Propagating using suckers

Suckering shrubs such as Aronia, bay, Sarcococca and species roses can send up new shoots or suckers from their roots. Removing and growing on these shoots with roots at their base is an easy and low-cost way to produce new plants.

Propagating using suckers is a useful way of increasing stock of some shrubs and trees. Image: RHS

Propagating using suckers is a useful way of increasing stock of some shrubs and trees. Image: RHS

Quick facts

Suitable for: All suckering plants
Timing: Spring
Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Suitable for...

This propagation method is suitable for any non-grafted plants that send up new shoots or suckers from their roots.  

Grafted plants are not suitable for this method of propagation, as suckers from grafted plants will be of the rootstock not the named cultivar. Suckers from the rootstock do not resemble the cultivar. They can occasionally be useful as rootstocks for grafting and budding.

Links

Grafting ornamental plants and fruit trees
Chip budding
T budding

When to propagate using suckers

Spring is the best time to propagate using suckers, as this is when plants are coming into active growth and the severed suckers will establish themselves quickly.

How to propagate using suckers

  • Loosen the soil around the sucker with a fork, and then carefully expose and lift the sucker and associated roots, being careful not to disturb the parent plant.
  • Using sharp secateurs or a knife, sever the sucker, making sure that it has fibrous roots on the detached portion. Replace and firm the soil around the parent plant.
  • Trim the sucker by removing the main root or stolon (creeping underground stem) up to the fibrous roots.
  • Reduce long, leafy shoots by about half to limit drying out of the sucker after planting and to promote bushy re-growth.
  • Plant the sucker into fertile, free-draining soil enriched with organic matter such as well-rotted garden compost, manure or leafmould. If potting up the sucker, multipurpose compost is fine to use.
  • Water well after firming the soil around the roots. The roots are usually insufficient to sustain the plant without careful watering for the first season.

Problems

Establishment is usually the main problem. Very careful watering is needed for the first season as the roots of the suckers are not well developed.

Links

Trees and shrubs: establishment problems


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