What are Suckers on Trees & How Do I Get Rid of Them?

Heading back into the garden after a long winter can be a daunting task, but one filled with much promise and plenty of exciting projects. This will also be the time of year when you can take a fresh look at everything, including the changes to your vegetation. And one thing that many gardeners notice when heading back into their yards is new suckers growing on their trees.

Suckers on trees are shoots that emerge from the base of a tree or the roots, which can sap the nutrients and energy from the main tree. This can weaken the tree and affect its growth, leaving you with some important decisions.

The good news is that suckers are common in many types of trees, and while they can be a nuisance for owners, the team at Safari Tree knows how to treat and properly get rid of them.

What Causes Suckers on Trees?

Suckers can emerge from a tree for several reasons. One of the most common causes is stress from damage to the bark or roots by disease or pests. The tree will produce suckers as a way to compensate for the damage. Essentially, suckers are a tree’s attempt to grow more branches, although they will inevitably sap the energy away from the healthier and more desirable branches.

Another cause of suckers on trees is a process called reversion, which is when a tree that has been grafted into another starts to revert due to the graft failing or the rootstock becoming more dominant than the grafted variety.

This can leave you with the top of the tree growing well but the lower half struggling and looking to reproduce. It does this by increasing tree suckers from the root or lower stem. That doesn’t mean tree suckers can’t grow on a non-grafted tree, but they are most common on grafted ones.

What is the Impact of Suckers on Trees?

Suckers can have a significant impact on the health and growth of a tree. When suckers emerge from the base of a tree, they can divert nutrients and energy away from the main tree, weakening it and affecting its growth. Suckers can also compete with the main tree for water and sunlight, further compromising its health.stressed tree

Suckers that emerge from the roots of a tree can also be problematic. They can grow into new trees if not removed, which can cause overcrowding and competition for resources in the area. Suckers can damage nearby structures, such as sidewalks and foundations, if they grow too close.

How To Control Tree Suckers?


The best policy is to prevent a tree sucker from growing in the first place, rather than trying to remove it. This means keeping your tree healthy and avoiding as many pests and diseases as possible. You will also want to avoid over-pruning, as this can stimulate the growth of tree suckers and lead to further issues.

How to Get Rid of Suckers on Trees?

If you have identified suckers on your tree, it is important to remove them to prevent them from sapping nutrients and energy from the main tree. There are several methods for removing suckers from trees, some of which involve preventative care:


The most common method for removing suckers on trees is pruning. However, over-pruning can be a direct cause and should be conducted in a way that doesn’t cause your tree undue stress. Directly pruning the sucker on your tree is not the solution, but avoiding over-pruning is necessary for preventative care.

Sucker Removal

You can try to pull suckers out of the ground, which will work best if you’re able to remove the growth nodule as well. This must be done while trying to avoid any further damage to your tree in other areas.


Herbicides can also remove suckers on trees, but aren’t the advised method. These are best saved for when you want to kill suckers around a tree that’s been cut down, and you don’t want it to regrow. This is because if you use chemicals on suckers around a living landscape tree, they could cause excessive damage to the tree’s roots and the branches fed by those roots.


Another method for removing suckers on trees is covering or smothering. Covering the suckers with a layer of soil or mulch prevents them from receiving sunlight, stunting growth. A plastic barrier cloth can also be used to smother tree suckers, with the plastic ensuring that nothing can grow through it.

Safari Tree Can Help

Consider consulting a tree service professional if you’re not sure how to proceed with your lawn maintenance and yard care. Our specialists will identify and offer the best treatment options and the ideal time to care for the tree. Contact Safari Tree and find out the next steps.