Tree Sucker Guide

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Suckers are the weak, whip-like stems that sometimes grow up from roots or low on the trunk of your landscape trees. Managing suckers is important for both the health of the tree and the appearance of your landscape.

Problems With Suckers

Suckers are a problem in the landscape, and they can also be a problem for the tree. Suckers coming up around the base or low on the trunk of a tree are mainly an eyesore as far as landscape concerns go. Sometimes, though, suckers come up from the roots, sometimes many feet away from the tree trunk. This means they become a woody, weedy problem in the lawn or in garden beds. Thicker suckers can even damage lawnmower blades.

Effects on the tree shouldn't be ignored, either. As a general rule, suckers put on exceptionally quick growth. This quick growth requires water and nutrients, which the suckers rob from the rest of the tree. Excessive sucker growth can compromise the health of a tree's crown.

Why Trees Sucker

Some tree varieties are simply prone to suckering. Lilacs, for example, will send out suckers from the base of the trunk as well as from any of the major lateral roots. Ornamental flowering trees, such as flowering plum or cherry trees, are also very prone to suckering. In these tree varieties, suckering may not indicate health issues but simply be a natural part of the plant's growth cycle.

Trees can also sucker due to injury or stress. Suckering is common after major damage, such as a split trunk, lightening strike, or major branch loss. It's also common on trees that are trying to fight off major die-off, perhaps from disease or insect infestation. The suckers are the trees' effort to put on a lot of new growth and leaves quickly so that more nutrients can be photosynthesized.

Prevention Solutions

For trees prone to suckering, the best solution is to simply stay on top of the problem. Cut off suckers that form on the trunk flush to the trunk as soon as they sprout. Suckers from the base of the tree or growing up from the roots need to be cut promptly off right below the soil. You may need to do this periodically throughout the growing season.

Damaged trees must have the damage addressed as well as the suckers pruned off. Properly pruning out dead and damaged branches, treating for pests and disease, and ensuring the tree receives sufficient moisture and fertilizer may solve the problem in a season or two. For major damage or disease issues, removal of the tree may be the best solution.

Contact a tree service in your area like Morlock Landscape & Design if your landscape trees are suffering from excessive suckering.

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