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How to Kill Crabapple Trees

White flowers on trees image by Katya Mikhlin from

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.

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.

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

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.

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.


Other methods of killing a crabapple tree include spraying herbicide over the foliage and trunk, cutting the tree down while it is still living and applying herbicide spray directly to the cut stump, or tree injection. Tree injection involves making a series of cuts into the bark of the tree trunk and then injecting herbicide directly into these cuts.


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.

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