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Tips For Managing Tree Suckers

Weak scrubby growth around the base of a tree are known as suckers. What's worse, this ugly growth isn't just limited to the base of your plants. Sometimes you may notice weak, yet quickly growing, shoots of the same tree growing at some distance from the original tree. These are self-seeded saplings, though. They are growing off the root of the tree. Whether from the base or the root, these suckers can weaken the tree by diverting nutrients from the main trunk. The following tips can help you manage these suckers.

Tip #1: Plant Correctly

Some trees, especially those grown for fruit or flowers, are grafted. This means that a highly productive variety is grown on the root stock of a tree variety with less production qualities but better health or longevity. Grafted trees will have a graft scar, which is a diagonal mark or raised bump on the trunk. Plant grafted trees so the graft scar is several inches above the ground. If buried, the rootstock may send up suckers from just below the scar. This can still occasionally occur with the scar above ground, but it is much easier to locate and trim them off if they aren't buried.

Tip #2: Follow a Pruning Schedule

Both under and over pruning can lead to sucker production. Most trees require pruning no more than once a year, except for maintenance jobs to remove broken or damaged wood. Trees also usually respond best to late winter pruning, which is done right before new growth begins. There are some trees that need pruned in summer or fall, though, so be sure to check with a professional if you aren't sure what your variety requires. When pruning, only remove dead and damaged wood. If you need to thin the canopy or trim back branches, try not to cut into wood that is more than a year or two old. Cutting into old wood can stress the tree, which then triggers it to grow suckers.

Tip #3: Remove Suckers Promptly

Frequent removal of suckers can prevent them from establishing, and it can also slow down sucker growth. Use a clean knife to slice off suckers just beneath soil level. If the scrubby growth occurs on the trunk, try to cut them off flush with the trunk. The smaller the sucker when you cut it off, the smaller the wound. Sucker growth is often greatest in spring and early summer when trees are putting on new growth rapidly, but they can occur at any time. For more help, contact a tree service in your area. Contact a business, such as Tree Sculptors, for more information.