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Removing Shrubs: 3 Effective Methods

Written by: PBM Team



Time to read 3 min

removing limbs shrubs with shears
Image by Christian Riedl from Pixabay

Hopefully, the Polar Vortexes of Winter have come and gone, and you can finally get out of your house again without wrapping up like an Eskimo. Now as things are thawing out you are beginning to realize those shrubs in your yard do not seem to be coming around.

You can check for signs of life by scratching the bark at the base of the plant to see if there is any green and if so there is hope, but if not let the mourning process begin. They are dead. After some time, the grief will subside and the gardening itch to get your yard back to its previous summer’s glory will come. Then you realize that in with the new, means out with the old, and removing those dead shrubs can become quite a chore.

Dead shrubs can be unsightly and potentially harmful to the health of your garden or landscape. Removing them is not only an aesthetic improvement but also crucial for the vitality of your outdoor space.

Method 1: Manual Removal

This method is ideal for small to medium-sized dead shrubs and involves using basic hand tools. You’ll need a few common gardening tools:

Tools and Materials:

  1. Pruning Shears or Loppers: For cutting branches and stems.
  2. Garden Gloves: To protect your hands from thorns and splinters.
  3. Shovel: For digging up the shrub’s roots.
  4. Wheelbarrow or Tarp: To transport the debris.


  1. Assess the Shrubs: Examine the dead shrub to determine its size, shape, and root structure. This assessment will help you plan your removal strategy.
  2. Trim the Branches: Use pruning shears or loppers to cut off as many branches and stems as possible. Start from the top and work your way down. Dispose of the cut branches in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp.
  3. Dig Around the Base: Use a shovel to dig around the base of the shrub, exposing the root system. Be cautious not to damage nearby plants or structures.
  4. Remove the Roots: Grasp the shrub near the base and begin to rock it back and forth. As you do this, use the shovel to sever any remaining roots. Lift the shrub out of the hole once it is loose.
  5. Fill the Hole: Fill the hole left by the shrub with fresh topsoil and compact it gently to level the ground.

Method 2: Chemical Removal

Chemical removal is an effective method for getting rid of stubborn unwanted or dead shrubs, especially those with extensive root systems. However, it requires caution and adherence to safety guidelines.

Tools and Materials:

  1. Glyphosate-based Herbicide: Choose a herbicide specifically designed for woody plants.
  2. Garden Gloves: To protect your hands.
  3. Spray Bottle or Paintbrush: To apply the herbicide.
  4. Plastic Sheet or Tarp: To protect surrounding plants and soil.


  1. Safety First: Put on your garden gloves and read the herbicide label carefully, following all safety instructions.
  2. Cut the Shrub Back: Trim the dead shrub as much as possible to expose more surface area for the herbicide.
  3. Protect Surroundings: Cover the soil and nearby plants with a plastic sheet or tarp to prevent accidental herbicide contact.
  4. Apply Herbicide: Mix the herbicide according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a spray bottle or paintbrush to apply the herbicide to the cut surfaces of the shrub, including the stump and any exposed roots.
  5. Wait and Remove: Allow the herbicide to work for the recommended time (usually a few weeks). The shrub will gradually die, making it easier to remove. Follow Method 1 to remove the dead shrub once it’s weakened.

Method 3: Mechanical Removal (Using Equipment)

For large or stubborn dead shrubs with extensive root systems, mechanical removal is a practical option. You’ll need some heavy equipment or you might have to call in the professionals for this method.

Tools and Equipment:

  1. Chainsaw: For cutting the shrub into manageable pieces.
  2. Excavator or Backhoe: For digging out the root system.
  3. Safety Gear: Including gloves, eye protection, and hearing protection.


  1. Safety Precautions: Put on your safety gear, including gloves, eye protection, and hearing protection.
  2. Cut the Shrub: Use a chainsaw to cut the dead shrub into smaller, manageable sections. Be cautious and cut away from yourself.
  3. Excavate the Roots: Use an excavator or backhoe to dig around the base of the shrub and remove the entire root system. Exercise care to avoid damaging nearby structures or plants.
  4. Fill the Hole: Fill the hole left by the shrub with fresh soil and compact it to level the ground.

Each of these methods has its own advantages and is suitable for different situations. Choose the one that best fits your specific needs and the size of the dead shrub you want to remove. Always prioritize safety and take precautions to protect yourself and your surrounding plants and structures during the removal process.

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