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How to Kill a Shrub

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017
Overgrown shrubs can become nuisances in a landscape, requiring removal.
shrub image by pix29 from Fotolia.com

Inheriting the landscape of an older home presents unique challenges for do-it-yourself gardeners. Some plants draw a natural affinity from their owners while others simply serve as a nuisance that must be removed from the landscape. In the absence of alternative solutions to transplant an unwanted shrub, killing the plant might be the only option. This frequently occurs with excessively large specimens that cannot be transplanted easily or plants that have faced heavy damage due to winter weather or wind damage.

Cut back the shrub to the ground using pruning tools based on the size of the branches. Pruning shears cut through branches up to 1/2 inch in width. Pruning loppers tackle larger branches up to 2 inches. Use a pruning saw to remove sections of the shrub with branch diameters larger than 2 inches.

Discard cut-up parts of the shrub in yard waste bags for removal from your property. Some shrubs can be quite difficult to eradicate from the landscape since they root easily or grow suckers to create new plants.

Dig 2 feet away from the main stem around the perimeter of the plant. Remove the soil using the shovel and discard in a pile next to the plant. You're looking for plant roots during this phase of killing the shrub. Many shrubs throw out sucker roots that will form new plants if not removed completely from the planting site.

Locate the roots of the shrub and use the shovel to remove as much soil as possible. Drive the shovel blade under the roots to slowly wiggle the plant free. Tackle each root at multiple angles to loosen the soil. Grasp the stub of the main plant stem and wiggle it to jog loose the roots. The planting location will be unusable if the entire root ball isn't removed from the site.

Lift the shrub free of the planting hole after freeing the roots. Discard the plant with yard waste recycling.

Place a layer of cardboard on the location and cover with heavy rocks or bricks to weigh down the material. Shrub sucker roots can extend up to 5 or more feet from the main plant, so cover a wide area. Leave this material in place for four to six weeks to ensure that all remaining roots of the shrub have died.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Pruning saw
  • Pruning loppers
  • Pruning shears
  • Sheets of cardboard
  • Rocks or bricks
  • Yard waste bags