How to Kill Crabapple Trees


In the home orchard or yard, a crabapple tree can be planted along with more desirable apple varieties to cross-pollinate the trees or as a landscaping plant for springtime flowers. But some home owners despise crabapple trees for their susceptibility to disease and pests, including apple scab, mildew, fire blight and Japanese beetles. If you have a crabapple tree, you may wish to kill it completely before removing it from your landscape to prevent tiny crabapple saplings, called suckers, from springing up from the tree's roots or stump. Killing a crabapple tree is simple.

Step 1

Cut a groove around the circumference of the tree with an axe. This groove should extend 1½ inch into the tree trunk and should be at least 2 inches on smaller trees and up to 8 inches on larger trees. This process is called girdling a tree. Girdling a tree interrupts the flow of sap from the tree's roots to the top of the tree. This kills the tree.

Step 2

Mix 1 part systemic herbicide containing triclopyr and 1 part water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle.

Step 3

Spray the herbicide and water mixture onto the groove cut in the tree until the groove is saturated with moisture. Although girdling itself will slowly kill a tree, spraying a systemic herbicide will speed up the process and cause the tree to pull the poison down to its roots, which will kill the tree's roots and prevent suckers from forming.

Step 4

Cut a second ring into the tree approximately 3 inches above the first girdling ring and reapply the herbicide. A second ring is not required for girdling, but will make an application of systemic herbicide more effective.

Tips and Warnings

  • Use caution when mixing and handling systemic herbicides. The poisons in systemic herbicides can be absorbed directly into your skin through contact. To prevent this, always wear protective clothing and gloves when handling systemic herbicides. You should also take a shower immediately after using systemic herbicides.

Things You'll Need

  • Axe
  • Systemic herbicide containing triclopyr
  • Spray bottle


  • Ohio State Univesity: Controlling Undesirable Trees, Shrubs, and Vines in Your Woodland
  • NC State University Extension: Superior Crabapple Trees for the Landscape
  • Ohio State Univesity: Selection, Care, and Use of the Ornamental Crabapple

Who Can Help

  • North Dakota State University: Questions on: Crabapple
Keywords: killing crabapple trees, eliminating unwanted trees, girdling trees

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."