Kill Those Root Suckers!

May 1, 2016 | By | Comments (10)
Bradford pear root suckers. Photo: Steve Bender

Bradford pear root suckers. Photo: Steve Bender

You’ve done the right thing. You’ve cut down that stinking Bradford pear. But you didn’t remove the stump and roots. So now a million suckers are sprouting from the spot. Lord-a-mighty, what’s a homeowner to do?

Let Grumpy explain. When you cut down trees, some grow back and others don’t. Needle-leaf conifers, such as pines and spruces, almost never grow back. That’s because they store food in their needles. Cut off the stored food and the roots starve.

Deciduous trees, on the other hand, store food in their root systems. Cut off the top of the tree and the roots try to replace it by sending up suckers. Among the worst suckering trees are fruit trees — apples, crabapple, cherries, plums, pears — as well as black gum, black locust,  poplars, birches, crepe myrtle, empress tree, honeylocust, willows, and silver maple.

What can you do to prevent suckers from growing from the roots? Well, the first answer that comes to mind is grind down the stump and remove the roots when you cut down the tree. Or paint the freshly cut stump according to label directions with Brush Killer or Roundup. But if you’re reading this, it’s already too late for either. OK, let’s move on. Here are a couple of more solutions.

*Run your lawn mower over the suckers every week from spring until fall. Eventually, the roots will run out of food and give up the ghost.

*When the suckers grow to the size shown in the photo above, spray them according to label directions with Brush Killer or Roundup. The leaves will transport the herbicide down to the roots and kill them. Depending on the size of the tree, you may have to spray several times as new suckers sprout.

(Note to readers — Please don’t inundate me with complaints about recommending Roundup. I’ve heard it all before and am not interested in hearing it again.)



  1. Angela kimsey

    I have to remove a large lorope. Will that send sprouts back out? Should I do a drill and pour with consentrat round up?

    July 25, 2016 at 8:06 am
  2. Brynn

    There’s a RU just for the dreaded poison ivy, but I always worry that it’ll leave the oils behind, so I send my husband out, clad in dish washing gloves, after it rains to carefully pull it up.

    May 6, 2016 at 6:39 am
  3. Jeanne

    I suddenly am finding poison ivy everywhere… what to do!!!

    May 5, 2016 at 11:52 am
  4. Erin

    Can I use the same method for azalea roots that are still lurking around and trying to produce new shoots? Those things kill me.

    May 4, 2016 at 8:33 am
  5. melissa

    I have mulberry tree growing up and in the middle of my lilac bush..We have cut off the tree but the bush has not been doing good the last few years and seems to not be blooming at all last year or this year… is the mulberry sucking all it’s nutrients? If so what do u recommend to get rid of the tree without hurting my lilac? Thank you for your time

    May 2, 2016 at 9:55 pm
  6. Brynn

    Throwing these two tips out there for others:
    The RU trigger hurts my hands, so I’ll carefully pour a small amount into an empty, clean cat food tin (this was recommended to me by the RU people when I called to ask about appropriate containers) and then use an old paintbrush to brush it onto whatever I’m trying to kill (usually privet/wisteria; I’ll brush it onto the nubs after I’ve cut them back).
    If I do need to spray, I use an old cookie sheet to prevent drift/dispersion, which can happen on even calm days.

    May 2, 2016 at 8:56 am
  7. Kim

    I have a beautiful Serviceberry tree that is determined to be a bush. What can I use to kill those suckered without harming the tree?

    May 2, 2016 at 7:49 am
  8. Bet Sobon

    Is it ok to use RU on suckers from trees that are still alive?

    May 1, 2016 at 11:52 am
  9. Jackie Olinger

    I agree Grumpy! I don’t use Roundup everyday or on everything but some nuisance plants leave me no choice! Thanks for this info, now I’m off to kill some suckers…

    May 1, 2016 at 11:28 am
  10. Ginny

    Thank you. And I love RoundUp.

    May 1, 2016 at 11:28 am

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