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How to Stop Tree Root Sprouts

By Melissa Lewis ; Updated September 21, 2017
Prevent disease from spreading by sterilizing pruning tools before use.

Unwanted shoots that grow from tree roots are a common problem in many landscapes. Also called suckers, these shoots are not only unsightly, they use up valuable energy that your tree would otherwise use to grow, flower or produce fruit. If you have a tree that is sending up suckers from it roots, you will likely never be rid of the problem in its entirety. You can, though, reduce their reoccurrence, especially if you incorporate more than one management technique. If the shoots are growing from a tree stump and its remaining roots, you can stop those suckers with the use of a herbicide.

Step 1

Give the suckers a quick pull to rip them off. This works well for shoots that are growing from the roots located at the base of the tree. You are more likely to remove buds if you rip out the shoots rather than cut them. Removing the buds further helps prevent regrowth.

Step 2

Sterilize a pair of pruning shears with rubbing alcohol or a disinfectant spray. Cut the tree shoots that are too thick to rip off. Cut them as low as possible so you are more likely to remove their buds.

Step 3

Mow over root suckers, or cut them down with a string trimmer. Do this every time you mow your lawn to keep the shoots from growing back in full vigor.

Step 4

Dig 3 or 4 inches deep into the ground. Cut or rip the suckers at that point. Removing tree shoots in this manner will result in fewer resprouts than just mowing them.

Step 5

Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch, such as shredded bark, where the suckers are an issue. Shading the area helps prevent them from forming or resprouting.

Step 6

Paint a ready-to-use herbicide directly on a freshly cut stump to stop it and the roots from producing suckers. Use a herbicide that is labeled as a brush killer or stump killer. If the stump is not freshly cut or if sprouts grow despite a previous herbicide application, recut the stump and immediately paint on the herbicide.

Step 7

Spray a ready-to-use broadleaf or non-selective herbicide directly on the root suckers that are growing from a tree stump or its roots. Wear protective clothing, and apply the herbicide on a windless day to avoid overspray. Do not use this method if the parent tree is not a cut-down stump but is instead still growing and desired, because it can harm the tree as well as the suckers.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Rubbing alcohol or disinfectant
  • Lawn mower
  • String trimmer
  • Trowel
  • Mulch
  • Paintbrush
  • Ready-to-use herbicide

About the Author


Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.