Depending on which area of the country you call home, a variety of brushwood species could be waiting to spread along your fence lines or grow into impassable thickets in your yard. Left to their own devices, brush—a combination of saplings, conifers, young trees, and invasive vines—can quickly encroach on little-used parts of the yard until you can ignore it no longer. Trying to chop and dig the weeds out is a labor-intensive task, and many brush varieties will regrow if any of the roots are still in place.
That’s where brush killers come in. This chemical herbicide is strong enough to tackle even invasive brushwood species to stop the invasion. Selecting the best brush killer for your needs will depend on the type of brush you need to get rid of, the extent of the problem, and your preferred method of application. Ahead, learn what to look for when buying a brush killer and find out why the following products are all excellent at eradicating tough weeds.
- BEST OVERALL: Roundup Ready-to-Use Tough Brush Killer with Sprayer
- RUNNER-UP: Southern Ag CROSSBOW32 Weed & Brush Killer Herbicide
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: RM43 76502 Total Control Glyph Weed Preventer
- MOST VERSATILE: VPG Fertilome 32295 Brush Stump Killer
- BEST SPRAY BOTTLE: BioAdvanced 704645A Brush Killer Plus
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS: Image Brush & Vine Killer Concentrate
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Ortho Max Poison Ivy and Tough Brush Killer
- ALSO CONSIDER: Ortho 475705 GroundClear Tough Brush Killer with Wand
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Brush Killer
The yard of a vacant home can become a mishmash of vines and wild bushes within a few short months. But by the time brush takes over, the time to maintain the yard with just a mower or a weed whacker has passed. Natural or organic weed killers may not be sufficient to tackle the job at that point either.
Getting rid of invasive brush once and for all calls for bringing out the big guns: potent chemical herbicides. Before buying, however, it’s important to think about the best type and application method for each situation and the safety considerations involved with various products.
Some types of brush killers are better suited than others to specific situations. Some folks have only a small area to clear, while others might have an acre or more. Fortunately, buyers have a choice.
- Ready-to-use: The simplest of all products to apply, ready-to-use brush killers are dispensed via pump-type sprayers or larger backpack-style or trailer-mounted sprayer tanks. Some ready-to-use products come in hand-spray bottles, but a larger sprayer is a better option for treating anything beyond just a few offending weeds.
- Liquid concentrate: Most brush-killing herbicides come in concentrated liquid form that users must dilute with water before filling in a sprayer. Concentrated herbicides are usually less expensive, coverage-wise, than ready-to-use products. Mixing it is an extra step, however, and requires precise measuring.
Most brush killers contain one or more of the following chemicals. All are efficient at killing shrubs and weeds, but they do have a few differences.
- Triclopyr: This is the most common chemical found in herbicides that are used to kill brush. Triclopyr is a selective herbicide, meaning it will kill only particular types of plants, such as broadleaf woody plants like locust, sweetgum, mesquite, and more. Because it won’t kill most types of turfgrass, it is well suited for clearing away brush in areas near lawns.
- Fluazifop: Found in brush killers that contain another herbicide, usually triclopyr, fluazifop is another selective herbicide. It targets thick, grassy undergrowth and various types of broadleaf weeds, such as invasive sedges. When used in combination, the two herbicides will kill most offending brush species.
- Glyphosate: Considered a nonselective herbicide because it targets all vegetation, including woody species, vines, and grasses, glyphosate is an effective and potent brush killer.
- 2,4-D is short for 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. 2,4-D is a well-known selective herbicide used to eradicate invasive broadleaf weeds. It’s often added to triclopyr to boost its effectiveness.
Applying an herbicide just before it rains can result in the product washing off the plant rather than killing it. To prevent this scenario, some of today’s herbicide products are designed to be rainproof within a few hours of application. Depending on the product, the time it takes for the herbicide to become rainproof can range from 30 minutes to up to 24 hours, so users should avoid applying the product when rain is imminent.
Patience pays off when using an herbicide to kill brush. Some types of brush, especially tender vines and grassy weeds, may begin wilting within a couple of days. Woody and thorny bushes with hardwood stems or trunks, though, may not show signs of dying for up to six weeks. Wait it out—there’s usually no need to reapply the herbicide. In some cases, the product’s label may even recommend against reapplication for a specific amount of time, such as 30 to 60 days.
Commercial brush-killing products are considered to be safe when used as directed. Keep in mind that these are potent chemicals, and care is required when applying them—careful application protects the person doing the spraying as well as pets, children, and the environment.
Unlike using other products, such as laundry detergent or bleach, not following the usage instructions on an herbicide label may even be a federal offense. Herbicide labels bear this warning: “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” It also makes good sense to follow some safe-application tips.
- Protect eyes and skin: Wear goggles, long sleeves, long pants, and a respirator mask when spraying brush with a potent herbicide. If any of the product gets on the skin, wash it off promptly.
- Don’t spray in the wind: Apply brush killer only on a calm day to avoid killing desirable plants with accidental overspray. Spraying on a still day also reduces the risk of skin exposure or inhaling the chemical. A good rule of thumb is not to spray if the wind is blowing over 8 miles per hour.
- Establish a kid-free zone: Brush killers and children don’t mix. Keep the kids away while spraying, and don’t allow them into the area until the manufacturer says it’s safe, which can range from an hour or two to up to a couple of weeks. The same goes with pets—no sense in taking any chances.
- Mix only as directed: While it may be appealing to use the herbicide at a higher concentration for added kill power, resist the temptation to do so. Not only does this come under the “violation of federal law” clause, but using too strong a mixture could render the soil unusable for months (or longer).
Our Top Picks
A brush killer should live up to its name: it should be potent enough to kill the offending varieties of brush. However, the best brush killer for one property may not be the best for another, so look for the type that best suits your particular needs. The following products will all kill most types of brush, and one or more is sure to be an asset in helping eradicate the woody overgrowth on your property.
Enjoy no mixing and no mess with RoundUp’s Ready-to-use Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer, which comes in a 1-gallon jug with its own handheld trigger sprayer (other spray options may be available). Roundup is a nonselective herbicide that contains glyphosate, so it does not discriminate when killing bushes, shrubs, and overgrowth. In addition to killing woody brush, this herbicide spray is well suited for killing poison ivy, invasive vines and saplings, and other noxious weeds.
The product is rainproof 30 minutes after spraying. Wilting of foliage is often visible within 24 hours, but it can take up to four weeks for woody shrubs to die completely. For best results, apply on a sunny day when the temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Featuring a potent combination of triclopyr and 2,4-D, Southern Ag’s CROSSBOW32 is a powerful ally in the quest to get rid of unwanted weeds. It kills many types of woody bushes, shrubs, and invasive vines, such as kudzu and poison ivy. When used as directed it won’t harm most turfgrass types, making it suitable for killing brush in areas near lawns.
This powerful, concentrated formula comes in a 32-ounce jug that requires dilution with water before application with a pump-type sprayer, backpack sprayer, or field sprayer. For best results, saturate foliage uniformly with the spray.
Getting a bit of brush-clearing help from an herbicide doesn’t have to cost a lot. The RM43 Total Control Glyph Weed Preventer comes in a concentrated liquid that tackles even tough brush and vines—and best of all, it’s affordable.
The liquid comes in a 32-ounce jug, and it’s rainproof two hours after application. The nonselective product can be diluted with water and applied via a pump-type sprayer or larger tank sprayer. For the best results, saturate foliage thoroughly.
RM43 also contains a weed preventer called Imazapyr. In addition to killing brush, RM43 can be applied to bare ground to prevent brush and vines from regrowing for up to one year.
The VPG Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer gets rid of woody plants, brush, scrub, and undergrowth, and it’s tough enough for use on stumps. The product comes in a 32-ounce bottle for diluting with water and can be applied with a pump-type sprayer, backpack sprayer, or even a handheld spray bottle if the weed-killing job is small. The solution should be used full strength when treating stumps.
Fertilome is a nonselective herbicide that kills a wide variety of woody brushes, including locust, kudzu, and box elder. It will also kill invasive weeds such as henbit, spurge, and vetch, which makes it suitable as an all-purpose herbicide for clearing out dense areas of overgrown weeds.
Applying brush-killing herbicide is easy with BioAdvanced Brush Killer Plus. This nonselective, ready-to-use product comes in a 32-ounce bottle that features a standard garden hose connection on one end and a spray nozzle on the other. Getting rid of wild vines and woody brush is as simple as turning on the water and depressing the spray nozzle to emit a continuous stream of diluted herbicide.
The solution is rainproof after four hours, and it’s effective for killing stumps. BioAdvanced is well suited for treating poison ivy and noxious weeds along trails, fence lines, and wooded areas.
Clear away large areas of invasive vines and woody brush with Image Brush & Vine Killer. This concentrated herbicide comes in a 1-quart bottle and treats plots of up to 4,000 square feet, which makes it a good bet for killing brush in rural or vacant lots.
This product should be diluted before application with a pump-type sprayer or another large sprayer. It will kill thorny wild blackberry, poison oak, and poison sumac, as well as many other woody shrubs and plants. When used as directed, this selective herbicide will not harm most types of turfgrass.
For eradicating even the most challenging invasive species, including kudzu, check out Ortho’s Max Poison Ivy and Tough Brush Killer. This selective brush killer is meant to be diluted and applied with a pump-type sprayer, or used in a hose-connect sprayer (Ortho Dial N Spray sprayer is recommended). Two hours after application, it’s rainproof.
Ortho Max kills over 60 types of hardy brush species and can also be applied to stumps to kill roots and prevent regrowth. Plants may show signs of wilting within two days, but total eradication can take as long as six weeks, so be patient. It comes in a 16-ounce bottle of highly concentrated herbicide.
For easy application in a ready-to-use brush killer, consider Ortho GroundClear Tough Brush Killer. The herbicide is packaged in a large 1.33-gallon jug and comes with a comfort wand that directs a continuous stream of liquid brush for precise application—no pumping or bending necessary.
This selective herbicide will kill a wide array of offending vines and woody species, including kudzu, poison ivy, and more. The product is rainproof two hours after application. Wilting leaves can be seen as soon as 24 hours, although the complete killing of some woody plants may take up to six weeks.
FAQs About Brush Killers
Unwanted vines and brush can take over a plot of land quickly. When they become too thick and tough to remove with a mower or brush cutter, many homeowners opt to use chemical weed and brush killer products. Here are answers to some common questions about brush killers.
Q. Can a brush killer kill grass or other desirable plants?
Yes, herbicides kill a wide range of plants, and overspray can kill desirable plants. So use caution and don’t apply herbicide when it’s windy.
Q. Are brush killers safe for children or pets?
Some are safer than others. Always read and follow the label’s safety precautions, and don’t allow children or pets in the area until the recommended amount of time has passed.
Q. How long does it take for a brush killer to work?
When foliage is saturated, many brush killers start working almost immediately. Still, it can take time for the herbicide to travel from the leaves through the stems, trunks, and roots. Wilting may be evident in 24 hours, but the entire plant may not die for up to six weeks.
Q. How many times do I have to apply the brush killer?
Most of the time it only takes one application, but success depends on several factors. If the wrong type of product is used, it may never kill the offending brush; if rain washes the herbicide off too soon, reapplication may be necessary. Always read the product’s label, because it may be a violation of federal law to reapply specific herbicides before a certain amount of time (specified on the label) has passed.