Trees are beautiful, aren’t they? Marvelous wonders of the ecosystem, nature at its finest, vitally important to all life on earth.
Unfortunately, it is inevitable that trees need to be removed from time to time, they are downed due to storm damage, or they simply die.
And If this happens in our yards and back gardens, it’s likely to leave an unsightly tree stump that can be a real headache to shift. Thankfully, there are plenty of products on the market that can do just that – without having to excavate your lawn.
I’ve put together a selection of the best stump killers out there, including a buyer’s guide and a FAQ section with plenty of information and advice on how to successfully get this tricky job done.
Don’t get stumped – read on a find the right product for your needs.
Are you ready for some killer reviews?
- TOP 8 Best Tree Stump Killers for 2023
- How to Choose the Right Stump Killers
- How do you kill a tree stump?
- How to stop a tree stump from sprouting?
- Will tree stump killers harm grass or other plants?
- How long does a stump killer take?
- How do you remove a tree stump?
- Will painting a tree stump stop it from growing?
- When is the best time to apply stump killer chemicals?
- Do I need permission to burn tree stumps?
- What’s the expiration date of tree stump killers?
- Can I pay someone to remove my tree stump?
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TOP 8 Best Tree Stump Killers for 2023
Spectracide Stump Remover
First up we have this Spectracide offering that’s about as cheap as it gets for a budget-friendly stump removing option.
The easy-to-pour bottle contains a compound in granule form that accelerates the decomposition of the stump by making the wood porous. However, you do need to use it in tandem with a brush-killer herbicide.
You also need to pre-drill holes or make cuts in the stump so the product can get down into the root and work its magic. Add hot water into the holes or cuts so the granules dissolve, and then once the wood has become porous it can be easily removed or burned away.
For the price, you get a 16-ounce bottle of product, which should be effective on one stump depending on its size.
- Very affordable.
- It doesn’t harm surrounding vegetation.
- No mixing required.
- Takes a very long time to work.
- Not as effective as stronger chemicals on larger tree stumps.
- It still requires a brush-killer.
Understand that you need time and patience for this product to work and it should do the job in most cases. It’s certainly worth a go for the price and easy, direct application – just make sure to follow the instructions closely.
Bonide Vine & Stump Killer
Another budget offering is the Bonide Vine and Stump Killer, which comes as a concentrate in an 8-ounce bottle. Designed to kill and control woody plants, vines, and broadleaf weeds on and around your property, it comes with its own applicator brush for ease-of-use.
This also helps prevent the chemical from harming any desirable plants and foliage in the area, as you can specifically target the nuisance growth that you want to be removed.
It will ensure stumps don’t re-sprout after cutting, killing off the plant life deep into the root to make it simple to remove when it’s done its work.
- Targeted application.
- It doesn’t harm nearby plants.
- Can be diluted to go further.
- Not as strong as other tree stump killers.
- Larger stumps might be more stubborn.
It’s not the best on the market, but it will do the job for most other unwanted vegetation around your yard. The applicator brush is a useful addition for keeping the chemical where you want it.
Bonide (BND272) Chemical Stump Remover
For heavier-duty tree stumps, Bonide also has ready-to-use stump remover granules, which are made from sodium metabisulfite instead of potassium nitrate. They’re both decomposing agents, but sodium metabisulfite is the same stuff that is used in paper mills to break down the wood pulp.
Again, with this method you need to have pre-treated the stump with a brush killer beforehand – immediately after you’ve cut the tree or branches down.
After application, no chopping or digging will be required, as the chemical rots the wood from within. Remember that it needs between four and six weeks for the process to complete.
You get one lbs of the product with this bottle which is enough to treat one average-sized tree stump.
- Good price.
- No mixing required.
- Focussed application.
- Takes up to six weeks to work.
- A lot of preparation is required.
A decent option to remove any moderately-sized tree stump in your yard – when used in conjunction with a brush-killer. It’s a good alternative to using potassium nitrate if you’re in any way not happy with that.
VPG Fertilome 32295 Stump Killer
Available in a large, 32-ounce container, this brush and stump killer from leading brand VPG Fertilome is also a product with triclopyr as the main ingredient.
Designed for targeting unwanted wooded plants, vines, broadleaf weeds, and poison ivy around the home, but it will kill almost anything – so you need to be careful with its application. Thankfully, this is easy-to-do with the brush-on formula.
Simply cut the vine, tree, or bush and apply the solution to the freshly exposed surface with a paintbrush or similar method. It can also be used as a spray, with 8-16 tablespoons diluted per gallon of water to control 500 square feet.
Again, be careful when spraying any herbicide that it’s going exactly where you need it to and nowhere else.
- Versatile plant killer.
- Large quantity.
- Trusted brand.
- Highly rated.
- Slow process.
A quality herbicide that will kill pretty much anything it comes into contact with. Be extra careful when using a spray as an application method, and you might need two or three goes at larger stumps.
Tree Stump Remover Granules (Professional Grade)
This is a pouch of tree stump remover granules from Dibbs Farms. It works similarly to other products using the same technique and is another option for you to remove unwanted stumps in and around your property.
This particular version has the luxury of being available in a variety of different sized pouches – up to a large 50 lbs bag – so you’ll be able to select the right amount of product for the size of the job you need it for.
It won’t harm surrounding plants and is very simple and effective to use – just by adding hot water. It has a potassium nitrate compound, which is a rotting agent that will speed up the decomposition process so you can remove the stump faster.
- Value for money pouch-size choice.
- Targeted application.
- Accelerates decomposition.
- Takes time to work.
- Site preparation required.
Does what it says on the tin (or pouch) – and it will decompose your cut tree stump for easy removal. Be prepared to wait for it.
Stump Killer Ready-to-Use Qt
This is a liquid compound from Gordon’s that you apply directly on to the stump and it penetrates right down to the root, killing it off.
It comes in a convenient squirt bottle, so you can easily focus where you want the liquid to go and ensure it doesn’t come into contact with surrounding foliage that you might want to keep.
The ready-to-use formula takes action right out of the bottle – no mixing or adding water required. It prevents regrowth as well as killing off existing sprouts and plant life, and is available in a 32-ounce container.
- Ready to apply.
- Gets right to the root.
- Nothing needs to be added.
- It’s very potent – take great care when using it.
- Quite pricey for how much you get.
A very powerful herbicide that will kill off pretty much anything that it comes into contact with – vegetation wise. The fact that it’s ready-to-use with nothing else required is a plus point, in spite of its relatively high price.
Tordon RTU Herbicide QT Size
Right, you want to know what the pros use? You’ve come to the right place. Consistently recommended as the finest stump-killer product out there, Tordon is a very highly rated chemical compound specifically formulated to control unwanted trees via cut surface treatment.
It can target over 20 different species and keep them at bay, penetrating deep into the root system with an antifreeze formula that keeps the product flowing.
Very easy-to-use, the bottle comes with a convenient squirt applicator, so you can get to work in no time, without the need to mix or use any other products. It’s also treated with a blue dye so you can visibly see where it’s been applied.
Probably the best tree stump killer on the market today.
- Highly rated.
- Leading brand.
- Year-round use.
- Potent formula.
- Very effective.
For removing tree stumps, vines, plants or any other nuisance vegetation, this could well be the best product for the job. Regularly name-checked by the professionals, it’s not cheap – but it’s oh so worth it.
Epsoak Epsom Salt Magnesium Sulfate USP
Not technically marketed as a stump killer, I’ve included an Epsom salt option as it can be used in stump removal – as well as plenty of other things.
Magnesium sulfate is very handy to have around the house and has a number of health benefits aside from its use in the garden boosting magnesium and sulfur in the soil. For killing a tree stump, however, it wicks away moisture from the wood if used in the same way as a potassium nitrate compound.
Drill holes into the wood and fill with straight-up Epsom salt and water – and add more than a dash of patience.
While this is easily the cheapest solution for stump decomposition, it will likely take the most time. The upside is that it won’t harm anything else and is very safe to use.
- Super cheap option.
- Multiple uses inside and out.
- Very safe if used correctly.
- Not a dedicated stump killer.
- It can take a very long time.
- Difficult to apply.
If you’re not in any rush and/or you’re on a budget – this could be a good alternative stump killer for your needs – but the jury is still out on its effectiveness. At least afterward you can have an exfoliating bath in the stuff.
How to Choose the Right Stump Killers
When it comes to choosing the right stump killer for your needs there is a lot to consider. Let’s break down what you should be looking out for before making a purchase – to ensure you achieve the best results.
Size and Location of the Stump
The products in this review will all work well on most woody branches, vines, broadleaf weeds, and other unwanted foliage.
But if you’re attempting to remove a medium to large-sized tree stump then you’re going to need time and patience.
Go for stump killers that are specifically designed for rotting out tree stumps – rather than just a weed or root killer. For the bigger jobs, you’re going to need a heavy-duty product that has a bit more bite.
Aside from that, if you have more than one stump – or the troublesome feature is particularly large – then you might need to purchase higher quantities of your chosen chemical.
If that’s the case, look out for multi-buy packs where you can potentially save yourself a lot of money.
Also, pay attention to where the stump is located as it might impact your decision when it comes to which application method you choose for your stump killer chemical.
Different products have different application methods – and which one is right for you is something you need to consider.
Some compounds you simply pour on or into the area you want to kill and remove, while others you apply to freshly cut exposed branches with a dedicated applicator or paintbrush.
You can spray a herbicide to cover a larger area, but the danger is that it spreads to your desired bushes, shrubs, and flowers and kills them off, too.
It’s therefore important to seriously consider how best to apply the chemical for your circumstances, taking into account the surrounding area and conditions on the day.
It’s worth noting that there isn’t a stump-killing product available that will simply dissolve the tree right before your eyes. Nothing on the market works that fast – so don’t expect it to.
I say this because there seems to be a lot of people out there complaining that it wasn’t an instantaneous fix.
For smaller weeds, vines, and other woody-branched vegetation, it will be considerably faster, but for large stumps expect months rather than weeks for the product to really do its work.
Somewhere in the region of 4-6 weeks and you should start seeing results. Several applications might be also required if the stump is particularly stubborn.
And even then, there’s still work that needs to be done – see the removal process for more information.
The Removal Process
There are several ways you can use a stump killer to remove unwanted stumps in your yard or garden.
If using a liquid compound, first you cut the stump or branches down as far as you feel necessary, then immediately coat the exposed sap with the chemical and give it plenty of time to do its work.
For powder or granule-based products, you need to drill several holes deep into the stump first – or cut into the wood as far as you can beforehand.
Then you pour the product into each of the holes – you’ll likely use all of it for a medium-sized stump.
If the instructions call for it, add water to allow the chemical reaction to take place – but be careful not to wash it away. You need just enough to fill the holes and let it get to work.
It’s also advisable to cover the area with a tarpaulin to keep it protected from the elements – at least until you have a clear run of dry weather – then the sun will help the process of decomposing the stump.
Then once again it’s time to play the waiting game.
For both processes, after 4-6 weeks (sometimes less) you should see results – and then you can manually cut away or dig out the stump or branches using an ax or spade.
Alternatively, you can burn it away – but you need to check with local fire regulations first to make sure you’re allowed to do this as it depends on the location of the stump and whether you will get the go-ahead or not.
The Chemicals in Stump Killing Products
Stump killing products can contain a variety of different chemicals and compounds. How effective they are depends on what you’re trying to kill and how you’re using them.
Below, you’ll find a brief description of the main chemicals and compounds you’re likely to find in stump killers.
Potassium nitrate is one of the most common ingredients in stump killers – and it comes in the form of powder or granules. Also known as saltpeter, it is regarded as the most effective stump-removal product available.
Magnesium sulfate is found in Epsom salts and is a combination of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. It’s used for a variety of treatments around the garden, as well as a number of health benefits for us humans in the home.
Triclopyr is an organic compound that is used to control broadleaf weeds and is generally effective on woody plants. A selective herbicide, it works by interfering with the plant’s growth. It has a relatively low toxicity level but is an irritant to the eyes.
Glyphosate is found in many weed killers and is the active ingredient in the trade-name Roundup. It’s highly potent and will kill most plant life so the application needs to be well controlled and used with caution.
A Word On Safety
Safety is of paramount importance whenever you’re working in your garden, especially with the likes of these powerful gas hedge trimmers, or heavy-duty commercial weed eaters.
However, the same can be said whenever you’re using chemicals of any kind. Extreme care and due diligence should be practiced at all times.
Always wear chemical-resistant gloves when using this type of product – an ordinary pair of gardening gloves will not work, and nor will whatever you use to do the washing-up.
Eye protection is a must – and while a pair of wrap-around sunglasses make you look cool and is better than nothing, try to get yourself a pair of dedicated safety goggles. They’ll always come in handy around the home, anyway.
Consider wearing a face mask – especially if you’re using a powder or granule compound. Breathing that stuff in isn’t recommended and can do significant damage to your respiratory system.
Wear a long-sleeved top and pants – even if it’s a warm day. Keep yourself covered up while you’re using these chemicals – you don’t want them to come into contact with your skin.
Make sure your feet are covered with closed-toed shoes – no wearing flip-flops or sandals for this process, unless you want to risk burning your feet with more than UV rays.
Keep children and pets well away from the area you’re working in – it’s a good idea to ban them from the garden altogether – at least until the application process is done.
As previously mentioned, the chemicals in these products can be incredibly toxic and harmful not just to plant life. There’s a reason they’re called ‘killers.’
Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after using any kind of chemical – and avoid contact with your eyes throughout the whole process.
How do you kill a tree stump?
There are several methods you can utilize to kill a tree stump, but here we’ve explored the use of chemicals and compounds to decompose the matter first before you burn or lift the stump out.
With this process, you drill holes in the stump and apply the product as far into the root as possible, then allow it to get to work over the course of 4-6 weeks.
Secondary applications are often required.
Once the stump is dead and there is no new life sprouting, you can remove it however you see fit.
How to stop a tree stump from sprouting?
Stump-killing herbicides are the best option – take your pick from any of the products in this review, but remember you need to apply it to freshly cut foliage in order for it to work – and give it time.
Will tree stump killers harm grass or other plants?
It depends on the product and the active chemicals/ingredients – but for the most part, you want to err on the side of caution as even “selective” herbicides can do damage to desirable plants.
Remember that grass and plants will grow back over time, but a stump or weed well-treated with stump killer should be dead for good.
How long does a stump killer take?
It’s not a fast process, so expect results sometime in 4-6 weeks – often longer. Further applications may be required.
In any event, unless you’re willing to physically grind the stump down and cut it out – you need to have patience for the stump killer to take effect.
How do you remove a tree stump?
Of course, it’s possible to remove a tree stump without first using a chemical to kill it – but it just takes a lot of time and effort – particularly if it was a very large tree with deep roots.
Even after treating with a chemical – the removal process is largely the same – just much easier.
Watch the video below for advice on how to do this – just make sure you have the right tools and you’re physically fit enough to tackle this laborious job.
Will painting a tree stump stop it from growing?
If you mean with normal paint then the most it will do is make it look a nice color.
Paint it with a herbicide first and that should do the trick.
When is the best time to apply stump killer chemicals?
The best time to apply stump-killers is between autumn and winter.
Do I need permission to burn tree stumps?
Yes – always seek permission from the local fire department before setting fire to anything on your property.
This is especially true if the stump is located near buildings or other trees or vegetation. It could even be in close proximity to a gas line – which would likely have an explosive result.
Fires can get out of control all too easily – it’s best to check regulations first and be safe rather than sorry.
What’s the expiration date of tree stump killers?
It depends on the product – some might have a shelf-life of between 3-5 years, while others will always be good to go.
Check the manufacturers instructions if you’re unsure – and never use any chemical that has expired as it is likely to be very ineffective, or possibly dangerous.
Can I pay someone to remove my tree stump?
You certainly can – but it will likely cost you between $400-$800 – depending on the size and location of the stump.
Why spend that kind of money when you can do it yourself for a fraction of the cost?
Unwanted tree stumps can be an eyesore in our yards and gardens, and they can be very stubborn when trying to remove.
With a little bit of help from the right stump killers, you should be stump-free within a couple of months.
From my research, I would say the Tordon product is the most effective – but it’s not right for everyone. Remember to consider your circumstances before buying any herbicides.
Let me know which has been the most successful product for you – or which one you would choose and why.
Happy stump killing!