The Best Stump Killers of 2022

A good chainsaw will fell an unwanted tree, but new tree shoots could soon appear unless you find the right stump killer for the job.

By Glenda Taylor | Updated Jun 20, 2022 1:00 PM

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Tordon Herbicide

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Trees are majestic in the landscape, but not all trees are desirable, such as those that grow beneath power lines or right next to fences. The owner may cut the tree down, but the stump and a massive root system remain locked firmly in the ground. Digging or chopping out a stump is challenging at best, and in some cases, nearly impossible without using heavy equipment. Depending on the species—and if the tree or vine was alive when it was cut down—new aggressive shoots may soon appear around the stump, and the problem starts all over again.

One solution? A stump killer, which is an herbicide specially designed to kill a stump and its roots. Stump killers eliminate the need to chop or dig up stubborn stumps, and they prevent new shoots from forming. Read on for tips on how to choose the best stump killer for your yard and find out why the following products are among the best options for getting rid of troublesome stumps.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Dow AgroSciences Tordon RTU Herbicide
  2. RUNNER-UP: Ferti-lome RTU Brush and Stump Killer
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Bonide Ready to Use Stump-Out Stump Remover
  4. BEST WITH SPRAYER: BioAdvanced Brush Killer Plus Stump Remover 
  5. HONORABLE MENTION: Spectracide Stump Remover Granules
  6. ALSO CONSIDER: Bonide Stump-Out Stump & Vine Killer 
The Best Stump Killer Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Stump Killer

Stump killer isn’t a quick-fix solution for getting rid of stumps; the degradation process can take from a few months to a year. Eventually, the stump will decompose, and the hole that’s left behind can be filled in and smoothed over. Consider the following when shopping for a stump killer, and if you’re not sold on using a chemical to get rid of a stump, check our alternative suggestions later in this guide.

Stump Size and Location 

The size of the stump is a significant factor in deciding whether to remove it manually or chemically. Stumps that sit a couple of inches above ground level can pose a tripping hazard. If the stump is in a part of the yard that sees frequent foot traffic, it might be better to have it manually removed for safety purposes.

Chemical stump removal products help kill any size stump that would be challenging to remove manually. Smaller stumps that are less than a couple of inches in diameter may be worth digging out to get rid of them sooner.

Working Time

The actual time it takes a chemical stump remover to decompose a stump can vary depending on the tree or plant species and whether the stump is green and freshly cut.

In the case of newly cut stumps, a stump removal herbicide that travels to the roots is necessary to stop resprouting. Depending on the product, results may appear within 6 to 8 weeks. The stump itself, however, may not decompose for another few months.

Another type of stump that’s a good candidate for chemical removal is a dead or “seasoned” stump. Although these stumps are incapable of sending up new shoots, they can be hazardous or stand in the way of new landscaping plans. In this case, the stump removal product will contain a chemical that hastens the degradation of the old wood, which can take a few months or longer.

After a few months, the owner may be able to pour kerosene on a partially decomposed seasoned stump and burn it. Some chemical stump remover products are designed to be used in conjunction with stump burning. Before going this route, check with local fire codes to see if burning the stump is permissible in your community.

Ingredients

Chemical stump killers contain potent herbicides and other chemical components that hasten stump decomposition. Most stump-removal products contain one or more of the following active ingredients:

  • Glyphosate: Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide that travels within the stump’s vascular system to kill the roots. It’s useful in killing green stumps.
  • Triclopyr: Triclopyr is a systemic herbicide that tricks the living roots of a stump into rapid growth that overwhelms the tree and kills it. Triclopyr is found in products that kill green stumps.
  • Potassium nitrate: Also called “saltpeter,” potassium nitrate not only kills the stump, but it’s also one of the best ingredients for helping it decompose quickly. It’s found in products for killing green stumps or decaying seasoned stumps.
  • Picloram: Picloram is a systemic herbicide that destroys woody-type plants. This herbicide is found in products designed to both kill and decompose the stump.
  • Sodium metabisulfite: Sodium metabisulfite is an inorganic chemical that helps decay seasoned tree stumps. It’s not meant for use on green stumps that may regrow.

Safety

The chemicals in stump killers are often toxic and can irritate skin and eyes or trigger respiratory symptoms if the fumes are inhaled. The manufacturer will usually suggest wearing chemical-resistant gloves and goggles. Consider wearing a respiratory mask and protective clothing for ultimate protection, including long pants and a long-sleeve shirt. Keep children and pets away when treating the stump, and cover the treated stump with a tarp or board during the decomposition process.

Some types of stump remover, especially those containing potassium nitrate, are flammable, so don’t use them near an open flame or smoke during application.

Application Process

Various chemical stump killers may come with slightly different instructions, but the following application method is standard:

  1. Using a chainsaw, cut the stump low to the ground and remove side bark to reveal as much surface area as possible.
  2. Drill holes in the surface of the stump (more than a few inches in diameter). Alternatively, use a chainsaw to cut grooves on the stump’s surface.
  3. Apply the chemical stump killer or decomposing agent. Depending on the product, this might mean sprinkling granules in the holes and then pouring hot water over the stump. It might also mean painting a liquid on the surface of the stump or spraying it. Spraying is usually reserved for stumps with green sprouts, and the sprouts are sprayed as well.
  4. Cover the stump to keep kids and animals safe.
  5. Check on the stump every 3 to 4 months. Eventually, it will become spongy and can be dug out or burned. Simply remove the ash.

Our Top Picks

To qualify as one of the top picks, a stump-killing product should effectively destroy the roots of a living tree, brush, or woody vine and prevent regrowth. If the product is designed to remove seasoned stumps, it should hasten the decay of the stump so the owner can easily remove the remaining debris with a shovel.

The following stump-killing/removal chemicals differ in type and function, but each offers a reliable way to eliminate an unwanted stump. If you prefer a nonchemical method, check out “Do You Need a Stump Killer?” at the end of this guide.

Best Overall

The Best Stump Killer Option: Dow AgroSciences RTU548 Tordon RTU Herbicide
Photo: amazon.com

A favorite of farmers and landscapers, Tordon RTU comes in as the best overall pick in this lineup, and it was also chosen for hands-on testing. Tordon was used to kill an aggressive young cottonwood with roots that were threatening rural water lines. It worked like a charm to kill the unwanted tree. See how to use the product in our stump-killing test.

Tordon is a one-and-done product thanks to one of its active ingredients, picloram. Picloram is a systemic herbicide that travels through the stump all the way to the roots, killing the entire stump so shoots won’t regrow. The key to success is applying the solution immediately after cutting down the tree. Users can pour a small amount into a cup and brush the solution on the stump or use the applicator tip to pour it on. A slight downside is how quickly the liquid comes out of the applicator tip, leading to wasted solution.

Product Specs

  • Active ingredient: Picloram
  • Application method: Brush or pour on
  • Form: Ready-to-use liquid

Pros

  • Highly effective for killing stumps
  • Easy to apply
  • No mixing
  • No need to drill holes

Cons

  • Can travel through soil to roots of nearby plants
  • Comes out of the applicator tip too quickly

Get the Tordon RTU stump killer on Amazon or at Tractor Supply.

Runner-up

Ferti-lome RTU Brush and Stump Killer
Photo: amazon.com

Triclopyr is the active chemical ingredient in Ferti-lome’s Brush and Stump Killer that’s designed to kill tree roots and stop invasive shoots from growing. It’s also helpful in speeding the decomposition of the stump. Ferti-lome is well suited for killing small stumps up to about 6 inches in diameter as well as woody brush and vining stumps, such as those associated with poison ivy or wisteria.

The concentrated chemical comes in a 32-ounce bottle and should be diluted at the rate of 8 to 16 tablespoons per gallon of water. Use the highest concentration for hard-to-kill stumps such as poison ivy. Once mixed with water, the solution is painted on the stump with a paintbrush.

Product Specs

  • Active ingredient: Triclopyr
  • Application method: Dilute and spray
  • Form: Concentrated liquid

Pros

  • Solution strength adjustable depending on need
  • 1 gallon of solution treats up to 500 square feet
  • Kills on contact with foliage

Cons

  • Mature trees may require additional treatment

Get the Ferti-lome brush and stump killer on Amazon or at Ace Hardware.

Best Bang for the Buck

Bonide Ready to Use Stump-Out Stump Remover
Photo: amazon.com

Don’t put off stump removal out of worry it will be cost prohibitive. This product will speed the degradation of seasoned stumps, and it comes at an affordable price point. It contains sodium metabisulfite and is best suited to use on tree stumps where the tree was cut down at least 12 months prior. It’s best for trees that do not send up sprouts or regrow after being cut down, such as aspens, pines, and cedars.

To use, drill holes in the stump, fill them with Stump-Out granules, and then pour hot water over the stump to start the decaying process. The stump can degrade by itself, which could take a few months, or removal can be hastened by burning the stump using kerosene 6 weeks after treatment. (Check local fire codes before going this route.) The product comes in a 1-pound container.

Product Specs

  • Active ingredient: Sodium metabisulfite
  • Application method: Drill holes, pour granules in holes
  • Form: Ready-to-use granules

Pros

  • No diluting or mixing
  • Accelerates stump decomposition
  • Stump ready to remove as soon as 4 to 6 weeks

Cons

  • A drill is necessary for drilling holes
  • Not all communities allow burning a stump
  • Works only on seasoned stumps

Get the Bonide ready-to-use stump killer on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best with Sprayer

BioAdvanced Brush Killer Plus Stump Remover
Photo: amazon.com

For no mix or mess, check out BioAdvanced Brush Killer Plus Stump Remover that comes in a ready-to-use spray bottle. The product is best for small stumps that are commonly associated with woody bushes and vines, including kudzu and poison oak. BioAdvanced is an all-purpose herbicide that also kills noxious and invasive species.

Spray the product, which contains the active ingredient triclopyr, until all exposed surfaces on the stump are thoroughly wet but not dripping. Also saturate any new shoots that may be growing from the stump. BioAdvanced is formulated to penetrate deep into the stump and work its way down to the roots; it will kill and hasten decomposition.

Product Specs

  • Active ingredient: Triclopyr
  • Application method: Hose-end sprayer
  • Form: Concentrated liquid

Pros

  • No mixing
  • Hose-end sprayer included
  • No need to saw or drill holes
  • Treat large woody areas

Cons

  • May not be strong enough to kill mature trees

Get the BioAdvanced stump killer on Amazon or at Ace Hardware.

Honorable Mention

Spectracide Stump Remover Granules
Photo: amazon.com

Containing potassium nitrate for speeding stump degradation, Spectracide Stump Remover is designed to work only on seasoned stumps where the stump is already dead and is not sending up shoots. The product comes in granular form, and users should either drill holes in the stump or cut grooves into the top of the stump with a chainsaw before applying.

Stump Remover is then used to fill the holes or grooves, and then hot water is poured over the stump to activate the decomposition process. As with other stump decomposition products, once the stump is soft, it can be doused with kerosene and burned, if desired. Stump Remover comes in a 1-pound container.

Product Specs

  • Active ingredient: Potassium nitrate
  • Application method: Drill holes and pour in granules
  • Form: Granular

Pros

  • Ready to use (no mixing)
  • Speeds stump decomposition
  • Will not harm surrounding plants/lawn

Cons

  • Works only on seasoned stumps
  • Local ordinances may not allow burning

Get the Spectracide stump killer on Amazon or at Lowe’s.

Also Consider

The Best Stump Killer Option: Bonide 274 728639280241 Vine & Stump Killer
Photo: amazon.com

Kill small stumps without harming nearby vegetation with Bonide Stump Out Stump & Vine Killer, which contains the active ingredient triclopyr. This ready-to-use liquid comes in an 8-ounce bottle and features an included brush-top applicator for painting the product directly onto the surface of the stump. It works well on small to medium tree stumps up to about 8 inches in diameter. Alternatively, users can dilute the product in water and use it in a pump-type sprayer to apply to the foliage of invasive vines.

It’s also suitable for use on the stumps of other woody and vining plants, such as poison oak and wisteria. For the best results, apply this Bonide product to freshly cut stumps and coat as much of the stump surface as possible.

Product Specs

  • Active ingredient: Triclopyr
  • Application method: Brush on for full strength
  • Form: Ready-to-use liquid

Pros

  • Can be used on fresh stumps
  • Applicator makes it easy to apply
  • May also be diluted as a foliar spray

Cons

  • Overspray can kill desirable plants

Get the Bonide stump killer at Ace Hardware.

Our Verdict

While all the stump-killing products in this lineup get rid of a variety of unwanted trees, shrubs, and woody vines, Tordon RTU ticks all the boxes. It’s suitable for use on freshly cut stumps to kill the tree at the root level and prevent new shoot growth. For hastening the decomposition of seasoned stumps, our budget pick, Bonide Stump-Out, is a top option. It can be used to get rid of those old stumps that pose tripping hazards, and it comes at an affordable price point.

How We Chose the Best Stump Killers

We extensively researched dozens of products for this lineup. Brand reputation played a role—reputable manufacturers with well-vetted products that were high on customer satisfaction were given top consideration. Still, we didn’t automatically eliminate lesser-known or niche brands as long as the products contained ingredients known for killing stumps.

We kept in mind that stump-killing needs vary. Some users want to get rid of old, seasoned stumps, so we included products that help dead stumps decompose faster. Others are looking to stop volunteer trees from growing where they shouldn’t be growing, and we also considered that need.

To make our lineup, products had to be effective and reasonably simple to use. We allowed for some dilution because many users prefer a concentrated product. We also included products that require drilling holes in a stump before application, as that may be the best way to kill a stump.

Do You Need a Stump Killer?

Unwanted trees and shrubs do cause problems; their roots can penetrate drainage lines and they can ruin the look of a well-manicured landscape. That said, you might want to consider some nonchemical stump-remover solutions.

  • Grinding: Professional stump-removal companies use large machines to grind away tree stumps below the level of the yard, and then the roots of the stump can be covered with soil and planted with grass to match the rest of the yard. The cost of having a stump ground down will vary, but expect to pay in the ballpark of around $150 to $450, depending on the stump’s diameter.
  • Natural stump killer: Vinegar and Epsom salt will both kill a green tree stump and keep it from coming back up from the roots, although it will take longer than a chemical stump killer. Plan to drill holes in the stump’s surface and fill them with white vinegar or Epsom salt. You may need to retreat the stump a couple more times if shoots appear.
  • Try composting: Eventually, a dead stump will decompose, but it could take years. You can hurry the process along by creating a compost pile right over the stump. Construct a cage around the stump using something like chicken wire and then fill it with dry leaves and vegetable food waste. Water occasionally to keep the compost damp. As the material biodegrades, it will encourage the stump to decompose more quickly.
  • Incorporate the stump into the landscape: Upcycling a tree stump to support a small bench or table (depending on height) can add a whimsical touch to the yard, and no chemicals are needed. Use your creativity—a taller stump could even serve to hold a bird bath or squirrel feeder.

FAQs

Clearing out underbrush or removing woody shrubs and trees can leave unsightly stumps that must be removed before the area can be used for other purposes. Stump killers are designed to either kill a green stump that might otherwise send up shoots or decay an already dead stump, softening it and making it easy to remove. For those looking to use this type of product for the first time, some questions are to be expected.

Q: Should I remove my tree stumps? 

To keep new tree sprouts from regrowing, it is often necessary to remove the stump. A stump also poses a tripping hazard and can wreak havoc on the blades of a mower.

Q: Which chemicals will kill a tree stump? 

Chemicals such as glyphosate, triclopyr, picloram, and potassium nitrate are frequently found in chemical stump removers designed to kill a stump and hasten its decay.

Q: How long does it take to kill a tree stump? 

Depending on size, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to prep most stumps and apply a chemical product. However, it could take a few months or longer for the stump to decompose sufficiently for removal.

Q: How do you apply tree stump killer? 

Application varies by the type of product but typically holes should be drilled in the stump’s surface and then filled with granules or a liquid chemical.