Sucker (basal shoot):
- A fast growing shoot or stem that grows underground from a plant that causes the tree to weaken by draining water and nutrients
Why do they occur?
- Suckering is a tree's self-defense mechanism in response to stress to the following:
- Over fertilization
- Excessive watering
- Due to an exposed graft union (the area where 2 plants have grown together for hardiness benefits)
Prune shoots after they are identified as they grow rapidly and become large quickly
- Remove small suckers by hand using a twisting motion. The lack of clean cut makes it more difficult for new suckers to grow
- Larger shoots may require hand pruners, loppers or even a hand saw. Be careful not to damage the bark. When making a cut, get as close to the ground or even underground if possible. Open wounds exposed to sunlight can trigger more sprouting
- For shoots that are sprouting feet away from the base of the tree, mow over slowly or use a sharp spade to dig out the tree root that is causing the issue. Be careful not to damage nearby healthy roots
- Mechanical ways of shoot removal are the safest and most effective methods. If you prefer chemical controls, contact a licensed arborist for a recommendation
Most trees are susceptible to suckering if they are exposed to stress but you will find certain trees are prone to suckering such as Crabapple, Linden, Maple, Lilac, and any fruit trees that are grown on a graft union. Although suckering is inevitable for some trees, there are steps you can take to help minimize suckers, prevent them all together, and improve your tree care.
- Check the root ball of the tree when you are purchasing it to be sure the tree is planted at the proper depth.
- Make sure new trees do not have sucker growth already
- Water and fertilizer at recommended levels.
- Keep two inches or more of mulch around the tree to help stop sprouts from coming up through the ground.