Pest plant control techniques

There is a huge range of control methods for plants. Most methods are listed below, in generally descending order of environmental selectivity i.e least disturbance. For recommendations on control for individual species use our Pest search.

Start off by setting objectives for your project and then planning how you are going to achieve them. Use our planning template as a guide in the 'Why plan?' section of planning your pest control.

Drill and fill

Generally best for big trees, uses less herbicide than most other methods and uses minimal amounts of water. Can generally be used all year round. Aim is to access cambium layer (under bark) so deep holes not necessary. Only suitable for use in areas where eventual tree fall will not pose a risk to people or property.

Cut and squirt

Good for soft trees (quicker to do than drilling). Cut a notch in a downward angle in the trunk and squirt concentrated herbicide in notch. Use drench gun and pack. Generally use all year round.


Usually inferior to drilling as it uses more herbicide and requires complete ring around trunk to be made. Herbicide can run off. It is superior to stump painting for large trees, some hardwoods and self-sprouting species (e.g. willows, coral tree). Semi-frilling (feathering) can hold herbicide better.

Vial treatment

Use to give selective control of rhizomatous or layering creepers (jasmine, convolvulus, ivy, etc.). Individual flower vials are ideal for this, and are available from garden centres.

Stump paint

Application of herbicide to cut stump surface. Solution is usually 10% herbicide in water. We do not recommend using diesel as advised on some labels.

Weed wipe

This is particularly useful for grasses, rushes and soft herbs. Non-selective herbicides (eg glyphosate) can be made to act in a selective manner using a hockey stick type wiper. Likewise a residual herbicide (e.g. Metsulfuron, Amitrole, 2,4-D) can be applied by wiper to minimise or even eliminate residues, as the herbicide is contained within the plant rather than drifting or dripping onto the ground. Most or all of the herbicide is broken down within the weed. Look for a weed wiper that has a narrow or controlled release reservoir.

Hand dig

Usually only suitable if entire root system can be dug out. Soil disturbance can lead to more weeds. Not recommended for resprouting species (e.g. tradescantia), as any fragments left will regrow.

Foliar spray

Can be used to apply non-selective herbicides semi-selectively. 
To ensure minimum drift of spray :

Weed mat

Offers good control of many submerged aquatic weeds, especially non-seeding species. However, it is expensive and time-consuming to install. 
Aquatic situations:

Machine dig

Occasionally useful to remove hard-to-kill individual plants (eg Arundo, bamboo) or to clear aquatic plants where control can be achieved by digging and the removed plants are guaranteed to perish on dry land. Obviously machine digging is an extreme measure, causing a host of environmental effects, and should only be used where the weed has high potential and no other control method exists.