answers for these questions.
How soon should I apply the tree stump killer after cutting down the tree?
That depends on the product you use. Some products can be used with freshly cut stumps as well as aged ones. Other products would only work on tree stumps at least 12 months old.
Are there products that work all year round and not just in the warm seasons?
Non-chemical products will work any season even in the winter. You can use nail spikes all year round without having to wait for the soil to warm up. Other chemical products such as Dow AgroSciences RTU548 Tordon RTU have an anti-freeze ingredient that lets you use the product on the tree stump no matter how cold the temperature is.
I have a sprouting tree stump, what should I do about it?
If the tree stump starts sprouting there’s a chance it will grow back into a tree. So you need to use a herbicide to kill the sprouts before you can apply a chemical tree stump killer. You could also use a non-chemical product such as Dubbs Hardware 12 PACK USA MADE! Copper Nails which kills even growing trees.
The Last Word
After this comprehensive guide and reviews of the best tree stump killers, our editor’s choice award goes to AgroSciences RTU548 Tordon RTU. Besides its ease of use and safety features, the product is effective in accelerating the decomposition of the wood. That makes it easier for you to remove the decaying stump with less hassle. It also doesn’t pose any risk to the plants surrounding the stump.
For our budget value product, we chose Bonide (BND272) – Ready to Use Stump Remover which is easy on your pocket while still removing tree stumps with the same efficiency as other more costly products. It doesn’t require chopping or digging to use it and has a limited impact on the environment.
Our premium pick, BioAdvanced 704701A Stump Remover is worthy of your consideration. It comes with a battery-powered sprayer for your convenience and works well against many tree species and brushes.
Whatever tree stump killer you choose, it sure makes removing those unsightly stumps a whole lot easier than leaving them there to grow back into a new tree.