31 Jul 2013
July 31, 2013

Rot Out A tree Stump with Epsom Salts


Why Epsom Salt?

  • After a tree has been felled, the root network will continue to feed the stump. A living stump will not rot and may grow new shoots. Epsom salt (or magnesium sulfate) is hygroscopic, which means the crystals absorb water. In sufficient quantity, Epsom salt pulls moisture from the wood, which then kills the tree.

    There are many substances that could be applied to a tree stump to kill it, but Epsom salt has advantages over other stump removal chemicals. Rock salt or caustic lye would dry out the wood, but high sodium levels could make it difficult to replant after the stump has been removed. Commercial stump removal preparations contain potassium nitrate, which aids decomposition but does little to kill a living stump. Epsom salt kills the stump while improving the surrounding soil by adding magnesium and sulfur; plants require both for chlorophyll production.


  • Drill holes in the top of the stump with a one inch spade bit. The number of holes you will drill is dependent upon how large the stump top is–start your holes three inches from the perimeter of the stump and keep them three to four inches apart until you run out of room. Bore the holes as deeply as you can–at least eight inches into the base of the stump. Pour 100 percent Epsom salt into the holes and add enough water to moisten the salt. This moisture will carry the salts into the cells of the tree, drying them out. Then use a mattock or grub hoe to uncover as much as the root structure as you can. Pour a thick layer of Epsom salt on all exposed roots to prevent to roots from carrying moisture and nutrients to the base of the tree. Place a plastic bag over the tree stump to keep the moisture in.

    Larger stumps may take up to 6 months to die, so plan to reapply the Epsom salt every month or so. Brittle, dark wood is dead; while soft, light wood will require another application of Epsom salt. A dead stump will decompose naturally, though you can speed the process by adding a high nitrogen fertilizer to the bore holes and around the base of the stump.

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    JOKE OF THE DAY: I’m going to very busy in the after life. The people I am going to haunt grows every day.

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HAPPY JULY 31 BIRTHDAY TO: J.K. Rowling 48, Wesley Snipes 51, Dean Cain 47, Demarcus ware 31, Ted ‘Lurch’ Cassidy (1932-1979), Michael Biehn 57, and BJ Novak 34.

21 Responses to Rot Out A tree Stump with Epsom Salts
  1. Last monday I had a mapletree cut down I just did the epsom-salt treatment to give it a try will let u know in the next 3 months on how it did.

  2. I will try this too. I really appreciate the comments about soil treatment. Love that I am adding to the necessary growth of the soil rather than placing harmful chemicals in the environment. I live in Costa Rica. I am wondering if the natural heat and moisture will add to the speed of destroying the stump? Also, I will be leaving in March to return in November. I will have my gardener check under the bag 🙂 What to do if the process is not finished… a second application? Leave the bag off and let nature finish the job? It will be rainy season when I am away so I am wondering how it will be effected. If I do the treatment this week we will still be in dry season for at least 2 months. Any feedback? Thank you 🙂

    • I cannot say how long it would take for a tree stump to rot out in Costa Rica, I would think a much shorter time than here in Canada where we have winter for 6 months and extremely cold temperatures. As with any natural product, it does take longer to work than chemicals. Please don’t give up. Several applications may be needed. My brother is trying this for me but it is going to take longer due to our weather. Thank you for contacting us.

  3. I had to cut down 16 trees this summer and I have used the Epson salt on each of them. The stumps are turning dark, almost black. Some of them had some new shoots starting on the side of the stump, but they have all died off. I had one stump that was about fifteen years old and completely dead. I started it smoldering, using my cigarette lighter. It smoldered for four days and you could see where the roots had been growing out in all directions, some of them were 12 to 14 inches across. It rained on the 4th night and put out the little bit that was still smoldering. Never did flame up. I had a very large hole to fill in.

    • Awesome. It’s always great to hear when a tip works. This blog gets the most hits on our website.

    • My grandfather used Epson Salts and diesel fuel for years after the city stopped him from bring home dynamite from the railroad. He drilled and filled with Epson salt until stumps were dead. Then flushed out holes with water, allowed to dry, then filled with Diesel Fuel. always covered the stump with ES or DF. kept saturating stump with DF for several weeks, then put a match to it. No large fire at all, but heat coming from stumps for 4-8 weeks. he suspected the roots were burning out also. When DF was burning tho, he built a tin cover lite a teepee over stump, top of teepee vented into that tin cover at top so no rain water ever got to the stump. If fire burned out early, he would re-saturate for week+ and restart the burn.

  4. Thankyou so much for taking the time and trouble to share this info.. Heading out to buy Epsom Salts right now . I know it works, a friend used this same method very successfully and was pleased that the stump then safely rotted away into the earth too.Thanks again Sandy

  5. Thanks everyone. I just had 8 trees cut down in my back yard and of course I now own 8 stumps. Going out to buy me some Epson salts.

  6. Any update on how well this worked on the stumps? Just cut down about 15 trees today and was going to try this . Thanks for any info .

    • I have had a couple of people answer back and they did say it takes several months for this to work. One lady said she put a plastic bag over the tree stump to keep the rain and other natural elements off the tree stump and applied epsom salts every 3-4 months. You have a lot of trees to work with. Hope this works if you go this route and if you remember, let me know how quickly it does work. Then I can pass new information along. Best of luck.

  7. i just had a ordamental cherry tree cut down as it was sending runners over to the neihbors not that she compained about it i didnt like it so am going to try this epson salts is so good for the garden i just have to go by a drill i have the salts i will then cover with a bag because i have hydrangas around that tree i had cut down thanks so much i also live in canada

  8. I live on a small lake in Northern Michigan. In addition to fighting other invasive species in and around our lake, I have now discovered that the county road that accesses our lake is filled with invasive Autumn Olive bushes and Purple Loosestrife. I mentioned the use of salt to our county road commission for the eradication of the Autumn Olive. Have you had any readers with Autumn Olive and, if so, any success with the effectiveness of Epsom Salts?

    • Hi Wendy, I would suggest you consult an expert in the field to get rid of the problem. You have nothing to lose by trying Epsom salts, however, but it does take time to work. Sorry I could not be more help. Thank you for contacting us.

      • Thanks, Jenny. I did send a note on Epsom Salts
        for the eradication of Autumn Olive to a few
        regional experts, as well. Will keep you posted on our progress.

  9. Manitoba maples have very difficult roots to remove. I doubt this is strong enough, any suggestions or encouragement?

    • I am no expert on getting rid of tree stumps. This article was something I came across on the internet and thought it would be interesting to share. My suggestion is to call an expert on Manitoba Maples or GOOGLE how to get rid of them. I wish I could be more help. This has been one of our most hit on posts. Thank you for your comment and best of luck.


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