Trees can be killed by 2,4-D, as well as shrubs, flowers, and vegetable plants. As a selective weed killer formulated to kill broadleaf weeds, 2,4-D attacks almost all non-grass plants. This includes both evergreen and deciduous trees.
2,4-D enters plants primarily through the leaves. Once there, it kills plants by causing the cells to divide uncontrollably, essentially forcing the plant to stimulate growth until it exhausts its energy and dies. If 2,4-D is applied to tree leaves or is blown onto them during application to a yard, it will begin to attack the tree. When applying 2,4-D, take precautions to prevent overspray from blowing onto the leaves of trees or other desirable plants.
Table of Contents
How to Protect Trees from 2,4-D
It is perfectly safe to use 2,4-D in a yard where trees are growing. Your main goal is to make sure 2,4-D does not reach the leaves of the tree, where it can do the most damage.
When spraying your yard with 2,4-D or any other broadleaf weed killer, follow these guidelines to protect your trees and prevent exposure to herbicides:
- Spray when there is low wind or no wind.
- Use a pump sprayer or backpack sprayer with a hose and adjustable nozzle to control the application.
- When operating your sprayer, keep the nozzle 6–12 inches above the grass to prevent overspray.
- Avoid spraying tree leaves, trunks, or soaking roots with 2,4-D.
- Take special care to prevent spraying of young trees and saplings.
Wind is the biggest enemy of proper herbicide application. Even a relatively small amount of wind can carry airborne 2,4-D particles into gardens, toward trees, and even onto neighboring property. When spraying 2,4-D for weed control, the less wind there is the better.
What to Do if Trees are Exposed to 2,4-D?
If your tree has been exposed to 2,4-D due to wind or accidental overspray, the best thing to do is immediately wash the herbicide off the tree leaves with water. 2,4-D will begin to enter the leaves within 1 hour of application.
- Wash any overspray off tree leaves with water immediately if possible.
- If a tree begins to show signs of 2,4-D damage (wilting, yellowing leaves) spray the affected leaves with water.
- If runoff water from spraying the tree will land on desirable plants, cover them with tarps and/or dig a runoff ditch to draw water away.
When spraying trees exposed to 2,4-D, any water runoff coming from the tree may contain 2,4-D. To prevent this from raining down on desirable garden plants under the tree, cover these plants with tarps. If necessary, dig a drainage ditch to conduct water away from at-risk trees and plants.
What Plants Does 2,4-D Kill?
2,4-D is a powerful and effective weed killer with a lot of practical uses. It does not harm most grass species, so it can be used in lawns to kill weeds without killing turf grass. However, care must be taken when using it. Below are the plants killed by 2,4-D:
- Clover, dandelions, and the most common weeds
- Trees, both broadleaf and evergreen
- Shrubs and bushes
- Vegetable plants
- Ornamentals and flowering plants
- Some grasses, such as St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Centipede grass
When using 2,4-D, note any areas where your lawn borders plants that may be harmed by the herbicide. Spray in a pattern that prevents 2,4-D droplets from landing on desirable plants. Avoid spraying exposed tree roots or tree trunks when possible.
Will 2,4-D Kill Evergreen Trees?
Evergreen trees can be harmed by 2,4-D applications, but they are often more resistant than broadleaf trees. If sprayed with 2,4-D, evergreen trees may lose needles, which can cause the tree to struggle or die, but evergreens may make a full recovery from 2,4-D exposure.
Take caution when spraying 2,4-D near evergreens. Young evergreens and pines are more likely to be harmed by 2,4-D and have a harder time recovering. Additionally, many 2,4-D products are mixed with Dicamba, which is also harmful to trees, and could be harder for evergreens to resist.
Will 2,4-D Kill Garden Plants?
If it’s a plant with stems and leaves, odds are 2,4-D is capable of killing it. This includes everything from tomato plants to rose bushes. When spraying 2,4-D, be careful to apply it only to grassy areas and use it at manufacturer specified rates. Any overspray that reaches your garden plant leaves will likely harm the plant.
Adjust your sprayer nozzle and/or spray in a pattern so that your garden vegetables and flowering plants will not be exposed to 2,4-D. The active ingredient in 2,4-D-based herbicides is fully capable of withering your garden.
Can 2,4-D Harm Trees?
2,4-D is capable of harming and even killing trees if it is sprayed or blown onto the leaves. Although it does not harm most grasses, 2,4-D attacks almost all other plant types. Avoid spraying 2,4-D on any leafy plant you wish to keep alive.
By using a good quality sprayer properly on a windless day, you can prevent overspray from reaching tree leaves. Take care around saplings and young trees, as it is easier for 2,4-D to reach their leaves. If sprayed directly onto a lawn while there is little to no wind, there is a very low chance of 2,4-D causing damage to any of the trees in your yard.