Sumo Gardener

How To Kill a Pine Tree – Most Reliable Methods to Use

Many gardeners can benefit from knowing to kill a pine tree and as unwelcome as the thought of damaging and killing trees may be, certain trees can quickly become invasive in landscapes and start dominating surrounding vegetation.

Pine trees are one of these species as they multiply very quickly, are prone to pests and disease, drain many nutrients from soils and they can ultimately compromise the growth of ground covers and other natural vegetation within landscapes.

The good news is you don’t always need professionals to do this for you, you can safely kill and remove unwanted trees on your own. Here is your full guide on how to kill a pine tree in your garden. 


How to Kill a Pine Tree at Home 

There’s no doubt that a few pine trees can look absolutely fantastic within gardens with their cherry Christmas-like influence and gorgeous pyramidal forms.

However, once they begin to become widespread, a growing number of trees can become hard to manage. Many then prefer to get rid of unwanted trees by killing them and removing them safely from their landscapes from the outset. 

Here are some of the best methods you can follow on how to kill a pine tree. 

How to Kill a Pine Tree

Why You May Want to Kill & Remove a Pine Tree

Pines belong to the Conifer family of trees wherein most are evergreens. They can grow as smaller shrub-sized plants up to massive, reaching specimens.

This is because they are one of the world’s longest-living tree species, meaning if left unchecked, they can not only grow to almost unmanageable heights in cultivation, but they can also multiply and spread to a point that becomes tedious to deal with as a humble home gardener. 

We are not encouraging the killing of any trees unless your situation absolutely requires it as these trees are still an integral part of our natural diversity.

However, if you have smaller pines or larger specimens that are damaging your garden's overall health and aesthetic, knowing how to kill a pine tree is an important skill to have. 

Here are some of the main reasons for killing or removing a pine tree from your yard:

Pine trees can compromise the growth of surrounding plants and vegetation 

As these trees tend to take up a lot of space and cast such immense shadows, very few plants can survive near or underneath them. Even many species of grass can struggle to deal with the competition with pines.

This is because pines don’t allow adequate levels of sunlight and rainfall to reach plants near or underneath them. If left unchecked, you could have a miniature forest of pine trees to deal with which is less than ideal for your other plants as they won’t be able to thrive and diversify.

They are prone to pests and diseases 

In many environments, pine trees can be susceptible to diseases that can cause the breakdown of the tree. Thus, attracting nearby pests. Browning needles, oozing saps and rotting pine branches can all cause further issues due to the decaying wood. 

Many pests will be attracted to this and infestations can become another frustration you’ll have to deal with. This is particularly worsened if you have many pine trees as diseases and pests will quickly spread between them. 

They have destructive root systems 

Due to their large-growing natures, pine trees produce deep roots that can cause severe damage to your home, foundations and other structures as they grow.

This can result in excessive costs in repairs that could have potentially been avoided. Even your neighbors’ pines can cause you an issue, that’s how extensive and widespread the root systems can become. 

General safety 

Trees established near your house can drop heavy pieces of branches which can cause severe damage to not only your home but your loved ones as well.

This can be particularly dangerous in harsh, prolonged weather with strong winds. 

Garden health and aesthetics 

As mentioned, pines can also compromise the general health of your soil as they tend to have heavy nutrient requirements. This can quickly lead to your overall garden appearing less lush and vibrant, including your actual lawn. 

To maintain a great garden aesthetic, killing and removing trees may be necessary. 

You want more light in your garden 

Large, mature pine trees can cast enormous shadows on lawns, especially in groups, leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to lighting.

If your other plants are not receiving enough sunlight or you just want more light to illuminate your natural spaces in general, removing some of your pine trees can go a long way. 

How to Kill a Pine Tree – Most Reliable Methods You Can Use

How to Kill Pine Trees Using Herbicides

Most of these methods can be used year-round but the best time to kill a pine tree is before its seed production in late spring to early summer.

Be sure to always consider and execute proper health and safety when dealing with any tools or chemicals. Be sure to also wear the appropriate protective gear and ask for help from friends if you feel you need more manpower. 

When considering how to kill a pine tree, here are some of the most reliable methods you can use to get rid of unwanted pine trees in your landscape:

  • Using herbicides
  • Using copper nails
  • Drilling and filling
  • Using salt
  • Girdling or ring barking
  • Soil treatment 
  • Homemade solutions
  • Cutting it down

How to Kill a Pine Tree using Herbicides

Also known as chemical fertilizers, herbicides are a very effective and safe way to kill a pine tree. It won’t affect your other plants and surrounding environment in any threatening way and all you need are a few everyday tools. 

  • Using a sharpened spade or shovel, lightly dig around the base of the tree you intend on removing, exposing its roots. 
  • Using a drill and a long drill bit for wood, make a few holes at the base of the tree, angled at 45 degrees towards the roots. 
  • Using your choice of herbicide, fill the drilled holes fully and then cover them with a layer of foliage or wetted soil. 
  • Continue to fill the holes as needed to make sure the tree fully absorbs all the chemicals. Bigger trees may need a few extra applications. 
  • You will notice once the tree is no longer producing growth and becomes fully dormant. You can discontinue treatment at this point and start considering removal.

Some effective and common herbicides include glyphosate which comes in the form of convenient tree injections.

You just simply use these injection devices to inject the chemical concentrate into the foliar structure of the tree or drill holes into the base and inject them in there. 

A few faster-acting and similar herbicides include metsulfuron and imazapyr which can be combined with glyphosate for quicker results. (See these well-rated herbicides for reference).

A safer, more organic option is to use nitrogen fertilizer to kill your pine tree. This will take longer but it's non-toxic and only requires a few basic tools like a drill, spray bottle or backpack sprayer and nitrogen fertilizer.

Simply drill a few holes around the trunk of your tree then continuously spray the holes to keep them damp. This will eventually decompose the wood and kill the tree. This method is perfect for smaller specimens. 

Using Copper Nails to Kill a Pine Tree

Using Copper Nails to Kill a Pine Tree

This excellent, non-chemical method is very safe for the surrounding vegetation. All you need is a good hammer and a couple of copper nails.

Try to use nails that are long and broad enough to reach deep into the trunk of the tree to cover as much surface as possible.

  • Hammer in nails around the base of the tree trunk at an angle that allows the nails to reach downwards towards the roots. 
  • Space nails about half an inch apart and hammer in nails around the whole base to form a ring of nails essentially. 
  • The copper from the nails will slowly oxidize and begin poisoning your tree. Smaller trees only need a couple of small nails but large trees will need many large nails to ensure a speedier process. 
  • Once your nails are set, cover them with foliage and mud to hide them for a more subtle appearance in your garden.

Drilling & Filling 

Using your choice of herbicide mixed into a squeeze bottle, drill holes at a 45-degree angle into the trunk of your tree and pour the herbicide into the holes.

Rinse and repeat this simple process until your tree is no longer growing and producing any foliage. Be sure to wear gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from the harsh chemicals. 

Be sure to also avoid letting other plants come into contact with any of the chemicals.

How to Kill a Pine Tree Using Salt

You can use salt to kill pine trees. The high sodium content of salt can quickly hinder the chlorophyll production in your tree, ultimately leading to your tree's demise after continued application. 

How to Kill a Pine Tree Using Salt
  • Gently dig around the base of the tree you intend on removing, exposing its roots. 
  • Drill 6 to 8 half an inch holes into the bottom section of the trunk, angled downwards towards the base. Each hole should be around 3 inches deep.
  • Mix 2 parts of Epsom salt with one part of water. You can adjust the amounts depending on your needs and the size of the tree, but a 2 to 1 ratio should be ideal. 6 cups of salt and 3 cups of water is a good start. 
  • Pour the solution into your holes and keep them filled at all times until the tree has died out. 
  • Cover the holes with some soil or foliage to prevent unwanted leakage.

Pine Tree Girdling/Ring Barking

You will need a sturdy saw, an ax or chisel and hammer, and some protective gear for this method. This method requires you to remove a deep strip of bark from around the trunk of the tree, essentially completely disrupting the flow of nutrients to and from the roots to the stems and foliage. 

Pine Tree Girdling or Ring Barking
  • Using your saw, carefully cut a deep strip into the trunk, marking out the bark you need to remove.
  • For small trees, the strip can be about 3 inches wide. For larger trees, your girdle should be at least 8 to 10 inches wide. 
  • Using your ax or your chisel and hammer, remove the bark deeply to expose the inner part of the trunk. 
  • Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection. 
  • Your tree will already begin wilting and losing its twigs and foliage after a couple of days. 
  • Once in this starvation mode, your tree will die and stop growing.

Treating Your Soil

This method should only be used in severe cases where pine trees have become widespread in your landscape. This is a more extreme method where you lace your soil with highly concentrated solutions, applying them evenly across your soil. 

This will lead to the entire yard being compromised as the chemicals will attack the roots of all the plants in the soil. Be sure to consult with professionals in your area for the best product recommendations for your area.

We do not recommend this solution if you intend to keep the other vegetation in your garden. 

How to Kill a Pine Tree using Homemade Solutions

A far more organic method is to use some ingredients from your pantry. 

  • Vinegar – The acidic contents of vinegar can disrupt many nutrient processes in your pine tree. Drill holes in the trunk and fill with vinegar. Keep filled so that the tree absorbs too much.

    After about a month or two, the tree will die out. Combine with salt for a faster process overall. 
  • Mulch – As contradictory as it may seem, a continued excess of mulch can actually be toxic to trees. Spread a 10-to-12-inch, thick layer of mulch around the base of the trunk of the tree you want to remove.

    Insects will be drawn in and infestations will occur. These insects will eat through the mulch and start attacking the roots, killing off the tree eventually. 
  • Caustic Soda – For smaller trees. Using a handsaw, cut your tree leaving behind only the stump. Mix 1 part of caustic soda and 1 part of water then pour the solution over the tree’s stump. Repeat the process as needed to stop all forms of growth. 

Cutting Down Your Pine Tree

Best Way to Kill a Pine Tree

This is another organic and natural way to top off any growth of your tree quickly. If the tree is at a size you can manage, use a chainsaw to cut it down right through the center.

If the tree is too big for you to do alone, be sure to rather get professionals in to safely cut it down for you. Once cut, you will need to apply some herbicide to the surface of the cut tree stump to prevent further development. 

Actual Pine Tree Removal 

Many gardens will be happy enough simply having the tree dead and cut down to a more appealing size. Whether through hard pruning or removal by chainsaw, you can certainly get away with removing much of the tree yourself as it dies.

Some may prefer to remove the entire tree to make space for new additions. For larger trees with big bases and roots, we recommend getting in professional tree removal companies to ensure no damage is done to anyone or anything. 

How to Kill a Pine Tree FAQs

Will gasoline kill a pine tree?

Try to rather avoid using diesel fuel or gasoline to burn tree trunks as these solutions burn very aggressively and don’t allow the proper breakdown of wood.

Fire can also quickly damage surrounding vegetation and may be discouraged in your area.

Will bleach kill a pine tree?

Bleach is unlikely to kill mature trees as it won’t kill the roots. Herbicides work far better, especially for killing off stumps. 

How quickly will copper nails kill a pine tree?

Smaller trees can be killed off in about 4 to 6 months or even up to a year. Larger trees can take multiple years to die. For large trees, you may need to place fresh copper nails in each year or so to ensure continued oxidization. 

For a more preservative approach to landscaping, we also have a very informative guide to caring for sick trees in your garden below:

Now You Know How to Kill a Pine Tree 

Now that you have a few useful ways in which you can kill and remove unwanted pine trees from your landscape, be sure to always consider safety and protection first.

It may not always be a bad thing to also ask yourself why you need to remove any trees to start. Diversity in gardens is also important and pine trees certainly know how to add their own distinctive presence in gardens.

If you are wondering and need to know how to kill a pine tree, we hope this guide helped. 

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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