Apple tree water sprouts

What Are Water Sprouts & Are They Harmful to Trees?

Regardless of whether you have a green thumb or know very little about landscaping, Vernon Imel Tree Service is here to help your trees flourish. We know that you spend your time, energy, and money planting trees in your yard. We want that effort and expense to pay off. That’s why we’re committed to helping you grow trees that are strong, healthy, and long-lasting.

At Vernon Imel, one of the more common questions we’re asked has to do with water sprouts; what they are and whether they’re harmful. You may already have water sprouts forming on your trees, simply be concerned about the possibility of them, or perhaps, be unsure of what they even are. Regardless of your situation, we’ve got some useful information and tips for you. We’ve been serving the Northwest Coast for over 20 years. Now it’s time for us to share some of what we’ve learned.

Let’s begin by explaining more about water sprouts and how they form.

Water sprouts are shoots of a tree. They form a cluster of what appear to be long, skinny branches or twigs, which grow out of the tree’s trunk or from the branches themselves. They’re formed by dormant buds on the tree’s trunk or branches and are most commonly found on fruit trees and some landscape trees.

Not only are water sprouts unsightly, but they can also compromise the health or quality of your tree and should be removed immediately. But in addition to removing water sprouts, you’ll also want to get to the root cause. While dormant bud tissue directly causes water sprouts to grow, there are a number of larger issues that may need to be addressed as well. For instance, environmental causes such as drought, over-pruning, root loss or damage, topping, disease, and a number of other factors could be causing water sprouts to form on your tree. It’s a good idea then to call your local arborist to inspect the tree and get at the real root cause, so to speak, of the issue.

Why are water sprouts so problematic for trees?

Well, there are quite a few reasons. The main one is that water sprouts and suckers (shoots that grow from the rootstock) literally suck the life out of your tree. Water sprouts are weak, meaning they’re more susceptible to insects and diseases. Also, the unwanted growth could be keeping sunlight and fresh air from reaching into the canopy of your tree. Water sprout removal, therefore, will help improve the overall health of your tree.

So what should you do if you find that you have unsightly water sprouts growing on your beloved tree?

First, preventative maintenance is key. Pruning your tree when it is young will often eliminate the potential for water sprouts to grow. As the tree matures, take care not to over-prune since that is another cause of water sprout growth.

Also, remember that enlisting the help of a professional is often useful in caring for your landscaping. Our expert arborists are skilled in light pruning for young trees and delicate clipping for more mature ones. You can liken tree pruning to an art. Just as an artist shapes a sculpture or carefully crafts a work of art, our expert arborists will also take great care in shaping your tree to perfection. Not only will the end result be an aesthetic masterpiece, but it will also optimize the health and growth of your tree.

Preventative care and maintenance is also an important factor in protecting trees against storm damage.

Since storm damage is another cause of water sprouts, you’ll want to make sure you address any potential danger to your tree right away. For instance, there are certain things arborists can do to stabilize your tree for storm season, such as cabling or bracing. The installation of cables or bracing rods can protect the structural integrity of your tree, making it less prone to damage. A certified arborist will help you assess whether these measures would be beneficial for you.

But before things even progress to that point, one of the best things you can do for your tree in terms of preventative care is relatively quick and easy. You should inspect your tree on a regular basis to see if you notice any damage, decay, or unusual growths. Spotting any potential problems before they arise is one of the best things you can do to care for your tree.

In addition to regularly inspecting your tree, you should also have it examined by a certified arborist. You may find that your tree requires other professional services from time to time, such as tree shaping. Since improper thinning is another cause of water sprouts, you’ll want to make sure tree shaping and thinning services are done by only experienced arborists. This will decrease the risk of water sprouts forming and keep your tree in good shape, both literally and figuratively.

While water sprouts are an unsightly sight to see emerging from your tree, they are also preventable. Water sprouts are typically caused by environmental damage or improper care. Both can be avoided if you take the proper steps to care for and maintain your tree over time.

By enlisting the help of a skilled arborist like us at Vernon Imel, you’ll protect the health of your tree and save yourself the time and expense of costly emergency tree services.

Your trees should enhance the beauty of your yard, not detract from it. So if you notice those pesky water sprouts beginning to form, contact us right away. There’s no tree problem too big or small for us to solve! We’ll make sure to take care of those unwanted growths so that your tree can continue to grow big and strong.

Water Sprout Removal – How To Prune Apple Tree Water Sprouts

Apple tree water sprouts drain vital energy from a tree without providing any benefit in return. Find out what causes unsightly water sprouts and what to do about them in this article.

What are Water Sprouts?

Water sprouts are thin shoots that arise from the trunk or branches of an apple tree. Most water sprouts serve no useful purpose and will never produce much fruit. Many never produce any fruit at all. They are also called suckers, although this term more accurately refers to growth that arises from the roots rather than the trunk and branches.

Apple tree growers remove water sprouts so that the tree can direct all of its energy toward supporting productive branches. Pruning apple tree sucker growth and water sprouts helps keep the tree healthy because the unwanted growth is weak with little defense against invasion by insects and diseases. Removing water sprouts also eliminates unnecessary foliage so that sunlight and fresh air can reach deep inside the canopy of the tree.

Removing Water Sprouts on Apple Trees

Water sprouts on apple trees usually arise from places on the trunk or branch where the bark has been injured or from pruning wounds. Trees that have been renovated after a long period of neglect may have an abundance of water sprouts the following summer. You can easily pluck them off with your fingers when they first emerge. Later on, you’ll have to cut them.

Winter dormancy is the proper time for pruning an apple tree, but you should prune to remove water sprouts and suckers as soon as they arise in late spring or early summer. Try to catch them when they are no more than 12 inches long. At this point, you can pull them off by hand. Once the base of the sprout hardens and becomes woody, you’ll have to cut them off with pruners. You should cut as close as possible to the parent branch, but even so, you may not be able to get the entire base of the sprout. They may regrow if you leave a little of the original growth.

Disinfecting your pruners between cuts can go a long way toward preventing the spread of disease. Make a solution of one part household bleach and nine parts water. Alternatively, you can use a full strength household disinfectant such as Lysol. Dip your pruners into the solution between cuts to kill any bacteria or fungal spores you may have picked up in the previous cut. Leaving your pruners sitting in bleach for a long period of time or failure to clean them thoroughly before putting them away can result in pitting.


Tree Care: Pruning Citrus Trees

July 30, 2017

Pruning keeps your trees clean and your fruit accessible. Here are some tips and an introduction to pruning citrus trees, by one of our past Occidental College interns, Nora Killian. For a full list of Tree Care Resources, visit our Fruit Tree Care Library.

Pruning Citrus Trees

Food Forward does not do any pruning, but we can offer some advice to homeowners who wish to prune on their own. While citrus trees require less pruning than most other fruit trees, pruning is great because it keeps your trees clear and your fruit accessible. You’ll thank yourself for the effort next time you want to pick some fresh fruit without getting an armful of thorns.

Pruning Terms & Definitions:

  • Deadwood – These are easy to spot branches because they won’t have any green leaves on them and are usually very dry. If you bend them they should snap off because they are dry and no longer living.
  • Basal shoots – Basal shoots grow from a plant’s roots and can become autonomous from the parent plant. See photo (A) at the bottom.
  • Branch Collar – This is often visible swelling that forms at the base where it is attached to the parent plant or trunk. The wrinkling around this area is part of the tree’s defense mechanism against microorganisms. See photo (B) at the bottom.
  • Gourmands – Long, thick, very vigorous branches that seem to suddenly appear in the canopy.
  • Water Sprouts – Shoots that arise from the trunk of the tree (or older branches) from latent buds. Water sprouts are not as strong as natural tree growth and produce very little fruit, usually of poor quality. See photo (C) at the bottom
  • Suckers– Many citrus trees are grafted onto another tree species’ rootstock. The point where the rootstock and citrus tree stock are grafted is called the bud union. If any stems grow below the bud union or from the rootstock, they are called suckers. See photo (D) at the bottom

For a full list of Tree Care Resources, visit our Fruit Tree Care Library.

Benefits of Pruning Citrus Trees:

– Make it easier to harvest. Reducing a tree’s height through pruning will make it easier to pick the fruit. Sometimes citrus trees can get so tall that even with a ladder, there is still some fruit that is out of reach.

–Keep the tree within your personal space confines. Whether the tree is starting to hang over your roof, is now blocking a path or is blocking sunlight for other plants, sometimes you just want the tree to stay in its place.

–There is a lot of deadwood. You can prune these branches because it will make it easier to reach the fruit when picking.

–Growth of Basal Shoots or Suckers. These should be removed as soon as they appear on your citrus tree because they will not be productive and will take away the trees nutrients.

–Growth of Gourmands or Water Sprouts. These branches use large amounts of water and nutrients. If they ever do produce fruit it is often of poor quality. Gourmands contribute little to the tree and should be removed at their base.

–To skirt up the tree. This is the act of pruning the lowest hanging branches on a tree. Some citrus trees, including Satsuma mandarins, tend to have long branches that hang to the ground, known as skirt branches. Skirt branches can impede weeding, fertilizer and compost application, and provide pathways for ants. Fruit that touches the ground is also susceptible to soil borne pathogens. You can skirt up the tree until the bottom branches hang about two feet off the ground

Pruning No-Nos:

-Don’t over-prune! Citrus trees are “closed canopy trees” which means the outside of the tree should have foliage all the way around. Citrus bark is very susceptible to sunburn so it should have little to no direct sunlight exposure. This is especially important in SoCal’s hot sun.

-Don’t prune the low level branches, unless they are touching the ground. This is where many citrus trees grow the best fruit so, by removing those branches, you are going to significantly reduce your fruit yield.

Pruning Technique:


  • Secateurs or hand pruners
  • Loppers for branches larger than ½” diameter
  • Pruning Saw
  • A pole pruner may be useful for larger trees

About 6 inches from the branch collar, make the first cut from the bottom, about ⅓ of the way through the branch. Then move another inch or so along the branch and cut from the top down until the branch comes off. Make the third cut just after the branch collar. These first cuts are done so that a clean cut can be made at the branch collar and there is no tearing from the weight of the branch.

Time of Year to Prune:

Major pruning should take place after the risk of freeze has passed and before the summer heat (March-end of April in SoCal). Any winter maintenance should only be done on branches that are less than ¼” in diameter.

Disclaimer: This is just an introduction to citrus pruning to get you started. Please consult a professional before doing any large scale pruning especially pruning that involves very heavy branches or very tall trees.

For a full list of Tree Care Resources, visit our Tree Care library:

Get Fruit Tree Care Resources

Further reading:

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Fruit tree care comes with many challenges, particularly for new gardeners. Without close attention, insects, diseases and environmental issues can all affect production.

The same goes for suckers and water sprouts. These vigorous new growth types take much-needed energy away from fruit trees, which can lead to a reduced yield.

What Are Tree Suckers and Water Sprouts?

While the terms are often used interchangeably, water sprouts and suckers are two types of undesirable tree growth. They often show up after overpruning or excessive watering, such as might occur with flood irrigation or a big storm, or when the tree experiences stress.

Suckers are shoots that originate at the root system, popping up near ground level. Water sprouts are quite similar in nature and appearance, but these growths appear above ground, stemming from the trunk or branches.

How Do You Remove Tree Suckers and Water Sprouts?

Certified arborists recommend removing suckers and sprouts as quickly as possible. These growths are considered invasive, as they can affect both fruit yield and overall tree health.

To remove a sucker, use pruners to cut the shoot at a 45-to-60-degree angle. Take care not to damage the trunk, but try to remove as much of the growth as you can. If necessary, move some of the underlying soil to make your cut at the base of the sucker.

The process of removing a water sprout is much the same. Simply use a sharp cutting tool to prune away the shoot close to the trunk or branch. For faster healing, try not to leave much of a stub behind.

Spring is the best time to remove suckers and sprouts, but unusual new growths can crop up at any time during the growing season. If you see any unwanted shoots, don’t hesitate to grab the pruners and cut them away.

Can You Prevent Fruit Tree Suckers and Water Sprouts?

Unwanted tree growth generally appears as a response to stress, such as disease, insect infestation, drought or overwatering. For the best chance at prevention, fruit tree care experts recommend eliminating as many sources of stress as possible.

Keep your trees in good health, making sure they’re properly watered and fertilized, and unwanted growths are less likely to become a problem. In addition, be sure to prune regularly — but don’t overprune, as that can stimulate the development of sprouts and suckers.

Regular tree health evaluations from an experienced certified arborist can help prevent problematic new growth. For expert advice in the greater Salt Lake City area, turn to the professionals at Reliable Tree Care. We have the expertise and skill to manage and prevent many tree health problems, including water sprouts and suckers. To schedule a free, no-hassle comprehensive yard evaluation and fruit tree care consultation, contact our Murray office today.

Fruit Tree Care: Removing Tree Suckers & Watersprouts

In this article, we’re going to focus on what tree suckers and watersprouts are, and why they should be removed from grafted fruit trees and nut trees.

Sometimes, when we garden, it’s thrilling just watching things grow – but not all growth is beneficial. Suckers and watersprouts are some common examples of fast new growth that take away energy from plants and trees. In this article, we’re going to focus on what tree suckers and watersprouts are and why they should be removed from grafted fruit trees and nut trees. Ideally, any growth from below the graft union or growth coming from the roots/below the ground on a fruit or nut tree should be removed as soon as it appears. This same thing applies to fast-growing vertical shoots coming from the trunk/branches that may appear later on in your tree’s life as it matures. Allowing suckers and watersprouts to remain on your fruit tree or nut tree will only take away from the vegetative and fruiting wood you want to grow strong and healthy. If you’re wondering exactly what a sucker or a watersprout is, then let’s go over some definitions.

What are Tree Suckers and Watersprouts?

Suckers: Vegetative, adventitious growth coming from the root system of a tree Watersprouts: Vegetative, vigorous, vertical growth stemming from a tree’s trunk or branches *While sometimes used interchangeably, “suckers” differ from “watersprouts”. Suckers and watersprouts also differ from Stolons and Rhizomes.

Removing Tree Suckers

Suckers, which grow from the rootstock, steal nutrients from the grafted part of a tree – the top growth, with the characteristics of the selected variety. The rootstock may be connected to the top growth of the tree, but it is going to differ from the variety that was selected to plant. For example, a Granny Smith apple tree will not have a Granny Smith apple rootstock, so there would be no real benefit from allowing suckers to take over. Rootstocks are often selected for characteristics like size (dwarf) and disease resistance – not fruit production or quality. You may have to move some soil to find the base of a sucker. Be sure to remove as much of the sucker growth as possible. This process will need to be repeated if suckers emerge again, but it is a simple task. As long as they are not allowed to persist for several seasons, even several suckers can be removed within minutes.

Removing Watersprouts

Watersprouts can arise from weather or other damage. It is not a recommended practice for many reasons, but over-pruning – like when a tree that was unpruned for many years suddenly gets pruned heavily, all at once – can cause watersprouts to form as well. Watersprouts are fast-growing and have a tendency to grow vertically, either from the trunk or from an existing branch, and they block light and air circulation within the tree. This growth habit means watersprouts are in the way and they reduce the overall quality of potential fruit. Also, because watersprouts are usually weaker than other branches, they can be sites for breaks, tears, and disease.

Water-sprout removal should occur close to the trunk or branch from which they are growing. Just like with regular, routine pruning, be sure not to leave much of a stub behind when you remove watersprouts. This will help your tree to properly heal itself. Watch this video for a short demonstration on how and why you should remove suckers and watersprouts:

The best time of year for removal is in the early spring when you’re doing other maintenance pruning; however, sometimes this unwanted growth can shoot up during the growing season, so, if you see any develop on your fruit and nut trees, grab your pruning shears and remove those suckers (and watersprouts). You’ll be doing your trees a favor!

For chemical control of tree suckers, try Bonide® Sucker Punch “

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  • Fruit Tree Care

Natural phenomena are tremendous both as beautiful and horrifying events. There are plenty of such events which occur every day in different corners of the world, treating us with mind-blowing scenes. The list of such phenomena is, of course, a very long one. Waterspouts, also sometimes known as the sea tornado, is one of such prominent natural events around the globe.

Usually occurs over warm tropical ocean waters, waterspouts often appears as a funnel-shaped cloud that is descending from the stormy sky. As scientists define, a waterspout is a rotating column of water that contains an intense vortex.

In spite of being called as tornadoes over water for a long period, sometimes water spouts appear as nearly invisible, like a spiral of wind moving along the sea surface. Though closely connected to phenomena such as tornadoes, firestorms, and whirlwinds, waterspouts are quite common and rather non-destructive considering the frequency of their occurrences.

Water Spouts can occur at any place all over the coastal regions of the world. There is no particular place, as per scientific explanation, where they are more likely to happen. However, despite that fact, there are regions in the world that witness water spouts more often than others. The Florida Keys and the waters of the Great Lakes are the most common places where waterspouts have been spotted.

They have occurred for centuries now but still, continue to intrigue anyone who chances upon them. Here is an overview of some important facts about waterspouts.

1. The Vertical Funnel

As mentioned, waterspouts are unique structures formed over the sea or ocean surface, particularly in warm tropical regions. Reason for these water spouts at sea is believed to a be vertical wind shear- a wind force that changes direction as it goes higher. This leads to the formation of a vertical funnel which we call a water spout. A typical waterspout at sea is like a narrow tornado that can range a few feet in width and a few feet to several hundred feet in height. They are often very narrow water structures but not necessarily. Very large waterspouts have been reported on different occasions.

The life cycle of waterspouts includes five stages. Initially, a dark spot, a light-coloured disk, appears on the surface of the water. Following the formation of the disks, a spiral pattern surfaces from the water surface and leads to the formation of a spray ring, called a cascade, around the dark spot. As it matures, the waterspouts can be visible on the surface of the water, moving upward. The waterspout decays as the inflow of warm air into the vortex weakens eventually.

2. Tornadic and Non-tornadicWater Spouts

There are two types of waterspouts- tornadic and non-tornadic, also known as fair weather, waterspouts. As the name suggests, tornadic waterspout usually develops over water, or form over land and move to water. It resembles their land counterparts in terms of formation and destruction capacity and is also rarer. Similarly, a tornadic waterspout is associated with thunderstorms and also comes with high winds, large hail, and frequent lightning.

On the other hand, fair weather waterspout needs both warm water and cumulus cloud formations to develop and occur along the dark flat base of a line of growing cumulus clouds. Unlike tornadic waterspouts, fair weather waterspouts form on the surface of the water while later works its way upward. These types of waterspouts can be spotted more often on the sea and usually move very little.

3. It’s Not Seawater inside a Waterspouts

For a very long time, scientists were of the opinion that the revolving mass of water in a waterspout was in fact water of the sea. However, later studies have revealed that what appears to be sea water floating up in air menacingly is actually spray of cloud water. The clouds gather and condensation of water leads to the formation of a swirling mass of water droplets.

4. Wind Velocity

An average waterspout would be around 50 meters in diameter and its associated wind will move at an average speed of about 50 miles an hour. That could account for their low destructive capacity since the wind velocity is not high enough to gather too much mass. But sometimes the wind velocity can go as high as 150 miles an hour, while the largest waterspouts can be around 100 meters in diameter. A waterspout is more than likely to stay on the water and be typically harmless to seafarers. However, sometimes a waterspout may transcend over to land and turn into a full-scale tornado that can run havoc on lives and property.

5. Sea Water and Parent Cloud

Even though the wind velocity and force of waterspouts is generally regarded as rather bleak to allow many carriages, sometimes the whirlwind occurs with such force that the water from the sea maybe lifted even up to the parent cloud.

As such, all the associated salts, fish and other sea flora and fauna may be carried up to the cloud and later fall as every kind of rain- fish rain, salt water rain, rain with bits of seaweed etc. This would be a baffling scene for anyone of witnesses it but little they know, it has such a simple scientific explanation to it.

6. The Earliest Waterspouts

However the scientific explanation of the waterspouts unravelled recently, waterspouts have been occurring since ancient times, mostly considered as subjects of mystery and fear etc. As per the available documents, the earliest record of a waterspout on sea goes as back as 1456 when a whirlwind of water was spotted on the sea near Ancona in Italy. On August 24 of this year, a waterspout was spotted ashore near Ancona and travelled from east to west before reaching the waters near Pisa. According to the record, the waterspout was around 2 miles wide in size.

The records of disastrous waterspouts that led to casualties are less in number. One of the earliest records of a waterspout that caused damages is the Malta tornado occurred in 1555 at the Grand Harbour of Valletta. This deadly waterspout claimed the lives of hundreds of people while also sunk four galleys and a number of boats.

7. Can Be Destructive as Well

Even though a water spout on the sea is generally considered non-destructive, it has an immense potential of being destructive, causing damage and causalities. Like a tornado, the most destructive aspect of a waterspout is its ability to carry anything that comes in its way with it. Sand particles, small floating structures, humans, animals and sometimes even small boats may be carried along with a water spout. Considering its potential to be dangerous, the US’ National Weather Service issues a tornado warning in case a waterspout moves onshore. Apart from posing threat to boats, ships and people onshore, waterspouts also put aircraft in danger as the helicopters flying near waterspouts put a chance to be thrown off-course by its force.

Difficult to Predict

Though usually occurs in warm and humid areas, the accurate forecast of waterspouts would be a slim chance, owing to the unpredictable nature of the events. However, with enough experience, many seafarers have learned the tricks to predict one. Dark spots- the first stage of a waterspout lifecycle-in water or sudden shifts in the wind are enough to warn them of an upcoming water spout. The US National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts waterspouts analyzing the large, cool air masses spread over the waters, especially during the late summer and fall. The meteorologists examine the temperature of water and air, moisture, and also the speed of the wind to determine the possibility of waterspouts.

An amazing fact about waterspouts is that they continue to be mysterious despite extensive studies on them. Their unique nature continues to baffle world altogether.

Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

The article or images cannot be reproduced, copied, shared or used in any form without the permission of the author and Marine Insight.


Tags: watersprouts

Suckers & Water Sprouts on Trees

And he was! The Ohio State University Professor Emertis agreed with Lee about water sprouts in trees: “Absolutely pull them off if you can reach them; if you prune them, they’re like the hydra—they’ll re-grow 3 or 4 more in their place. And the sooner and younger you pull them off the less likely the chance they’ll re-grow.”

And those underground suckers our listeners are bedeviled by?

Dr. Ferree’s specialty is apple trees, which may be why Lee us pointed to him. Turns out that some apple orchards he studied were thrilled to get their trees down to an average of 18 suckers each a year; because they had started out with 300 per tree! Apples must do this a lot, huh? “Oh yes,” he says, “and the rootstock is often key. As you know, the desired apple variety is always grafted onto a rootstock of another variety, and certain rootstocks, like “Malling 7” are notorious for suckering, while others, like “Malling 26” almost never sends up suckers.

“We see the problem worst in plants that are rooted too shallowly. Being that close to the surface seems to encourage this kind of activity. So if you have lots of suckers, add a layer of topsoil or compost over the area and it may make things better. Also, if you can excavate an area that has a lot of suckers without harming the tree, you may see that a single root is sprouting almost all of them. Prune that root off and the suckers may go with it.”

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Do you have epicormic growth?

Epicormic (epi = upon, kormos = tree trunk) growth is the technical term for shoots that develop from hidden buds on tree trunks and branches.

Suckers, which grow out of tree trunks, often at their base, and water sprouts, which grow vertically from tree branches, or at any angle from stubs of broken branches, are the two types of epicormic growth that trees produce.

Suckers and water sprouts develop as a response to stress. They grow from latent, invisible buds beneath the bark that may lie dormant for as long as a hundred years in certain oak trees. These buds are a tree’s insurance policy in case of sudden environmental stress brought on by extreme cold, branch breakage, flooded soil, fire, insect pest devastation or fungal or bacterial disease.

Epicormic growth at the base of the trunk is common on fruit trees, especially if the graft union is less than perfect. Fruit trees purchased at nurseries consist of the cloned scion variety (Eureka lemon, for example) grafted onto a rootstock, which is typically grown from the seed of a different species such as — in the case of citrus trees — Volkamer lemon, sour orange or citrange.

Rootstock species are chosen for the vigor they impart to the scion. However, if the graft union is flawed, suckers will sprout from the rootstock. If you allow rootstock suckers from citrus trees to grow and develop fruit, that fruit would be bitter.

Water sprouts proliferate on branches of trees whose growing conditions leave something to be desired. For example, citrus trees that do not receive sun all day are prone to develop water sprouts.

Suckers are also frequently found on roses, owing to the extreme vigor of the rootstock species and the fact that quality control, where grafting is concerned, is sometimes an issue when tens of thousands of plants are being grafted by a single grower over a short period of time.

Always purchase the highest-quality roses you can find, even if it means you have to pay a little more. Roses come in three grades: 1, 1.5, and 2.0, with 1 being the highest grade and the most expensive, but also the best value in the long run.

Suckers and water sprouts should be removed as soon as you notice them. They compete with flowering shoots for the tree’s mineral resources. It’s true that water sprouts, coming from the top portion of the tree, will eventually produce fruit of the scion variety, but that will not happen for several years and, meanwhile, water sprouts take away valuable resources from already fruitful branches and shoots whose crop, if water sprout growth is left intact, will be diminished.

There is one occasion when water sprouts are a welcome sight and that is when a branch breaks, whether in a storm or under the weight of too much fruit. After the stub of the broken branch is cut away, water sprouts are likely to grow from that spot. Prune off all but one, then train it so that, in time, it will fill in the area left vacant by the broken branch.

A correspondent who gardens in Downey sent a picture of a peach tree with seemingly healthy branches that has neither leafed out nor flowered this year. Suckers are growing from the trunk.

Reed avocados (Photo by Linda Roselund)

I believe this peach variety is ill-suited to its location, meaning it needs more winter chill hours (hours below 45 degrees) to leaf out and flower than it got this past winter, or that the soil is dangerously wet, another factor that can prevent spring growth in deciduous trees and result in sucker development.

For more information about area plants and gardens, go to Joshua Siskin’s website, Send questions and photos to [email protected]

Tip of the week

Five years ago, after tasting a ‘Reed’ avocado at the Pasadena Farmers’ Market, Linda Roselund, who gardens in Rosemead, purchased a ‘Reed’ avocado tree from San Gabriel Nursery.

It took a while for the tree to settle in, but now it has begun to produce a good sized crop and the fruit, she writes “are the size of softballs, with a tough outer skin and creamy inside. My largest fruit weighed one pound, four ounces!

“Even though surrounded by a large ‘Valencia’ orange to the north and two tall redwood trees to the south, the site gets good sun from late morning until the end of the day.”

Get rid of water sprouts and suckers before it’s too late


Both water sprouts and suckers are clearly visible on our trees and shrubs in the early spring just as the new leaves are starting to appear. Suckers come from the underground root system of the tree or shrub; water sprouts emerge from latent buds located on either the trunk or branches. These are vigorous vegetative growths and both need to be removed.

Water sprouts arise from the trunk or branches of a mature tree. The term “sucker” applies to shoots that originate below ground, in the root system, and emerge above ground some distance from the trunk. The structure of water sprout regrowth is not as strong as natural tree growth, and the shoots are more subject to diseases and pests.

MORE ON GARDENING: When and how to prune your plants

Water sprouts, also called epicormic shoots, are produced by dormant buds that we cannot see. They have a tendency to grow vertically from the trunk or branch. The growth is stimulated by some form of stress that the plant has been undergoing. Most often that stressor is incorrect pruning that occurred in a previous season. The principles of good pruning tell us to never remove more than one-third of the entire mass of the plant or you will weaken it.

When you can identify with some certainty what the stressor is, water shoots should be removed immediately. If you do not do this, they will increase rapidly in number and size, diverting important energy from the tree or shrub. Additionally, they reduce the air and light circulation on the inner branches of a tree or shrub. If left to grow on a branch, they will be significantly weaker and can becomes sites for breakage, damage or disease.

Tedious as it may be, remove all of them, using a sharp pruner, cut close to the tree. Do not leave a stub. In this way you will help your tree to heal properly. The best time to do this is early spring, but if you find water sprouts later in the growing season, remove them immediately. There is new tool on the market called “gardening scissors” and they are useful because they are small and lightweight, allowing you to get close to the branch or trunk.


Suckers grow from the rootstock of a tree. In some cases, they occur naturally and if a thicket is what you want, do allow the plant to continuously expand. Forsythia, blackberry, raspberry, prairie rose and chokeberry are just a few examples of plants that like to sucker. They are useful for windbreaks and privacy screening because they grow densely enough to be visually and physically impenetrable. Other areas where suckering shrubs are desirable are on steep or rocky hills, wood lots and transitional areas between your property and a waterway or a Green Acres zone.

Other “own root plants” that often sucker are aspen, buckthorn, red osier dogwood, mahonia, black locust, honey locust and Amur maple. You can remove these suckers by cutting away at the point of origin and paring away at the surrounding tissue to remove any dormant buds that are nearby. If you simply yank them out of the ground by hand, you will stimulate nearby buds into additional growth. Never use an herbicide on suckers, since it will also be absorbed by the tree roots.

Some naturally suckering species may extend their range beyond the boundaries of your property. Alianthus (tree of heaven) and Robinia (black locust) are known as fence jumpers because they exhibit this quality.

On grafted plants such as fruit trees and roses, it is most important to remove suckers. The suckers are arising from the rootstock below the graft union and this is a different plant from the one that you purchased. It is often more hardy and more vigorous and, in appearance, less desirable. You may have to remove some soil to find the origin of the sucker. And you may have to do it again if the sucker reemerges. It is important that you do not allow the suckers to persist for more than a season.

As always, before you deal with suckers or water sprouts, take a few minutes to file the blade of your pruner (or take it to your local hardware store, as I do) for sharpening. You will be so glad you did!

Ann Auerbach is a Rutgers master gardener in Camden County. Send your lawn and garden questions to [email protected] and include “Courier-Post” in the subject line if you’d like to be considered for write-up in the column. A Rutgers master gardener will respond to all questions received.

Visit the Master Gardeners’ offices at the Camden County Environmental Center, 1301 Park Blvd., Cherry Hill, from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

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