What Is a Tree Sucker?

What is a tree sucker? Imagine you’re sipping your morning coffee, admiring the grandeur of your backyard tree, when you notice an odd growth near its base.

Is this dangerous? Should you remove it? Don’t panic; as the go-to certified arborist in Phoenix, Tree Workers of Phoenix addresses your concerns below.

Discover the Culprit

Tree suckers are the unruly little stems that sprout from the base of the trunk or roots. They can prove particularly vexing because they tend to siphon off energy and nutrients from the main portion of the plant, stunting its growth and potentially compromising its health. 

Common causes of tree suckers include the following:

A Symptom of Stress

When trees experience the following unfavorable conditions, they produce suckers as a survival mechanism:

  • Poor soil composition
  • Disease or pest exposure
  • Drought
  • Rising temperatures
  • Age-related stress

Grafted Trees

Grafting is a common practice in arboriculture. It attaches the top part of one tree (the scion) to the root system of another variety (the rootstock). 

The goal is to combine the best traits of two plants into one, but sometimes, the rootstock wants to seize control. When it does this, it sends up suckers, vying for resources and undermining the grafted scion. 

This problem typically manifests in a small, flowering tree like crabapple or redbud.

The Aftermath of Over-Pruning

When you remove too much of a tree’s canopy, it goes into panic mode. It becomes prone to suckering in a desperate attempt to balance its leaf-to-root ratio and regain its photosynthesis power. You may also see water sprouts, which look just like suckers but higher up on the tree.

What Should You Do If You See Tree Suckers?

So, what is a tree sucker going to need from you? Here are some guidelines:

Early Detection is Key

Have you ever heard of the saying, “A stitch in time saves nine?” This old adage holds especially true when it comes to tackling tree suckers. Young shoots are less woody and more pliable, making them easier to remove, so address them quickly before they become thicker and stronger.

Always Aim for a Full Removal

When dealing with tree suckers, it’s tempting to take the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach by snipping them off at the surface. Unfortunately, you’re only addressing the symptom, not the cause. Instead, dig around the base of the offending growth and trace it back to its root or trunk source. 

With clean, sharp pruning shears, make a clean cut as close to the origin as possible. Don’t leave any stubs, as they can lead to rot and further sucker growth.

Get Help to Care For Your Trees

Healthy trees are less prone to stress-induced sucker growth. Here are some strategies to keep your trees in peak form:

  • Regular watering
  • Balanced fertilization
  • Proper pruning
  • Mulching

Don’t Forget About Chemical Solutions

Do the suckers keep returning? You may need to utilize the power of sucker-specific herbicides. However, a word to the wise: always exhaust manual removal options first. 

You should also ensure that you choose a product with glyphosate and religiously follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Consult a Professional for Thriving Trees Year-Round

We understand this may seem like a daunting task for any homeowner, and sometimes, the best course of action is to let professionals like Tree Workers of Phoenix handle it. The crew can tackle even the most stubborn suckers and help with the following:

  • Identify tree fungus and infestations
  • Help fruiting trees produce more
  • Remove problematic tree specimens and more

What is a tree sucker going to look like if left to thrive? Why wait to find out? Call Tree Workers of Phoenix at 602-320-2797 for more insight.


Tree Workers of Phoenix has been in business since 1994 and is a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and International Society of
Arboriculture (ISA).


18402 N. 19th Ave. #115

Phoenix, AZ 85023

Phone: 602-320-2797

Email : rickthetreeexpert@gmail.com

Hours of Operation :

Monday - Sunday : 9:00am-5:00pm


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