Written by Admin and published on https://www.ronlittlestreeservice.net/.

Tree suckers are a nuisance for many homeowners and green thumbs. Also known as basal shoots, they consist of new shoots that emerge from the base of a tree’s trunk.

They are called “tree suckers” because they literally suck and consume valuable water and nutrients, restricting the main tree’s growth.

Once tree suckers begin growing, the tree will receive less water and fewer nutrients, resulting in increased stress and potentially death.

Tree Sucker Management on Landscape Trees 

If you have noticed weak, shrubby growth around the base of a tree in your yard, these stems aren’t the result of germinating seeds or weeds – they are suckers. Suckers are small twigs or stems that grow up from a tree’s roots, often near the trunk. Suckers can pose issues to your tree, so control of them is often necessary. 

Sucker Basics

Suckers can grow in at time, but spring and early summer are typically when you will notice the most heavy sucker growth simply because the entire tree is in its main growth cycle. 

Damage and Concerns

Suckers aren’t just harmless twigs – their quick growth siphons away energy, nutrients, and water from the canopy overhead. This in turn can weaken a tree. Further, increased sucker production can indicate that a tree is under stress and trying to quickly produce new growth to account for the stresses in the canopy. Common causes of tree stress include pest pressures, disease, and cultural issues like drought or nutrient deficiency. 

Susceptible Trees

Some types of trees are more susceptible to sucker growth than others. Grafted trees, for example, often produce suckers from the original root stock to compete with the graft. Other popular landscapes with tendencies to sucker include locusts, beeches, forsythia, and some maple varieties. If you have susceptible trees on your property, sucker management may be an annual necessity. 

Sucker Removal

Suckers can, fortunately, be removed without any damage or stress to the tree. 

Pruning Methods

The simplest way to manage suckers is to cut them off as soon as you notice one emerging. The goal is to remove the suckers when they are still young and easy to cut, before they develop woody bark. You can use a clean, sharp knife or pruning shears to cut the suckers off just below the soil surface. The closer that you can cut to the base of the sucker, the less likely it is to regrow. 

Root Removal

Sometimes suckers come up from trees you have already had removed or from roots growing a fair distance from the parent tree. If you have suckers coming up from an old stump or the remains of a removed tree’s root system, you may need to have the old stump or root ball removed to stop sucker growth. 

If suckers are repeatedly coming up from a root far from the tree, a tree service can sometimes remove the problem root without compromising the health of the main tree. 

Sucker Prevention

Suckers can sometimes be prevented or at least their growth can be lessened, which is helpful if you have a tree that is a prolific sucker producer. 

Mulch Application

Mulch can sometimes suppress sucker growth, particularly with suckers that grow from far flung roots as opposed to right against the tree trunk. Start by removing any suckers that are currently present and then lay down a layer of plastic or fabric mulch. Then, cover the plastic or fabric with layer, a few inches deep, of wood chip mulch. Make sure none of the mulch actually touches the trunk. 

Chemical Controls

Growth inhibitors are another option for minimizing sucker growth, but they must be used cautiously. These inhibitors can stop sucker growth for up to three months, but the most effective varieties can only be purchased and applied by a professional tree service. These products are sprayed on the cutting wound that is made when the suckers are pruned off. The inhibitor will soak into the remaining sucker bud and prevent it from regrowing. 

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