Tree Suckers 101: What You Need to Know

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Tree Suckers 101

Has an odd branch started growing from the base or the roots of your tree? While it may start off looking like it is part of the original tree you planted, it will soon become quite apparent that it’s not the same. It is, in fact, a tree sucker. The leaves may look different, it can produce inferior fruit, or it can even be a different tree altogether. But what do you do when these mysterious tree suckers arrive? Here’s a look.

Tree suckers are more likely to arise if your tree is under stress, and a tree sucker is the effort of your tree to grow more branches. Now, these can even arrive if your tree has been taken care of perfectly and isn’t under any stress, which makes them an interesting mystery. Before we talk about how to deal with these tree suckers, let’s take a look at some steps you can take to try and prevent them. After all, it’s much easier to try to take extra precautions than it is to deal with removal.

Make sure you keep your trees and plants in good health. These tree suckers are more likely to arise when the tree is not tended to carefully. The rootstock of a tree can develop these unfriendly tree suckers due to drought, overwatering, disease, or when various pests attack a tree. This is why it’s important that you pay the proper respect and attention to your trees on a day-to-day basis.

Also, be careful not to over prune your trees. Believe it or not, over pruning can actually stimulate the growth of tree suckers, which leads to a big headache for you. With this in mind, try not to cut into growth that’s more than a few years old while pruning. You should be okay if you follow that mantra. On the flip side, it’s important to prune regularly; you just need to make sure you’re doing it the right way. If you are careful, you can eliminate the possibility of tree suckers. However, if you’re unsure of how to prune your particular tree, call in tree experts, like ourselves, to prevent any issues.

Contact a certified professional tree arborist to help with questions today.

Another cause of tree suckers is grafts. If we’re talking about a tree that started in a nursery, that tree might, in fact, be two trees. It can be the trunk and branches and one species spliced together with another tree’s roots. There are many reasons why nurseries do this, including ensuring high-tolerant roots to preserve tree characteristics, or just because it’s easier for nurseries to maintain trees in this manner before they eventually sell them to consumers. The grafts often fail on smaller trees, which makes the trees susceptible to suckers. The rootstock of the tree can actually send these out on its own, which makes it tough to deal with.

At first, you may be tempted to wait it out if you have a tree sucker to see if the issue solves itself, but we find it’s often best to remove tree suckers quickly. It doesn’t take long for these tree suckers to sap away the energy from the healthier and more desirable branches near the tree’s top.

Once you remove them, you will improve the overall health of your tree, which should be the ultimate goal in the first place. Unlike some tasks associated with trees, where it’s necessary to call an expert at the start, removing tree suckers is actually a relatively easy process. In fact, it’s quite similar to pruning. Just use a sharp pair of pruning shears to do your work. Cleanly cut the tree sucker as close to the tree as possible, but make sure to leave the collar, which is where it meets the tree. Leaving this in place helps to speed up the wound recovery.

Water sprouts can also arise from weather or other types of damage. Over-pruning can also cause these to pop up. These block light and air circulation within your trees and need to be removed immediately.

So what’s the difference between tree suckers and water sprouts? Suckers are vegetative with adventitious growth that comes from the root system of the tree, while water sprouts are vegetative and vigorous with vertical growth stemming from a tree’s trunk or branches.

Tree suckers don’t have to be a significant problem for you, but they should be dealt with quickly. If ignored, they can jeopardize the long-term health of your trees, which is exactly what you don’t want. So make sure you’re diligent with your attentiveness and care for your trees, and if that means doing a little bit of manual labor to ensure your trees survive, then so be it. If ultimately, that’s too much for you, call the experts and we will take care of these tree suckers and any other tree problems that might arise.