Pruning Tip Video: Suckers

March 7, 2017

Pruning Suckers

Just to be clear, we are talking about pruning suckers from trees, in this post and video. To be exact, from cherry trees. Any other interpretation of this phrase is worthy of a blog post as well. But that, we leave for another day.

What is a Sucker?

First off: What is a sucker? To explain this, let me give you a little fruit tree education. When you buy a peach, cherry, apple or any other fruit tree at a nursery, you are buying a tree which has been grafted. That means that a young tree had a piece of another, more desirable tree, attached to it. The young tree is called rootstock and the piece of more desirable tree is called scion or sometimes budwood. The process of attaching the scion to the rootstock is called grafting.Cherry tree with suckers

The rootstock is usually a vigorous, strong plant and wants to grow – a lot. But the upward growth is under the control of whichever variety was grafted onto the original little tree. So, what does that sneaky rootstock do? It sends all kinds of new growth up from the roots right alongside the original tree trunk. That new growth, usually a straight whip, is called a sucker.

Why Prune a Sucker?

Why do I need to prune a sucker? You might ask yourself that question. Why not just let nature take its course and let the tree grow however it wants to grow?

Well, by grafting a tree or planting a grafted tree in our yard, we have chosen a commitment to a certain amount of maintenance. If we allow the suckers to grow, pretty soon the strong rootstock will take over. In essence, that tree might still produce fruit, but they will be far less tasty than the fruit variety we bought the tree for.

So, to ensure that the grafted variety will be giving you fruit, you need to cut those suckers away. The best method is to carefully dig a little of the soil around the trunk and the suckers away. Then cut them as far back as humanly possible.Sucker close up

Cover the roots up with soil without burying the trunk. Add some mulch and the first part of pruning your fruit tree is done.


My personal theory is that I want the best tool for the job I can afford. Now, if you have one tree in your yard, then some basic tools are more than enough. Or better yet, find a neighbor or friend to borrow the necessary tools from. Maybe there is even a tool lending library in your town. Still, a basic pair of pruning shears might be a good idea to have.

Amazon (affiliate) for example offers a wide variety of tools in all price ranges. I can’t speak to the quality of products I haven’t used myself, but this is an example of a pair of shears for less than $ 10. (at the time of writing this post). While I love and have used high quality products such as these Felco pruning shears, I also have some cheaper ones on hand.

First off, any time you invest into a high quality tool and take care of it, it is a better deal from all around. Usually, they are easier to work with and last longer. That way, the initial higher purchase price ends up the cheaper option in the long run. But did you notice the little disclaimer of: take care of it? Yup, that part is very important!

So, if you know yourself as belonging to the tribe of the “tool losers” or the “tool forgetters” and your precious shears might live somewhere in your garden for a while exposed to rain and shine – a cheaper tool might be a better option for you.

I do belong to the tribe of the tool losers, but have managed to change by keeping the tools on my body. I have a tool belt with pouches and when the shears leave my hand, into the pouch they go. So, if you get an awesome pair of deluxe Felco pruners which will cost you almost a hundred bucks, spend the extra money and get yourself a pouch as well.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Sustainable Living Podcast on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 comments on “Pruning Tip Video: Suckers

  1. I enjoyed your video and this post. A good refresher for me. Keep up the good work.