Managing Scrubby Growth on Landscape Trees


Scrubby growth refers to any weak growth or growth patterns on the tree. Not only is scrubby growth unattractive, but it can also damage trees.

Examples of Scrubby Growth

There are a few growth patterns that are considered scrubby. For example, suckers are thin, weak stems that grow up quickly from the roots or the base of the tree. These often come up in spring and early summer, but some tree species can produce suckers at any time during the growing season. Similar growth can also occur along the trunk, below the main canopy, in the form of weak branches.

A trunk that splits early in the lifecycle of the tree can also lead to scrubby growth, as the weakened multi-trunk tree will sprawl instead of growing upright. Even more mature trees can develop a growth pattern similar to multiple trunks up in the canopy. This occurs when a branch grows almost vertically out of a main lateral branch, an issue referred to as a water sprout. Water sprouts grow quickly and become quite thick, similar to another trunk.

Problems and Concerns

Scrubby growth can rob the tree of necessary nutrients. Often, growth forms like suckers and water sprouts grow quickly, which means they siphon a lot of moisture and nutrients from the rest of the tree. Although they grow quickly, they may also be weaker and more prone to contracting a disease or suffering from pest problems.

Scrubby growth also gives your tree poor form. Not only is this unattractive, but it can also lead to damages. Multi-trunk trees are more likely to split open, for example. Heavy water sprouts can cause major branches to break. Good form in the tree is necessary to make sure it doesn't get damaged in storms or simply under its own lopsided weight.

Trimming Solutions

Fortunately, scrubby growth is easy to avoid with proper tree trimming. Suckers should be cut off as close to their base as possible as soon as they begin to emerge. You may have to remove suckers several times over the growing season. Scrubby growth along the low trunk can be cut off with pruning shears, just make sure to cut flush to the trunk as protruding stubs may not heal well.

Split trunks require careful pruning from the time of planting. Annual late winter or spring trimming to train the tree to a single trunk works well. Water sprouts tend to grow after the tree suffers stress, so you may not notice them until after the leaves drop in fall. You can cut these back flush to their supporting branch when you do your main pruning in late winter.

Contact a tree trimming service in your area for more help with maintaining your landscape trees.


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