How to Keep Tree Suckers Under Control

Tree suckers are vegetative growths that stem from your tree’s root system. Suckers grow from rootstock and divert nutrients away from the top of your tree and will slow its growth.

Essentially, suckers are a tree’s attempt to grow more branches, often in response to some kind of stress or injury. A tree sucker will sap the energy away from the healthier and more desirable branches on top. 

Here are some ways you can eliminate suckers and/or keep them under control.  

What Causes Tree Suckers To Develop?

There are several reasons your tree is sprouting suckers. They can grow because of a disease, grafting, pests, or drought. 


If your tree has a disease, it will most likely begin to sprout suckers. Diseases like Leaf Spot, Leaf Rust, and Fire Blight can all cause your tree suckers to start growing. Tree suckers are a clear sign that your tree is not as healthy as it could be and it needs treatment.


Chances are your tree is actually two trees spliced or grafted together. Grafting is a technique that joins two plants into one. In general, a wound is created on one of the plants, and the other is inserted into that wound so each plant can grow together. 

tree-suckerIn this case, the top of the tree is perfectly happy, but the lower half of the tree is under a certain amount of stress and biologically will try to reproduce itself. It does this by growing suckers from the root or lower stem. Tree suckers can also grow on non-grafted trees but are most common on grafted ones.  


Stink bugs, Japanese beetles, and scale insects are just some of the invasive species of insects that can affect the health of your trees in Michigan. If they damage your tree enough, it will sprout suckers to compensate.


Growing periods with little water can lead to decreased rates of diameter and height growth, plus poor resistance to other stresses.

Do Not Prune Tree Suckers To Remove Them

Believe it or not, over-pruning can actually stimulate the growth of tree suckers, which leads to a big headache for you. With this in mind, try not to cut into growth that’s more than a few years old while pruning. You can try to pull suckers out of the ground. You may be able to pull out the growth nodule as well.

On the flip side, it’s important to prune regularly; you just need to make sure you’re doing it the right way. If you are careful, you can eliminate the possibility of tree suckers. However, if you’re unsure of how to prune your particular tree, call in tree experts, like Safari Tree, to prevent any issues.

Chemicals Can Be Risky

Killing suckers by using chemicals is only advised when you want to kill suckers around a tree that’s been cut down and you don’t want it to regrow. But if you use these chemicals on suckers that sprout around one of your living landscape trees, the chemicals may also damage the tree’s roots and the branches fed by those roots. 

How Safari Tree Can Help

You might be able to deal with a disease that occurs on your trees but you should also consider consulting a tree service professional if you’re not sure. Our specialists will identify any disease and offer you the best treatment options and the ideal time to care for the tree.

Early spring (during most maintenance pruning) is the best time to remove tree suckers. However, these unwanted growths sometimes sprout and occur during the growing season, they should be removed as soon as you notice them. Your trees will thank you for it.

Safari Tree also offers a 7-step Tree Healthcare Program. It’s perfectly designed for Michigan’s four-season climate and will give your trees the chance to flourish all year long.