How to Remove Roots


Getting rid of a plant that is causing you trouble or has become an eyesore can be quite a task. While it would seem easy enough to chop the plant, tree, or shrub down at ground level, that won’t get rid of the plant’s roots. Leaving roots behind can mean that you risk having the plant spring up with new growth and your problem starting all over again. To remove roots, spend a day digging so you never see that plant again.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Pickax, if needed
  • Insert the head of your shovel into the ground a foot away from the base of small plants. For shrubs and small trees, start up to 3 feet away.

  • Dig straight down a foot to 18 inches deep and remove any dirt you loosen from the hole. Dig toward the center of your plant, working under the root ball. Use a pickax, if needed, to break up the soil, but be careful not to cut into the roots.

  • Dig all the way around the plant following steps 1 and 2 until you have a hole dug with nothing but the plant remaining in the center. Insert the head of the shovel into the ground under the root ball of the plant.

  • Lift the shovel up to raise the plant and its roots intact from the hole. Discard the plant, or plant it somewhere else. Scrape the head of the shovel along the inside of the hole to see if any other roots are apparent.

  • Widen the walls of the hole a few inches thick at a time, as needed, to retrieve any roots that were severed from the plant, and discard them. Once you no longer see portions of root sticking out as you loosen the soil, you can refill the hole.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the planting you are removing is an isolated one, you can pour a pot of boiling water over the soil inside the hole to ensure you kill off any remaining roots. This isn’t advised, however, if you have other plants nearby you want to keep growing.

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  • "New Complete Guide to Landscaping"; Better Homes and Gardens; 2002
  • Photo Credit Dandelion image by Andrey Kobyak from
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