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How to Kill Roots Around a House Foundation

By Jenny Green ; Updated September 21, 2017
Delay landscaping your house foundation until persistent roots are dead.
Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Trees and shrubs sometimes don't know when to call it a day, and their roots continue to produce new shoots season after season, sometimes far from the original plant. Digging up roots growing into a house foundation isn't an option, but gardeners can starve them to death, encourage rotting or use systemic herbicides, which kill plants from their roots upward. Starving roots to death can take one or two years but is a safer option than using strong herbicides, which kill most plants. Dying and dead roots sometimes produce mushrooms -- remove these and dispose of them.

Step 1

Remove sprouts from roots, cutting them off as close to the ground as possible with pruning shears. Check for sprouts growing away from the house foundation, such as in garden borders and lawns, and remove them. Check for and remove new shoots every month through the growing season and for as long as they appear. Roots without shoots to sustain them eventually starve and die.

Step 2

Remove as much root as possible and cover the remaining stumps with soil. Water the area regularly so that the soil stays moist to promote rotting.

Step 3

Cover the ground around the house foundation with black plastic in early spring. Weigh it down with stones or bricks and leave it in place throughout the growing season. Remove any shoots that appear from beneath the plastic. Remove the plastic at the start of winter. Cover the ground with plastic for another growing season if new shoots appear.

Step 4

Spray sprouts from roots when they're actively growing, with a 2 percent triclopyr and 18 percent glyphosate herbicide diluted at a rate of 6 fluid ounces per gallon of water, or according to the manufacturer's instructions. Cover all parts of the shoot. Spray again after four weeks if there are signs of regrowth.

Step 5

Cut stumps off at soil level and drill holes 1/2 inch deep and 1/4 inch wide, just inside the bark. A 1-foot-diameter stump requires four or five holes. Pour undiluted 2 percent triclopyr and 18 percent glyphosate herbicide into the holes until full.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Black plastic sheeting
  • Systemic herbicide containing 2 percent triclopyr and 18 percent glyphosate
  • Saw
  • Drill


  • Professional contractors can grind stumps, which speeds up root decomposition.


  • Wear safety goggles, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants when using herbicides. Store products out of reach of children.
  • Protect desired plants with cardboard when applying herbicides and don't spray on windy days.
  • Don't use 2 percent triclopyr and 18 percent glyphosate herbicides as vegetable bed or flower bed preparation.

About the Author


A graduate of Leeds University, Jenny Green completed Master of Arts in English literature in 1998 and has been writing about travel, gardening, science and pets since 2007. Green's work appears in Diva, Whole Life Times, Listverse, Earthtimes, Lamplight, Stupefying Stories and other websites and magazines.