How to Stop Tree Roots from Growing Back [Detailed Methods]

You can stop tree roots from growing back in an area without removing the entire tree. To do so, cut through the tree roots and remove the ends that have been cut off. Then, dig a trench and install a root barrier. This will stop the roots from re-invading the ground where they have been removed. The roots will then grow in a new direction.

If you want to make sure roots do not grow back after you remove a tree, follow a different process. Begin by cutting down the tree. Then, immediately apply stump killer to the cut stump as soon as the tree is felled. Wait for the stump killer to work down to the roots so they are all killed. Then, remove the stump completely.

How to stop tree roots from growing back

Do Roots Stop Growing When a Tree is Cut Down?

In many cases, tree roots continue to grow even after a tree is cut down. The roots can continue to spread aggressively through the soil. This causes the tree to sprout back from the stump or for the roots to send new shoots up through the soil. What appears to be new juvenile trees sprouting near a stump may actually be shoots growing up from the roots. To prevent further root infiltration and regrowth, make sure to kill the tree roots after you cut down a tree.

How to Stop Tree Roots from Growing Back Without Killing the Tree?

If your tree is sending invasive roots under your pavement or near your foundation you may be able to remove some of the roots without killing the tree. Here’s how to do this safely, and prevent the roots from growing back in a problem area.

Check if Roots Can Be Safely Trimmed

When trimming tree roots, it’s essential to make sure the job can be done safely. Trimming roots too close to the tree’s trunk can kill the tree or destabilize it so much that it falls. To prevent any hazards, follow these:

  • Measure the diameter of your tree at its widest point.
  • Multiply the diameter by 5.
  • Only cut tree roots that are 5 times the diameter distant from the base of the tree.
  • If the tree’s diameter is 1 foot (30 cm), only cut roots 5 feet or further from the tree’s base.
  • Do not cut more than ⅓ of the tree’s roots.
  • Cutting roots too close to the tree can kill and/or destabilize the tree.
  • Removing too many roots can cause the tree to fall unexpectedly.

If you follow these rules, you’ll know very quickly whether or not you can remove tree roots without killing the tree. If cutting the roots would put the tree at risk, you will have to either remove the entire tree or live with the invasive roots.

Cut Off Roots

As long as you have found it is safe to do so, it’s time to begin cutting your invasive tree roots. For this job, you’ll need a shovel, pick or mattock, and an axe. Then, follow these steps:

  • Mark a straight line where you want to dig down and cut off the roots.
  • Make sure the line is further than 5 times the diameter of the tree from the base of the trunk.
  • Begin digging straight down along this line until you reach your tree roots.
  • Wherever you encounter a large root, plant one of these marking flags.
  • Cut through the roots using the pick, mattock, or axe.
  • Dig and repeat until the line is 18 inches deep (45 cm).
  • Continue until all the roots invading your future root-free area are cut.

It is extremely helpful to use flags to mark the location of large tree roots. This will make removing the cut ends of the roots much easier in future steps, since you won’t have to hunt for the root ends.

Remove Root Ends

With your roots cut, it’s time to pull the cut ends of the roots out of the soil. If left alone, these roots can continue to grow. They can even send up new branches and sprout new trees. To remove them:

  • Begin with the first flag marking a cut root.
  • Dig outward along the path of the root, loosening the soil around the main root.
  • Use the pick or mattock to lever the root upward from the soil until you can remove it fully.
  • Repeat for additional cut roots.
  • Remove flags once the roots are removed.

During this process, it is essential to remove larger roots, since they are most likely to grow back. Small root tendrils will be cut or broken during this process, but they are unlikely to cause the tree to grow back.

Dig a Trench

With the roots removed, enlarge the trench you cut to set the foundation for an anti-root barrier. The steps for this process are:

  • Lengthen the initial line you dug by 6 feet (2 meters) at each end.
  • Excavate the entire trench to a depth of 18 inches (45 cm).
  • Widen the trench to a width of 4–6 inches (10–15 cm).

Since the previous steps have involved quite a bit of digging, most of the trench will already be completed. However, it’s best to lengthen the trench so it serves as a root barrier now and in the future. Some trees can grow to great heights, and their root networks can spread far and wide.

Install a Root Barrier

Most tree species spread their roots through the top 1–2 feet (30–60 cm) of soil. Contrary to popular belief, tree roots are seldom found at great depths, except for taproots extending straight down beneath a tree. So, you can stop roots from reinvading an area by installing a root barrier. Here’s how:

  • Cut this root barrier to fit the length of your trench.
  • Install the root barrier in the trench so the top is just below the level of the soil.
  • Once the root barrier is in place, refill the trench with the excavated soil.
  • Allow the soil to settle, then add more soil if the root barrier is exposed.

Root barriers can be installed along sidewalks or driveways. They can also be installed along a foundation to stop tree roots from growing under your house. So, you can keep your home and sewer lines safe from fast-growing roots without cutting down your tree.

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How Do You Stop Tree Roots From Growing Back After Cutting Down a Tree?

If you are removing a tree with problem roots, it’s essential to make sure the roots are dead. If a tree stump is left alone after the tree is cut down, the tree will often grow back from the roots. To prevent invasive tree roots from spreading through the soil from a tree stump, follow these steps:

Cut Down the Tree Safely

Felling a tree can be a dangerous job if done incorrectly. So, it’s important to follow proper tree removal steps, especially if you are cutting down a tree near your house. Improper cutting techniques can cause a tree to fall in the wrong direction, which can destroy your property and put you in harm’s way. When cutting down a tree:

  • Only attempt to fell a tree if you are familiar with operating a chainsaw.
  • Use a properly serviced chainsaw for the job.
  • Wear steel-toed boots, pants, gloves, hearing protection, and eye protection.
  • Make sure all children, pets, and assistants are at a safe distance at all times.
  • Follow these steps for felling a tree in the direction you want.

Proper tree-cutting technique is essential. The job will become trickier if you are felling a leaning tree, but can still be done safely. If you’re not familiar with the tools required for the job, hire a local tree removal service to cut down the tree and haul it away.

Immediately Apply Stump Killer

When you’ve cut the tree trunk, it’s very important to attack the stump right away with a stump-killing herbicide. If you’re not sure what product to use, follow our guide to chemicals for killing trees. When using a paint-on stump killer, follow these steps:

  • Use this stump killer to destroy stumps and kill roots.
  • Apply the stump killer within 30 minutes after the tree has been cut down.
  • Paint the stump killer in a 1-inch (2.5 cm) ring around the top edge of the stump.
  • If conditions are wet, protect the stump from rain so the herbicide is not diluted or washed away.

If it has already been more than 30 minutes since you felled the tree, do not apply stump killer to the exposed wood. Instead, you must cut off the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the stump. Then, apply stump killer to the freshly cut wood. This ensures the stump killer is absorbed by living wood and is transported to the roots.

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Allow Time for Stump Killer to Work

Stump-killing herbicides kill the roots within 7–14 days after application. So, it is essential to wait 2 weeks after application before cutting roots or attempting to remove the stump. Removing the stump too soon will interrupt the herbicide before it can kill all the roots. This may allow some of the roots to keep growing.

  • Wait 7–14 days so the stump killer has time to kill all the roots.
  • Stump killers are systemic herbicides that slowly spread to kill the roots.
  • Do not cut roots or attempt stump removal for 14 days after using stump killer.
  • Cutting roots before the stump killer has finished working may allow the roots to grow back.
  • Reapply your stump killer if the stump begins to send up new sprouts.

If you see new growth coming from the stump after you’ve applied your stump killer, perform a second application. This will help to kill even the most resilient stumps.

Remove the Stump

As soon as the stump killer has worked for at least 2 weeks, you can begin stump removal. It is a good idea to remove dead tree stumps since they can attract insects, rot, and fungus to your yard. Plus, they ruin the look and usability of your yard. To remove a stump:

  • Remove a stump through accelerated decomposition by following our steps for using stump remover.
  • To get rid of an unwanted stump quickly, consider using charcoal to remove a stump.
  • For a small stump, dig all the way around the tree, cutting the roots. Then, remove the stump.
  • For large stumps, cut the roots on all sides of the tree, then use chains and a vehicle to pull out the stump.

We recommend using stump remover or charcoal to make the job easier. Uprooting stumps can be hard work, especially if the tree was a large one. Whatever method you choose, you’ll have no fear of unwanted tree roots once the stump is dead and gone.

How Long Do Tree Roots Take to Decompose?

Tree root systems often take 4–7 years to decompose naturally. Tree roots are extremely tough and fibrous. They are biologically designed to resist the dampness and decay of soil. So, they do not break down quickly. If you want tree roots gone sooner, it’s best to dig up and remove the roots. Tilling an area with a lot of tree roots is more likely to destroy a rototiller than it is to break up the roots.

Can You Stop Tree Roots from Growing Back?

You can stop tree roots from growing back in an area. In fact, you can do it with or without killing the tree.

Stop Roots Without Killing Your Tree

  • Only cut roots a safe distance from the base of the tree.
  • Mark a line where you will cut all the roots.
  • Begin to dig an 18-inch deep (45 cm) trench, marking tree roots where you find them.
  • Cut through the tree roots along this trench.
  • Remove the cut ends of the roots by digging them out of the soil, if possible.
  • Install a heavy-duty root barrier in the trench and refill it with soil.

Stop Roots After Cutting Down a Tree

  • Safely fell the tree.
  • Apply stump killer to the cut stump within 30 minutes of felling the tree.
  • Wait 14 days for the stump killer to kill all the roots.
  • Remove the tree stump.

By using these methods you can protect underground pipes from tree roots, prevent your driveway from buckling, or eliminate the risk of foundation damage.

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