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Evergreen Shrub Removal

By James Young ; Updated September 21, 2017

Dead or unwanted evergreens can be difficult to remove even if the plants are only small shrubs. Evergreens often send down deep taproots as well as long horizontal feeder roots. The resinous wood decays slowly and remains limber and strong long after the bush dies. Leaving dead wood in the ground could cause problems for plants chosen as replacements. Clean up fallen needles as well as buried roots for the quickest recovery of the planting site.

Clear a working space. Remove any limbs which obstruct digging and cut back any part of the shrub which could lash back at your face and eyes if accidentally struck. If the bush is 6 feet tall, leave at least 4 feet of trunk for leverage. Haul the rest away. Treat different-sized shrubs in a similar way, cleaning up the top but always leaving enough trunk to be a convenient handle.

Loosen dirt around the shrub with a mattock and remove loose dirt with the transplanting shovel. Cut through roots just beyond the edge of the bush's previous canopy. Sever small roots with the mattock; use the hatchet on tougher roots. As the root ball clears, chop the roots loose near the trunk of the shrub.

Rock the shrub by pulling and pushing on the remains of the trunk. Rocking reveals hidden roots at deeper levels. Sever those roots before trying to remove the shrub.

Sink one blade of the pick into the dirt directly beneath the shrub. The pick handle should now be standing up in line with the shrub's trunk, one blade buried securely underneath the root mass. Pull the handle back away from the trunk and over the other blade of the pick to loosen the bush.

Sever deep tap roots by chipping away earth with the transplanting shovel and cutting with the hatchet. When the bush comes loose, stand astride the bush and grip the trunk with both hands. Keep your back straight and lift with your legs to pull the shrub free.


Things You Will Need

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Limb loppers
  • Pruning saw
  • Pick
  • Mattock
  • Transplanting shovel
  • Hatchet
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Rake


  • If the area will not be replanted, cutting the shrub to the ground with a pruning saw could be the simplest solution. Most evergreens will not sprout from the stump.


  • Wear eye protection. Any of the tools used could strike rock and ricochet chips.
  • Work carefully. Small roots resemble cables in terms of strength. Pulling loose shrubs from the ground by brute force causes many back injuries. Dig and cut before lifting.

About the Author


James Young began writing in 1969 as a military journalist combat correspondent in Vietnam. Young's articles have been published in "Tai Chi Magazine," "Seattle Post-Intelligencer," Sonar 4 ezine, "Stars & Stripes" and "Fine Woodworking." He has worked as a foundryman, woodturner, electronics technician, herb farmer and woodcarver. Young graduated from North Seattle Community College with an associate degree in applied science and electronic technology.