How to Get Rid of Weed Trees in Your Lawn and Garden
What Are Weed Trees?
Someone once told me that weeds are flowers growing where they don't belong. It's not uncommon to see cattails, goldenrod, and dandelions growing in ditches along with many other flowers, but most of us wouldn't want those 'flowers' growing in our flower beds.
On the same token, weed trees are trees growing where they don't belong. There are several types of trees that have the tendency to have seedlings growing in your yard where you least expect them. Two of these are the tree of heaven and the black walnut tree.
If you have either one of them as larger trees growing anywhere in or near your property, then you want to be on the lookout for more of them growing where they don't belong. You may find maple trees or oaks or some of the trees most would welcome in their yards growing where you didn't plant them, but not as many of those as the tree of heaven or the black walnut tree.
The tree of heaven and the black walnut look alike, but the main difference is that when the tree of heaven is cut down, it smells atrocious, not a heavenly fragrance at all. We used to call them stink trees.
Two Pictures of Weed Trees in My LawnClick thumbnail to view full-size
They Appear in Your Lawn or Garden by Birds or Wind
Weed trees appear in your lawn or garden by birds or wind. I don't think it matters how much you pay attention, they may show up at any time, even when you thought you had them all taken care of. They will be in plain view in the front yard, back or hidden anywhere you don't look very often.
How to Find Them
I try to watch for them when I am mowing my lawn. When I see them in the midst of the grass, I mow around them, for I have found that if I mow them down they will continue to grow, but be thicker and even harder to get rid of.
It also helps to walk around your yard and garden periodically to be on the look-out for any saplings that may appear. It's easier to get rid of them when they are extremely small.
Recently I've found them in the form of suckers at the base of trees that I thought were already killed. I had several that, once the branches were cut down, had trunks about three feet up that were obviously dead, yet the suckers at the bottom were quite alive and growing profusely.
Where Do They Come From?
I believe they come to your lawn either from larger, well-established trees that are already in your yard, or from trees found in your neighbors yards. They may even be carried by birds or the wind from a bit farther away, although I don't know how far away that may happen.
Would You Like a Free Tree in Your Yard?
It could be, though, that your yard does need some trees and you happen to find a seedling growing in the middle of your lawn in a place that you would have planted a tree. If you like the location, before you decide to leave it there, you may want to clip off a piece of it, including the leaf, and make sure you know what kind it is.
Many home and garden stores would be happy to help you determine what tree you have. Some cities may even have a small mom and pop type store that has even more knowledge than the larger chain stores. Whichever store you take the cutting to, hopefully they will be able to help you decide if it's a tree you really want to grow in your yard.
The reason you want to do this is that if it is the black walnut or the tree of heaven, you will end up with not only one tree but half a dozen or more that you don't want growing in the places they show up in. It would be much easier to plant a likable tree in that spot than keep the tree that might cause you stress later on.
Some things to consider would be whether that tree has a problem with certain types of bugs or whether it will continue to drop seedlings all around your yard or flower beds. Believe me, having to keep your eye out for weed trees is no easy task. If you don't find them within the first year or so, they may develop a strong root system, making it seem impossible to be able to dig out of the ground at a later date.
Another factor is how tall the tree usually gets, whether it will shade your home nicely in the hot weather, or whether it would be better to have a tree growing in a different spot for that purpose. Another reason you might want to know the average height would be if you have electrical lines near that area in your yard. You wouldn't want a storm to cause a mature tree to fall into those lines in the future, causing you to potentially lose power.
What about the root system? Is it similar to a willow tree where the roots stick up from the ground making the area unsightly? I currently have several red maple trees on the outlawn of our front property. The roots protrude up from the ground near the tree, making it quite difficult to mow the lawn. They don't travel on top of the lawn like a willow tree will, but it still is ugly looking.
The Weed Trees Surrounding My HomeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Where Some of My Weed Trees Are Growing
I have five areas around my house where weed trees are growing. They all aren't located in flowerbeds. One decided to grow within my lilac bush. One could be a decent tree if it was growing in a better place. It happens to be growing within several inches of the wall of my garage. I do hope that one day we will be able to tear the garage down and build a larger garage further back on the property, but in the mean time I don't want this tree to force me to take down the garage before we are ready.
All of these, other than the one in my front lawn and one by my front porch, are growing too close to the house, or garage. So in my book they have to go.
Is Chopping Them Down Enough?
No! Be prepared to have the time to do more with them after chopping them down. If you chop them down and don't treat them in one way or the other, then the next year or so you will be right back where you began, although the trunk will probably be even thicker.
Different Options to Try to Remove These Trees
1. One option is to paint the top with nothing other than paint to stop the regrowth.
2. Another is to peel away the bark of the tree. How does this help you might ask? The nutrients flow from the base of the tree to the top and to the different branches. It needs the bark on the tree to help keep the nutrients in the tree. When the bark is peeled off, the nutrients will leech out of the trunk causing the tree to die.
This may take some time for the results to take place, so if you are tired of waiting until you see the desired results, or if the tree is shaped in such a way that peeling the trunk is nearly impossible, or if you don't want to cut yourself doing this another option is to cut the tree, preferably at a height that you can get to. This can be done with tree trimming cutters if the trunk isn't too thick. If the trunk is too thick for the cutters, then you'll have to use a saw. Make sure you've used a saw before, or let someone help you. After it is cut, 'paint' onto the cut area a chemical for killing weeds such as a Roundup product or something similar.
3. Another is to find some chemical to use, again on the surface of the cut to kill the tree that way. This should be a last resort, depending on the chemical used. Certain chemicals make it impossible to plant anything else in that area for several years. The first few times I was so disgusted with certain weed trees that just wouldn't die after trying several things that I finally cut off the top and poured household bleach onto the top of the cut.
I was surprised to find out how well that worked and it didn't seem to affect the rest of the weeds growing there, (unfortunately).
The chemical that I purchased last year, and again this is something that prohibits growth for several years, is a product called Tordon RTU. © It's a specialty herbicide for controlling unwanted trees.
I purchased it last year and used it for the first time this week. I was going to take pictures of the trees after application as the solution is blue in color, but it's rained since and I'm not sure the color will still show up.
4. Another option to use as a last resort is to pour salt on the open cut of the tree. Salt will kill the tree for sure. The only problem is that if you were hoping to plant anything else there when the tree is gone, it could be several years before the salt is totally leached from the ground, allowing anything else to grow.
5. One final option is finding a professional, or someone with a truck and chains to loosen the dirt around it and pull it out. That option is usually more expensive, for those that can afford it that might be the best option. On the other hand, if the tree is growing close to the foundation, I'm not sure whether it would be safe for your house to take care of it in that manner, as you don't want to find out the hard way that the roots from the tree have already broken into the foundation.
Why Would a Home-Owner Want to Remove These Trees?
The main reason is that they usually grow in unwanted places like in garden beds, or too close too the house. It's best to keep most trees away from the foundation so the roots don't get too close and break the foundation below the ground level. This happened in a home we rented long ago. The tree was growing between the driveway and the house about two feet from the house.
Eventually, the tree began to angle toward the house getting closer every few years so that the roots broke into the foundation.
Trees that are too close to homes and are not well-groomed can also destroy sections of the roof or shingles themselves. They can also cause small saplings to begin growing in the gutter itself, as can be seen on many homes around the countryside.
In summary, weed trees are trees growing where you didn't plant them and where they don't belong, whether it's too near your house, in your flowerbeds or in the wrong place in your yard. Keeping them from growing on your property takes time and perseverance, and not giving up.
They are much easier to remove when they are tiny seedlings, so keep a close watch around your yard. If they have taken over the area, first try removing the bark. Then cut an area off the tree and paint on a weed killer. If for some reason it needs to be taken care of immediately, because you've noticed the roots getting too close to the foundation or something similar, then pour salt on the wound of the cut of the tree, but remember nothing else will grow in that location for several years, plus you don't want the salt to blow onto other plantings.
Do You Have Any Unwanted Trees in Your Yard or Garden?
For My Readers
Please let me know in the comment section or by email if you see anything that I've worded incorrectly or other problems in the mechanics of this article.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
There is a tree starting to grow in between the sidewalk and the house. I cut it down and poured some gasoline on it last year to try and kill it. It is growing back. What's the best way to get rid of it?
I would never recommend using gasoline. Have you tried using table salt or another type of salt?Helpful 14
I have been unable to garden for two years due to back and knee injury. I live one block from a lake with a variety of trees. I now have trees growing that are 8 ft tall in my garden. I have 20+ roses bushes and Perennials that have been planted for twenty years. How do I get rid of these trees without damaging my rosebushes and Perennials?
If the unwanted trees are that tall, try peeling back a large portion of bark from the trunk of each tree. You should try for a foot in length on at least one portion and then half of that all the way around. If the bark is fairly easy to peel once started, try to do the foot all the way around.
If you are doing the peeling, you may want to do what you can over a period of days, so you don't aggravate your back and knees further. It will take some time to see results and a lot depends on the type of trees they are and the growing season there. Try to get several done before the season is over.Helpful 5
I have a huge blueberry bush and a large pomegranate tree in my yard. The previous homeowners were elderly and didn't take care of them for many years. Both the bush and the tree are too large, and I think their size is causing problems with fruit production. The pomegranate is almost dead. What can I do to get rid of unwanted growth without killing the fruit trees?
You said the unwanted growth is large. Would you be able to peel back a large portion of the bark from them? That would probably be the best way since you want to keep the fruit trees. The more bark you can remove, the better.
It would still take some time for the excess growth to die out. I'm not sure whether it's possible to find out how long it would take with some research, but knowing the two types of trees that are the intruders will help.
Even if the previous homeowners took care of their fruit bush and tree, they probably wouldn't have thought to look inside of each to monitor unwanted growth.Helpful 4
My next door neighbor has a tree of heaven and several mulberry trees growing in his backyard. They both keep spreading unwanted saplings into our yard, especially the tree of heaven. Is there a way to fix the problem? I feel like if the parent trees are allowed to keep growing they'll just grow back.
You are correct. But even if the homeowner eliminated those trees there's still a possibility some will find a way into your property. In my city it's a common tree.
The only sure thing is to keep watching for them and digging them out before they get too big.Helpful 2
What can be used to kill the beginning growth of a maple tree leaf, without harming surrounding areas?
For the last several years we've had our lawns covered with spinners from trees that look like each one began a new tree. But I found out that all a person needs to do is mow over them. That has done the trick for us here in Michigan.Helpful 2