The Q&A Archives: Root Suckers on Ornamental Pear Tree

Question: What causes root suckers? We have lived in our current house since 1992. The ornamental pear tree in the front yard was present when we bought the house. This is a very large tree which sprouts suckers around the base each year. Is there a way to keep the suckers from sprouting in the first place? Or, do we just need to repeatedly snip the roots every few weeks? Also, I believe the tree may have a fungal or disease problem as the leaves get spotty & start dropping in mid-summer. Thanks for your help.

Answer: Suckers growing from the base of a tree can be very annoying. One way to get the upper hand is to yank the suckers off rather than cutting them off. By pulling the suckers off you'll be removing the cells and tissues that encourage regrowth. Cutting the suckers to ground level has the opposite effect and will encourage further production. Suckers that grow from the tops of branches must be removed by pruning close to the top of the branch. Don't treat the area with any chemicals or you'll compromise the health of your tree. (Anything you apply will be transported throughout the vascular system of the tree.) Just keep after those suckers, removing them before they get too big.

Scab is a fungal disease quite common to ornamental pear trees. There are sprays you can use to help your tree avoid the problem, but once you begin to see the symptoms, it's hard to control. Early next spring use a fungicide on your tree as a preventative and it should stop the problem before it begins.

Best wishes with your garden!

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