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Don't Get Sucked In: Why You Should Prevent Tree Suckers

A tree

Trees are often the most beautiful part of a home's landscape. They draw the eye and provide practical shade and privacy. But sometimes, things happen that can ruin the tree's health and affect their overall aesthetic appeal. One of the most common afflictions for trees are tree suckers that appear near the base of the tree or on major branches. 


Suckers are hard to control and even harder to fully get rid of. But managing or preventing them is essential for your tree's long term health and growth patterns. Don't let your tree get overwhelmed by sucker growth; this guide can help you know why suckers appear and what you can do about it. 


Why Do Suckers Grow?


Sucker are undesirable on most trees, so why do they grow in the first place? Trees, like any other organism, have a drive to survive. They have several mechanisms in place to continue reproducing. Some trees, especially fruit trees like cherry trees, naturally produce suckers as a main way of producing more fruitbearing plants. 


However, most trees produce suckers because other parts of the tree are under stress. Drought, infestation, and open wounds to the bark increase stress on the tree, so the tree produces suckers as a way to continue living if the rest of the tree starts to die because of damage or illness. 


Sometimes, suckers can also appear if the tree has been grafted for better fruit yields or increased hardiness. Fruit trees, including citrus varieties, often have desirable fruit branches grafted on to a different host tree, usually a tree with deeper root systems and better longevity. The host tree shoots up suckers as a way to reproduce because it can't bear natural fruit like the grafted branches do. 


Why Are Suckers Bad for Trees?


If the tree is working so hard to continue its life cycle, why are suckers so bad? The reason why suckers are not good for your tree is because they sap energy away from more essential components, particularly fruit-bearing branches or foliage. 


Suckers are fast-growing, which means they require more resources than older, more developed branches. Those branches can begin to suffer if too many suckers steal nutrients away from the rest of the tree. Once suckers become more established, they can also give the tree an unbalanced, overgrown look that is more difficult to correct. 


What Can You Do to Prevent Sucker Growth?


When it comes to sucker growth, prevention should be your goal. You can cut away suckers after they appear, but they are more likely to grow back or the tree is more likely to produce more. To prevent suckers from appearing, reduce the risk of stress by:

  • Using a professional tree service for pruning and trimming. One of the easiest ways to stress a tree is to overprune it or to cause wounds from pruning incorrectly. You'll often see suckers on trees that have been trimmed too much too often. 

  • Watering trees that need it. In San Diego, it's better to start with trees that are drought tolerant. Trees that are not getting enough water will produce suckers as a last resort, and they will end up dying more quickly as a result.

  • Protecting trees from insect and animal damage. Cover trees with bark protectors to keep rabbits and deer away from the bark since the damage to the bark can stress the tree. 

If you do have suckers that appear, cut them off with a pair of sharp tree shears as soon as you notice them. Leave the collar of the sucker (the small bulge where the sucker meets the mother branch) to help the tree heal over the wound and prevent the sucker from growing back. 


For more information, contact us at One Tripp Tree Service.