Trees: Will salt kill a tree?

Savannah, GA(Zone 8a)

I have heard that table salt will kill a tree. Is this true?

Georgetown, TX(Zone 8a)

Tough question, not enough detail, but it can. If you use a large enough amount and don't flood it but water it in, it will cause the roots to lose moisture and become unable to take up moisture and nutrients. I once had a mean neighbor who, for reasons yet unknown to me, poured salt around the base of my cherry laurel hedge. It was at the back of the lot, and I didn't go all the way out to it often, so the salt sat there and worked its way into the roots. The grass died first, and when I went to examine the area to determine why, I noticed that the leaves on the shrubs were becoming mottled and streaked, with yellowing. In a matter of less than a month, they all died. I saw salt around the bases of all of them, and later a neighbor kid told my son who put it there. I am not certain it was table salt, but given the mentality of that person, it probably was the most common and readily available form. I tried watering excessively to flush it, as well as pulling back the soil and mixing compost into it, to no avail.

New Iberia, LA(Zone 9a)

I am not sure about that as far as I know for sure will kill the grass.

lagrange, GA(Zone 7a)

I worked in the grocery business for years and people would buy cheap salt by the case to kill grass. I also know once we made ice cream and the salt water ran out of the freezer and killed a tree.

I have an old pine tree on the other side of my property that is blocking My view and I would like to know how to kill it with out having to chop it down. I dont think salt will do the trick? I've heard that a copper nail would do it but that does'nt work either


Lakeland, FL

I have tried that... and that DOES work! But then after I did that, everything else I planted there, kept on dying! So, I have never did that again!

Chaplin, CT(Zone 5b)

Yes ! We had alot of snow last year in CT, so a lot of salt was used on the roads. I Could see alot of yellowing and dying especially of the evergreens/pines along the highway. The fliage starts dying where the salt hits it. I live on a corner lot. I lost a butterfly bush, and a rhododendron almost died. the salt and sand really fly from the force of snow and plow.

Shipshewana, IN(Zone 5b)

. . .how sad. :( People should really be carful where their salt goes!

Cuyahoga Falls, OH(Zone 5a)

Cisco - Even if the salt works, and the tree dies - won't you need to chop it down to get rid of the dead tree ? Might as well chop it down without taking a chance on poisoning your soil

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

The guys who trim my trees cut down a large tree for me, cut deep holes in the stump and poured some salt into them to kill it permanently. I was worried about the salt going into my soil. They said to cover the stump with aluminum foil, secure the aluminum and just leave it there. I was worried about the salt going into my soil and they said it would be absorbed by the stump. The stump rotted enough to be taken out and there were no ill effects from the salt. I am not saying to do this because maybe I was just lucky the salt never made it to my soil. Of course the stump was in an area that I could leave it a long time without having to remove it.

Limerick, PA(Zone 6b)

To kill a tree without removing it you can just girdle it: remove the bark in a band all the way around the trunk. It could possibly survive if the cambium manages to stay alive, so you may want to scrub/scrape the band after you remove the bark.

However, it seems odd that you would want to keep a dead tree standing, which could fall down and cause damage to something or someone nearby.

Montgomery, AL(Zone 8b)

htop--I just had two trees cut down, would have cost extra to dig up roots, plus ruin my lawn. I have ask several who are landscapers or work with tress and I was told to drill a hole in root and put salt. I might take a chance because new trees are growing up from roots. Glad to hear it worked for you.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

My first post here on the forum

Salt, in sufficient concentrations in either soil or the water we supply plants can kill plants. The mechanism by which this occurs is termed reverse osmosis. If solute levels are higher in soil or soil water than in plant tissue, water will migrate out of cells, through cell walls. The result is cellular collapse with plasma torn from cell walls and is termed plasmolysis. We see it most frequently in plants that are over-fertilized (fertilizer salts), We usually call the condition fertilizer burn when fertilizer is involved.

A far more effective method of removing stumps is drilling holes & filling with high N fertilizer. The fertilizer feeds the N-chomping bacteria that feeds on wood, causing their #'s to skyrocket & dispose of the stump quickly. I can think of no logical reason that salt would cause a stump to deteriorate quickly & would be tempted to argue that it is counter-productive because it kills bacteria that eat wood. (reducing moisture content & killing bacteria is how salt preserves both animal (bacon, salt-pork) and vegetable (olives) matter.


This message was edited Jul 7, 2005 3:55 PM

East Bethel, MN(Zone 4a)

Al, it sounds like you know a lot about tree removal. What do you think of those "Stump Out" kinds of products? I used some last year and the stumps still seem perfectly healthy and are growing suckers everywhere. Would fertilizer do the trick, and would it affect surrounding plants?

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

lizbar, be careful about getting too much salt in soil. I put the salt in the stump.

Al, thanks for the information.+ I'll use fertilizer if I ever have to do this again.

sylvi74, good questions.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Sylvia - I can't imagine how salt could do anything but insure the tree is dead - by that, I mean it would kill the suckers by dehydration, but would do nothing to eliminate the stump.

"Stump Remover" is nothing but potassium nitrate. Again, the nitrogen feeds the bacteria that eats the wood. This makes the wood porous & able to readily absorb kerosene, which they then tell you to apply & burn the stump. Use fertilizer, it's cheaper. Best results: The bigger the holes you drill the better, The hotter the fertilizer (the more N it contains) the better. Urea is 46-0-0 & works best. Keep the stump moist by covering with a tarp & some mulch.

Any stump, along with its basal sprouts (suckers) will die on its own if you diligently remove the foliage as soon as it appears. This stops photosynthesis & the roots will quickly exhaust their stored energy reserves & give up.

Fertilizer doesn't usually migrate too far horizontally, so it should be no problem to neighboring plants, as long as you keep it in the holes you drilled. As the wood is consumed (simplified) it will not be able to support the large #s of bacteria it initially did. Most of the bacteria will die, returning N to the soil gradually.


East Bethel, MN(Zone 4a)

Thanks. I'm going to give it a try.

St. Paul, MN(Zone 4a)

If you use salt to kill the tree, what will grow there in the salted soil? I think you would be better off just using glycophosphate which will not contaminate your soil.

Owings, MD

It takes a lot of salt to kill a tree, In the office building I work at the maintainence people dumped a whole bunch of salt underneath these magnolia and Honey Locust trees, during last winter, the salt was at least 3 inches deep, they were total morons for doing it, I tried to push as much salt onto the pavement as I could when I noticed it, when it warmed up and the snow melted, The magnolias died and the Honey Locusts had no problem with the high sodium diet.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

So wait.......
We cut down a lot of brush and small trees this summer - now we have a lot of stumps for tripping on. Also many suckers. To remove the stumps (w/o a lot of elbow grease; neither my husband nor myself is very physically able), we should
1] drill hole(s) in stumps
2] apply Hi N fertilizer (46-0-0) or could we use Ammmonia which we have already?
3] wait for stump to dissolve
do I have this more or less right?
xx Carrie

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Applications of urea or other hi-N fertilizers aren't very effective as an aid in removing small woody plant stems. I think I would establish a rough limit of practicality at around 3 inches or so. Drill a 1" hole in a dead (key word) 3" or larger stump, more holes in larger stumps, fill with urea or hi-N lawn fertilizer, and the micro-organisms that feed on the N in wood will quickly remove the stump for you. Using this method in a brush-choked area could backfire as the residual N feeds surrounding vegetation.

Salt will kill vegetation by making it impossible for the plant to absorb water, but it actually kills micro-organisms that cause decay in wood, effectively preserving the stump rather than aiding in its removal.


Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Thanks, Al, I knew it couldn't be that easy. The stumps are probably 0.5" - 3" in diameter (volunteer pine and maple saplings) and there is other brush starting to grow back, too. What would you suggest? We don't want to leave any areas uninhabitable. We don't have a winch, a pickup, or any other specialized equipment. We have a wheelbarrow, we just got a ladder this year, lawn mower, drill, screwdrivers, etc.
xx Carrie

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Tough question. You'll need to make sure the old wood is dead, or the basal sprouts will keep returning. You can do this chemically with a herbicide if you choose, or mechanically, by being diligent about removing any green that arises from the stumpage. Removing the green removes the source of the plants food & they will soon starve to death when stored photosynthate is depleted.

Know anyone with a backhoe or bobcat, equipment that would make short work of small stumps? Short of that, it's wait until roots rot enough to pull stumps by hand, or to aggressively begin the dig/remove process. Wish I had a better way I could share. Perhaps another poster has an idea.

Good luck.


Thumbnail by tapla
Alvin, TX(Zone 9a)

That is one of the cutest pictures I have seen. I am infatuated with watering cans. Is that an antique made out of metal or just an original or reproduction? Maybe I shouldn't be asking that question under this thread. Hope it doesn't hurt.
Thanks a lot.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Thanks, Flowerette. It's a $2.97 special from Big Lots. When people ask to see pics of my garden, that one is usually included in the photos I send. I've received tons of comments about it. Glad you like it.


Thumbnail by tapla
(Zone 5a)

I love the rock too.

California City, CA

i heard that when you have a septic system, which i do, that in order to keep trees and such roots from destroying your system to flush salt on a regular basis and it will kill any roots that penetrate it, has anyone heard this and would the salt kill the entire root system of a tree or just keep it out of the septic system? and how much salt would one need to make this work?

(Zone 5a)

Quote from Ewald :

However, it seems odd that you would want to keep a dead tree standing, which could fall down and cause damage to something or someone nearby.

I am perusing these classic threads and will share why we would keep a dead tree standing. I have no idea about why others would. Woodpeckers. Habitat loss is great for many birds. We are saddened whenever we see out of the way dead trees cut down. Now, we live out in the country, so our situation would allow for this. :) It would be different if we lived in town or if any dead trees would fall onto any of our buildings.

This is good information about the use of salt. I've wanted to kill quite a few weeds with this, but I sure would want things to grow in their place. So maybe just on the driveway where the water runs onto the gravel road.

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