Join the RHS today and support our charitable work
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Free entry to RHS members at selected times »
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Help us achieve our goals
Join the RHS today and support our charity
I have forgotten my password
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
See what events are on near you and browse your bookmarked pages.
Many trees, shrubs and woody climbers can send up suckers from their roots which, if left, will turn into another plant. Tree and shrub seedlings may also be a nuisance, as they are often numerous and can quickly spread, becoming deep-rooted.
How to distinguish between suckers and seedlings;
Suckering is part of the natural habit of plants, and is one way they exploit a favourable habitat, instead of relying on seed spread, for example.
Some trees and shrubs are naturally shallow-rooting; many others may develop roots near the surface due to difficult growing conditions, such as a high water table or impervious subsoil. This makes them more prone to suckering.
Suckers can appear after root damage, resulting from digging or forking around trees, damage to surface roots during mowing, or where roots are accidentally or deliberately severed during excavations.
Seedlings can arise from tree and shrub seeds that drift in the air (ash or sycamore keys for example), are buried by wildlife (such as hazelnuts and oak acorns), or excreted by birds (such as holly or Mahonia seeds).
In the first instance, see if a non-chemical control option is feasible;
Removal of the tree may be the only solution when suckers are too numerous. Cut down the whole tree, remove any large suckers on the stump and then apply glyphosate (e.g. Scotts Roundup Tree Stump & Rootkiller, SBM Job done Tough Tree Stump Killer (soluble sachet only), Doff Tree Stump & Tough Weedkiller and Westland Deep Root Ultra Tree Stump & Weedkiller) or triclopyr (Vitax SBK Brushwood Killer) to the freshly cut surface. This helps to reduce the chance of subsequent sucker development, which can occur even some distance away. Sucker production should gradually decline as the stump and root system die.
Seedlings and suckers typically occur in places that are difficult to access, between buildings and sheds, for example. Here foliar treatment (applying it to the leaves) with weedkiller, using the products recommended above, can be effective, as there are seldom nearby plants that will be harmed. Apply weedkiller in summer. More than one application may be required. Inclusion of a weedkiller product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.
Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining different weedkillers available for gardeners; see sections 1d and 4)
Chemicals: using a sprayerChemicals: using safely and effectivelyChemicals: using spot and broad-scale weedkillersWeeds: non-chemical control
Bamboo controlBrambles and other woody weedsJapanese knotweedTrees: stump removal and treatmentTrees near buildings
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.