I have two arborvitae trees that are near the front entrance to our house. Many years ago they were planted way to close and now they need to be removed.

We have decided to simple plant perennials there instead, like a big batch of black eyed susans or something similar. Our goal is lower and more color. my question is can I just cut the arborvitae at ground level and let nature takes its course with the roots? Or do I need to remove the root ball?

Over time I would assume the roots would decompose was hoping patience and nature could replace an aching back and blisters.

2 Answers 2


If it were me, I would remove the stumps as much as possible before replanting the bed. Arborvitae can sometimes re-sprout even after being cut back severely, and the wood, while soft, is fairly resistant to decay. This means you may be waiting quite a while for nature to take care of the problem for you, even if it doesn't manage to regrow its top.

  • This was a concern of mine, I cut it down and now I just have a living root system under ground. It sounds like some digging and pulling is required.
    – treeNinja
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 19:30
  • Renting a stump grinder, if you can fit one in there, to take at least the core of the root system out might save you a bit of labor.
    – TeresaMcgH
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 21:01

I think the method you choose will somewhat depend on the size of the trees. If the trees were less than 3" in diameter, I'd pop out the root ball. If the tree is over that, I might consider grinding it out. See here for more detailed info on stump removal.

Letting them rot is a possibility you could get old on. I've seen 'em stick around for over ten years. You could leave them, but they won't go away fast without help.

With a sharp shovel, I can pop the average arborvitae stump out in less than 5 minutes. Dig a trench around the stump spade deep, cutting all roots that get in the way. then cut a circle around the base, at the bottom of the trench. Slant this inward. Pry out the stump.

  • 10 years? wow. That is what I am afraid of. The four in question, 2 in the front and 2 on the sides are from 2.5 to 4.5 inches in diameter. So it sounds based on input I will need to remove the root ball as best I can. Thank you for the information.
    – treeNinja
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 13:18

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