When looking for a weed killer safe for trees and shrubs, consider the following solutions:
- Avoid exposing trees and shrubs to Glyphosate (Roundup) and selective broadleaf weed killers.
- In the case of invasive grasses, use a grassy weed killer that won’t harm trees and shrubs.
- Use pre-emergents to stop weeds from sprouting.
- Spray weed killer selectively, to reduce exposing trees and shrubs to chemicals.
- Spread mulch under trees and shrubs to suppress weeds.
- Hand pull weeds to avoid using chemicals.
It’s essential to keep in mind that most weed killer sprays meant to target broadleaf weeds (such as dandelions and clover) will also harm trees and shrubs. These should be avoided or used with care to protect your desirable plants. With a little know-how and the right plan of action, you can protect your plants and get rid of weeds.
Table of Contents
Weed Killers to Avoid Using Near Trees and Shrubs
Certain weed killers pose more of a danger to your shrubs and trees than others. Some to avoid are:
- Glyphosate: The main active ingredient in Roundup and similar products. Roundup will damage or kill trees and shrubs if sprayed on leaves, bark, or branches.
- Atrazine: This weed killer works by penetrating the soil and entering plants through the root system. This makes it especially dangerous for use around trees and shrubs since it can attack them even if it doesn’t make direct contact with the plant.
- Broadleaf Weed Killers: Weed killers labeled as “lawn-safe” are designed to attack broadleaf weeds. Unfortunately, these chemicals cannot differentiate between weeds, trees, and shrubs. They will harm all non-grass plants. Use these with care and avoid direct exposure to trees and shrubs.
Below, we will discuss in detail how to use weed killers without harming your trees, bushes, and other ornamentals.
5 Ways to Kill Weeds and Keep Trees and Shrubs Safe
Don’t give up just because weeds are crowding around the base of your shrubs or because ivy is crawling up the trunk of your trees. You can eliminate all types of weeds with the control methods found here.
Attack Grassy Weeds with a Tree and Shrub-Safe Spray
Is creeping Bermuda grass invading your flower beds? Or is crabgrass cropping up under your trees? The good news is, there are products formulated to kill grasses that will do no harm to trees, bushes, and flowering plants.
- Use a grassy weed herbicide spray to kill invasive Bermuda, Crabgrass, Foxtail, and other grass species.
- A selective grassy weed killer will kill grasses without harming trees and shrubs.
When using a selective grass killer, there is no harm in exposing trees and shrubs to the spray—it will not harm them. You can wipe out invasive grasses without risking any damage to your desirable plants
Apply Pre-Emergent Weed Killer in Spring
A good pre-emergent herbicide applied in spring will stop weeds from sprouting, keeping you from dealing with weeds sprouting near trees and shrubs. Better yet, pre-emergent is completely harmless to the trees and shrubs already growing in your yard.
- Pre-emergent stops seeds from sprouting but will not harm mature trees, shrubs, or any other plant that has already sprouted.
- Pre-emergent stops all seeds from sprouting, including grass and garden plant seeds.
- Use a high-quality pre-emergent that will kill sprouting seeds for up to 6 weeks.
- Pre-emergent must be applied just before weeds begin to germinate.
Keep in mind that pre-emergent attacks seeds underground as they sprout. It won’t kill established plants or attack dormant seeds. This makes timing your pre-emergent application key. If used correctly, it will attack sprouting weed seeds in spring, wiping out a crop of weeds before you see them.
Spray Weed Killers Carefully
Glyphosate weed killers and selective broadleaf weed killers with 2,4-D, Dicamba, and Quinclorac can still be used near trees and shrubs as long as you are careful to make sure the weed killer lands on the weeds only. To do so:
- Choose a windless day, to prevent overspray from being carried onto trees or bushes.
- Cut the bottom off a milk carton and place it over the weed. Then, spray weed killer onto the weed through the top of the carton.
- Alternatively, use cardboard to shield nearby desirable plants from overspray when spraying weeds.
- Avoid using weed killers that contain Atrazine, even in this manner. Atrazine soaks into soil and attack plants through the roots. It can harm your trees and bushes this way.
Another method for limiting the risk of your tree being exposed to herbicides is to paint weed killer onto weeds. For this process, use a brush dipped in weed killer instead of a sprayer. This allows you more control and helps protect your plants.
In order to get rid of mature broadleaf weeds near trees and bushes without exposing your desirable plants to harmful herbicides, you may need to hand-pull some weeds. With the help of a hoe or a weeding tool, this task can be made a lot easier.
- Hand-pull broadleaf weeds that can’t be sprayed without affecting trees or shrubs.
- Remove weeds, including the root, to prevent their return.
This chemical-free solution is a surefire way to get rid of invasive weeds without using a herbicide that may damage your plants.
Spread Mulch as a Weed Stopper
Once you’ve gotten rid of the weeds near your trees and ornamentals, keep them from coming back. Mulch is a wonderful way to stop weeds from returning, to use mulch as an anti-weed barrier, follow these steps:
- Remove all existing weeds with controlled weed killer spray and/or hand-weeding.
- Lay water-permeable landscape fabric in flower beds and around trees and shrubs.
- Cover the landscape fabric with 3–4 inches of mulch.
- Keep mulch 12 inches from (30 cm) from tree trunks, to prevent trapping moisture near bark and causing tree diseases.
You can choose from many varieties of mulch for the job. Organic mulches, such as bark mulch and cocoa husks, slowly break down. They feed the soil but do require maintenance and replenishing. Non-organic mulches, like gravel and recycled tires, don’t break down into fertilizer but they are a low-maintenance weed stopper.
Will Casoron Kill Trees?
Casoron will not kill your trees or any other established plant in your yard. Casoron is a pre-emergent herbicide that works to stop seeds from sprouting. It is safe for use around trees, grass, shrubs, and garden plants.
- Casoron is safe for trees and other plants.
- Casoron is a pre-emergent weed killer that kills sprouting seeds underground. It is harmless to mature trees and plants.
Is it Safe to Spray Roundup Around Trees?
Roundup sprayed on the bark or leaves will harm the tree. If a tree is exposed to enough Roundup, or if the tree is young, it can be killed.
- Roundup is harmful if sprayed on trees.
- Roundup contains glyphosate, a compound which attacks all plants.
- When using Roundup, never apply it to any plant you do not wish to kill.
If you can target your Roundup usage and keep overspray from touching any part of the tree, feel free to use it. Make sure you use a targeted sprayer, some cardboard to shield the tree from Roundup, and apply on a windless day to keep the wind from carrying Roundup onto your tree.
How Do You Kill Weeds But Not Trees and Shrubs?
In order to get rid of weeds without killing the trees, shrubs, and other desirable plants in your yard, it’s important to use the correct weed control methods. Avoid spraying trees with Roundup, broadleaf weed killers, or any root-attacking herbicide, such as Atrazine.
Instead, use weed control methods like grassy weed killers that won’t harm trees and shrubs, apply pre-emergent to kill weed seeds as they germinate underground, and shield desirable plants from overspray if you are using a weed killer. In a pinch, hand-pulling weeds is a tree-safe savior. If possible, spread mulch around trees and bushes to keep weeds out. You can use these methods to protect trees, bushes, flowers, and all kinds of ornamental plants, while simultaneously killing weeds.