How to kill ailanthus (AKA tree of heaven)

perennialfan273(zone 5)April 26, 2011

I think my neighbor has these growing in her yard. I'd like to help her get rid of them so the seedlings stop popping up in my yard. Can anyone offer some advice??

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Cut and paint the stump with brush killer (something designed for woody plants). It may re-sprout, just re-cut and paint again.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 8:39PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

When you go at it, make sure to get ALL the tree (all the suckers). If you only treat part, there is less chance of the chemical killing the tree.

Paint the stumps very soon after cutting them. Applying the herbicide after hours or days is less effective. Only the chemical that is applied to the phloem layer will do any good, applying to the middle of the stump is not necessary

Be sure not to use something watered down too much. Glyphosate (RoundUp), for instance, will do the job if applied concentrated, but, if you get the premixed stuff, the tree will probably just laugh. Triclopyr (Brush-B-Gon) is another common chemical that can work well.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 10:28PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Cut 'em down, poison the stumps, and then pluck the sprouts for the next several years... ;-)


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 12:19AM
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Really you don't even need to use poison. They aren't really hard to kill if pay attention weekly. If you or the neighbor have kids, you just found some good chores for them. Just remember there probably is a big seedbank, so when disturbing soil, you probably could even have some come up years later.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 8:37AM
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My summer job is killing tree of heaven at my local nature center. I have probably killed hundreds of these things already. To kill them you need to girdle the tree by removing as much bark as you can all the way around the tree. You then chop a bit deeper another 2 inches into some spot on the trunk and then spray with an herbicide. The tree should be dead within a week. Warning, the trees give off a terrible smell when you start chopping off the bark.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 10:34AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Don't girdle and don't cut in 2 inches. Cut down/remove and treat the area just inside the bark. I'm sure the neighbor isn't going to be excited about looking out the window at a dead rotting tree in the yard, and applying chemical to the xylem is just a pure waste of chemical (will not hurt the tree).

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 12:53PM
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I unfortunately have a big one growing in my yard! I would love to cut it down but it is to expensive! I made the mistake of cleaning up an area behind my garage and have found hundreds of clusters of these things. In the 9 yrs we have lived in our house they haven't really grown back there. Now that I have disturbed them, they are growing all over my yard. I need to know how to kill the clusters while they are still in the ground, because digging them up is not an option? Does anyone have any suggestions???? DESPERATELY SEEKING HELP!!!!!!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 1:04PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

AMB71, just read the posts above. The right herbicide applied in the right way works well!

Of course, if you have a large tree and kill it, it will eventually come down. It may cost a little to have it removed (if you can't do it yourself), but it's going to cost more when you let it stand there until it rots and falls on your garage.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 8:12PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Many of the "seedlings" of Ailanthus are actually root-sprouts. Can occur a surprising distance from the tree.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 11:19AM
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...including under foundation footings and then into crawl spaces.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 12:09AM
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Someone across the street has allowed one to grow next to their house. I really hope I won't start finding it in my yard.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 3:29PM
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Sylvia Weiser Wendel

We have had these things since moving into our house in 1986-!! They were more or less under control until our next-door neighbors cut down a whole grove of them two years ago. Now they are worse than ever. Sure, I can wreck my back plucking them out every day (sometimes twice a day), but on our 1/3 acre they are just too numerous. I've tried digging out the "roots" but that doesn't stop 'em -- they come right back the next day. I thought Roundup would kill them, but I used the premixed version, so nothing. They are so ugly, stinky and insidious: they grow under chairs and tables, they sneak into groomed beds, they grow in wet and dry seasons alike.
We have one tree of then left in one corner of the yard. I hope I can have that tree surgically removed later in the year, but wait -- won't that just create more of them? The responses on this forum seem to contradict each other, or perhaps it's just me.
We call them "triffids" after the murderous chirping plant in the classic scifi movie. I do believe that if left untouched, they would eventually surround the house and choke everything in it ;).

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 3:56PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if you read the RU label ... on the concentrate... as a tree killer it is used at 100% [which is 41%] ... and dripped on the cut trunk ...

it is not.. in any sense.. a 'spray thing' ... and definitely a diluted product thing ...

use something like at the link.. for application of full strength product.. snip a sprout.. put one drip on it ... and keep at it ... return unused product to properly labeled container ...


Here is a link that might be useful: very expensive applicator

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 4:22PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

If the RU is applied properly, and at proper concentrations, as Ken and Brandon have explained, it will kill the entire root system and stop the sprouting in other areas of the property as well.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 5:03PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Ken - I love your "expensive applicator"!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 5:05PM
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Sorry to revive this old thread, but I'd like opinions from those with actual experience in removing the dreaded A. altissima...

I live on a remote 100 acre bush block, and after returning recently from 5 years overseas, these monsters have taken over. Maybe an acre all told. The local council inspected the place in my absence, and is threatening huge fines if I don't remedy the problem. I'm aware of the 41% glyphosate cut and wipe process, and have used it with great success on a 100 metre perimeter of my house.

But the biggest area has a couple of thousand of these growing, ranging in size from 3 metres high to the rest (majority) around knee high and lower.

My question is this...since the roots are all interconnected and glyphosate is a systemic herbicide (travels through the roots), would it work if I treated just the larger and medium sized trees and let the glyphosate travel to the smaller plants?

It'd save me weeks of work and give my creaky knees a rest!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2015 at 10:07PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

all you can do ..... is try ...

worse thing.. would have to go back and do it again ... because it didnt work ....

cant you hire some local help to do the cutting.. and you be in charge of the RU???

i dont know about your presumption that it is a copse.. that all roots are interconnected .... how or why.. are you presuming such?????


    Bookmark   January 18, 2015 at 10:17PM
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Is Ailanthus invasive in Bhutan? I claim no special knowledge of this species, but is it not Asian in origin? Yes, I know Asia is a rather large place, lol, but just making sure you're trying to kill something that deserves to die!

Another chemical which can sometimes be more effective is Triclopyr, aka Garlon. There are at least four main formulations of Garlon, some being water-based, others intended for an oil carrier. They both have their advantages. You might find you get better results with this systemic herbicide versus the Glyphosate.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2015 at 9:05AM
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Ken...the roots are interconnected...well, most of them. Whenever I dig up a lone plant, I can always follow its roots back several metres to its nearest mate. It's also the accepted method of Ailanthus to self-propagate. Don't know what else I can tell you...

And Wisconsitom...sorry, this is in Australia. I've returned here for a break from working in Bhutan. And Ailanthus is a native plant there. (Eastern Himalayas). It actually is a beautiful specimen tree in its native habitat (never thought I'd say that!), with not one sucker in sight. I guess somebody has to love it!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2015 at 4:02PM
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Isn't that just the way it goes! I hear that Malaleuca, the plague of S. Florida woodlands, is nearing extirpation in its Australian home range. Such is our modern world!

T of H is a perfect example of something I often have mentioned, in connection with this or that invasive species; It's not inherently ugly or unworthy of life. Only when it gets where it doesn't belong does it "deserve to die". Norway maple is another such example. Peeps here sometimes go on a rant about these "awful, ugly trees" but in fact they are very handsome. Just don't belong in N. American woodlands!


    Bookmark   January 20, 2015 at 8:55AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Maryland highway dept used a nuclear option pumping nasty poison into the root-zone. Apparently it has worked pretty well -- alot less of 'em now than a decade ago.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2015 at 11:23AM
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On something like that I'd use triclopyr over glyphosate. Ailanthus sounds similar to our Chinese Tallow problem down here on the gulf coast, and triclopyr is the only thing I've found that works. If you can do a basal bark treatment on the smaller ones it'll work even better without triggering more suckering.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2015 at 7:58AM
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I've spent the past couple of days cutting/wiping the larger ones, and foliar spraying the smaller suckers with the recommended mixture of Kenmet (which I bought to kill blackberries, but noticed on the MSDS that it's recommended for Ailanthus too), glyphosate and a surfactant.

I'll assess the results in a week or so...

Here is a link that might be useful: Ken Met

This post was edited by shaxhome on Thu, Jan 22, 15 at 16:47

    Bookmark   January 22, 2015 at 4:45PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Someone might mention the off-target damage potential of Garlon/triclopyr formulations due to persistence in soils - even when used according to label directions. Applicators should not experience that problem with glyphosate use.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2015 at 1:17PM
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Shaxhome - But the biggest area has a couple of thousand of these growing, ranging in size from 3 metres high to the rest (majority) around knee high and lower.

Most of the small trees are root sprouts from the bigger ones. And, because they are heavily interconnected you can take out the whole acre without too much work.

Start at one side of the patch with glyphosate mixed at the standard concentration and thoroughly wet every leaf you can reach, on the big or small ones. Work in a systematic grid - lay out stakes or something to keep your spray pattern consistent, or mix food coloring into the tank so you can see where you have sprayed.

Wait a week to let things start to die and go back in to get any you missed - they will still be green. Then you can cut them off at ground level and fight sprouts for a while - patrol and spray or pull as needed. The only virtue to Ailanthus is that the root sprouts pull up easily.

If there are any plants in that patch that you want to keep, drop a cardboard box or a paper bag over them during spraying, or clear around them by hand and use some sort of a spray shield.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2015 at 1:32PM
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Hi, Lazygardens. Thanks for the tips. That's actually very similar to the methods I'm using. Although the root sprouts do pull up easily, I'm hesitant to do so, as I've discovered that it breaks the roots and prompts them to send up multiple replacements. I'm unsure as to how long it takes for the roots themselves to die and become unviable, so I'll err on the side of caution, time-wise.

Also, while using the recommended rate of glyphosate does appear to get the smaller plants, it's had no discernible effect on the larger ones, hence my cut/wipe of those with 41%.

I realise that his will be a long battle, but I'm determined to win!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2015 at 8:10PM
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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)

â¢Posted by shaxhome Thimphu, Bhutan (My Page) on Sun, Jan 25, 15 at 20:10

In Bhutan, that would be a native tree.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2015 at 8:25PM
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