How to Stop Tree Stump from Sprouting?

How to Stop Tree Stump from Sprouting

Sprouts or suckers can pop up out of the ground around the trunks, stumps, and roots of living and dead trees. In time, certain types of stubborn stumps and tree roots might send up new growth. Invasive plants can grow from fresh-cut stumps for many months, and an effective method of sprout removal is needed. 

Getting rid of stump sprouts can be as easy as occasionally pruning and pouring hot water or as complex as removing the entire stump and root system. To know which kind of sprouts from tree stumps you are dealing with, you will want to check what tree species your stump comes from and see if certain conditions changed on your property that would encourage new stump growth.

This article will cover both, so read below for all the info you will need to stop tree stumps from sprouting.

What Makes Tree Stumps Sprout?

Many things can make a tree stump sprout at ground level and can lead to stump and root sprouting. These new trees do not have a stable root plate or a buried root ball to sustain them and will likely break as they grow. Fresh tree stump growth can be best dealt with if you understand why the tree is choosing to put up new shoots.

Survival Instinct

When a tree is first chopped down, a fresh stump may use all the reserved energy stored in the root and remaining trunk to put up as much new growth as possible. Trees have very large storage reserves, and resilient stumps can put up shoots for years after being cut. As long as the stump is alive and receives sunlight and moisture, you will have to deal with periodic new plant life. This survival mechanism helps trees survive forest fires and other natural disasters in forests. 

Ideal Climate Conditions

Occasionally, a half-dead tree stump will spontaneously spring back to life. This can happen from time to time when the aerial roots spout new growth in the form of root suckers. When the sun, soil, moisture, and temperature conditions are just right, even presumed dead stumps can spring up and show they were just waiting a bit of time before regrowing.

Recent Lawn Fertilization

While adding fertilizer and compost to your lawn and turf, you may also give a tree stump and its network of roots the boost it needs to put up bits of growth and store energy for future growth. Invasive plant species will use these boosts as a chance to out-compete other plants and can help stubborn tree types shoot sprouts through the soil surface. Pruning stumps after lawn fertilization is the safest method for removal from nearby plants. 

Cleared Canopy Plants

If old dead stumps are suddenly sprouting, it could be because increased light and energy are reaching the stump. When we clear or prune canopy trees on densely planted properties, it can encourage new growth in dormant pieces of stump. This is especially common in root grafting situations where the fruit tree has been cut down, but the rootstock wants to live on. 

How to Stop Sprouts Growing from Tree Stump?

Now that you understand a little more why tree stumps start sprouting, you can look at the best ways to eliminate them. Best can mean many things depending on your specific lawn needs; in some cases, the fastest removal is best, whereas other times, the least ecological damage may be what you consider best.

Below is a comprehensive list of options to give you the information you need to create the best stump sprout removal plan for your property.

MethodEffectAdvantage
CoppiceAllows sprouts to grow into branches for timber and lumber productionNo need to kill the tree, and free fuel and lumber source
HerbicideKills new sprouts and regrowthTargeted and often plant specific
Caustic ChemicalsChemical burns increased rot and decayLow-cost chemical stump removers are available and often low environmental impact on nearby plants
BurnFire kills stump and roots in under 48 hrsA fast and effective way to remove stumps without harming the nearby environment
PruningClips new growth at soil level and prevents new branches from getting largerDoesn’t take much time or effort, and with long enough persistence, roots may run out of energy and stop putting up new growth
Dig UpShovels and other earthwork tools used to remove the entire stump from the groundDoesn’t harm nearby plants and can be refilled with soil and sod for nice lawn updates
Fertilizer to Accelerate DecayCreates a high nitrogen environment that acts as a catalyst for extreme decomposition by soil microbesLow environmental impact as the earth consumes the stump, and after active decomposition, the mound can be replanted as done in hugelkulture
Cover the StumpBlocks sunlight and moisture from the stump and can lead to quicker death than ordinary conditionsTakes little effort and needs no maintenance other than ensuring the tarp doesn’t rip or blow away
Grind The StumpRemoves stump and aerial roots and produces wood chipsThe fastest method that does little harm to the surrounding environment and adds organic matter for yard and compost use

Coppice 

The act of letting a tall tree that is cut down to a thick stump regrow straight lumber-quality timber and the managing of the regrowth is coppicing. It is an ancient technique that allows one tree to produce lumber indefinitely, which obviously comes with huge ecological benefits. While commercial coppicing is probably not going to happen from the tree in your lawn, you can still do it on a smaller scale.

If you have a fireplace and like to cook with natural wood fuel or enjoy woodworking and DIY projects, a small-scale coppicing operation might be the perfect use for your old stump. Let a select branch or few regrow and continue to prune and prevent all other regrowth. Once the branches have reached the desired height and diameter, you can cut them down and use them for your specific need.

Pruning

Cutting any regrowth that pops up is another way to keep stumps from resprouting. Over time the energy required to make new sprouts will run out, and the trunk will be able to regrow less and less. That entire process can take years, so this is really only advisable if you like the trunk and don’t mind trimming occasionally suckers. Continuous pruning can give you additional materials for your compost, so that can be a bonus in smaller properties without a lot of yard waste. 

Pruning trees that regrow quickly can help add mulch to the soil around your other plants. A landscaping method known as chop and drop utilizes yard trimmings to naturally build soil and create a more forest floor type of ecosystem. By chopping regrowth into 6-inch pieces and letting them lay where they drop, you can build soil and help other trees flourish.

Willow trees are notorious for regrowing from cut stumps, and their prunings, when soaked in water, can produce a rooting hormone that helps with plant cloning. 

Dig Up

With only a shovel or hand tools, this can be a very strenuous and labor-intensive process. With stump removal equipment like a hydraulic lever or winch, you can speed up the task quite a bit. Not all stumps can be accessed or can be safely pulled up, and in these cases, care and consideration should be taken before proceeding.

Some issues with digging up trunks come with access and potential damage by emerging roots. If you are unable to get around the stump to work, then you will most likely be unable to pull it out of the ground successfully. If there are structures or pipes near a tree that could be damaged when the roots are removed, other methods of stump removal must be considered to save yourself potential injury and costly property damage. 

Herbicide

Broadleaf weed killers and other chemical herbicides can be applied to new growth whenever it is seen. Dosing a fresh stump with herbicide can help speed up the process of killing the roots and prevent future regrowth. Often stump-killing herbicide will need to be reapplied a few times before effects can be noticed.

When applying herbicide or other hazardous chemicals to tree trunks, you will want to continue to use proper protective gloves and safety gear. Don’t apply on a windy day, and check for rain and sun conditions to avoid damaging nearby turf and desirable plants.  Choose an herbicide that will effectively kill the regrowth without harming your turf. 

Burn

Stumps that continuously regrow can be burned to stop future stump sprouts. Stump burning is an effective measure that kills off the stump and root system completely. Buring a stump takes a bit of preparation and a fairly decent time commitment, but it is cost-effective and not too hard on the surrounding earth. 

To burn a tree stump, you will need to drill a deep hole about an inch wide and 8 inches deep all over the top, sides, and exposed roots of the stump. Pour potassium nitrate or saltpeter into the holes and then follow with warm water to allow the chemical accelerants to penetrate deep inside the wood. Place charcoal around the stump and pile scrap wood and kindling on top. Light the kindling and let the fire burn for up to 24hrs or until the stump is completely burned out. 

Fertilizer to Accelerate Decay

Another mostly natural method to prevent stumps from producing sprouts is to accelerate the decay of the stump. Since the tree has been cut down, most of the growth occurring uses reserved energy. At the same time, parts of the roots that no longer connect to a crown have already begun to decay. You can speed up that process by using high-nitrogen fertilizer. 

Placing fertilizer inside and around a dying stump can help increase the population of bacterial and soil critters responsible for decomposition. By adding a catalyst like nitrogen to an environment already ripe for decay, you can make a stump literally disappear into the earth.

Covering the stump with soil and compost can speed this up evermore. After active decomposition, when the levels of nitrogen have dropped, you can plant on top of it like a raised mound and benefit from the rich fertile soil. 

Cover the Stump

Blocking a stump from air and sunlight can stop any new growth from occurring. Without new sunlight, the stump will need to rely on food reserves which can become depleted over time. This method may take several months to be effective, but it requires the least amount of work and will ease your mind about constant sprouts.

Pull a heavy dark tarp over the stump and lock it in place with rocks or soil or anything else that will keep it against the stump. Make sure not to cover any turf or garden plants with the tarp, or you will kill them as well. Once the tarp has been on for several months, you can remove it to see if the stump has started to decay naturally. If not, re-cover it for a few more months.

Grind the Stump

A stump grinder is a tried and true way to get rid of resprouting stumps fast. If you have a stump grinder and know how to operate one, it will save you tons of time and allow you to landscape your yard with free mulch and wood chips. This can be a great way to clear a stump if it’s an option for you.

To grind a tree stump, you will want to make sure your grinder is maintained and that the area around the stump is cleared. Things like rocks and bits of metal can become dangerous projectiles or damage the machine if hit, so care must be taken to clean the area well. With a chainsaw, cut the trunk as near to the ground level as possible and keep the surface flat. After that, grind repeatedly until all of the stump and roots have been turned into wood chips.

Caustic Chemicals

Chemical stump killers like rock salt and Epsom salt can be poured into trunks to chemically burn them from the inside and lead to a quick death. While dealing with chemical burns, tree stumps will be unable to produce sprouts or regrowth. Over time the tree will run out of the energy needed to heal itself and succumb to the chemicals. 

Only use approved chemicals to kill tree stumps, as although other ingredients like table salt will still kill the tree it will also damage the soil and plants around it. Using the wrong chemicals or the incorrect amount of chemicals can result in wildlife issues and environmental damage. Make sure to read all labels and wear protective gear if using caustic or acidic chemicals.

What Tree Types are Likely to Resprout? 

Chinese Elm, Poplars, Maples, Lindens, Boxelder, Red Oak, Willows, Beech, Ash, Cottonwood, and Pepper trees are some of the biggest culprits when it comes to stump regrowth. Knowing whether you have one of these tree stumps on your property can help you determine what removal methods are needed. If you want to opt for a more environmentally friendly method, you can coppice, prune, or adopt hugelkultur. 

If you need a more drastic approach or want to completely remove the stump and use the space it occupies, the more complete methods of removal are probably best for you. Chemicals, stump burnings, and manual removal can all be excellent methods if used correctly. Whichever way you choose to keep tree stumps from sprouting in your lawn, make sure to do so safely.