What can I do about those sprouts under my oak tree?

gillnurseryProblem Solving, Timely Tips104 Comments

There are almost never seedlings growing from acorns. If there were, you would be able to pull them up easily. What you see are sprouts from the roots of the existing tree; therefore, you do not want to spray a herbicide on them in an attempt to eliminate the sprouts for you will hurt the “mother” tree along with the sprouts.

Only a small percentage of oaks send up suckers from the roots. It is a genetic trait, like freckles, except I like freckles. But like freckles and sunshine, some trees have the ability to sucker, but do not unless stimulated to do so. Oaks having a slight tendency to sprout suckers will often do so when roots hit a barrier, such as trees confined to a parking lot planter, or between a sidewalk and driveway. Also, when roots are disturbed and damaged by rototilling, they are more likely to sprout suckers. But some trees never will make suckers. When choosing an oak in a garden center, if there are sprouts coming up at the inside edges of the container, I would avoid that tree. 

You may choose to mow them along with the grass, if grass still exists. Or if the grass has thinned too much, you might plant Asiatic Jasmine groundcover, and use hedge trimmers to trim the jasmine and oak sprouts to a uniform height. You can cover the area of sprouts with a heavy gauge woven geotextile, and then either mulch or spread large gravel or decomposed granite over the top of the geotextile. My favorite solution, when appropriate, is to cover the ground with geotextile and then build a wood deck. 

Or if you prefer a thick green lawn, you may remove the oak tree, and all of the tree roots with a backhoe. If you just cut down the tree, grind down the stump and all the large roots you can see, there will still be thousands of oak sprouts emerging from the remaining roots in your new lawn or bed area for a few years afterwards.  The area will need to be continually sprayed with an herbicide.


104 Comments on “What can I do about those sprouts under my oak tree?”

  1. Thank you other than pulling morning glory is there something we can spray that will not harm the oak trees
    We live on a ranch and have a few plus cattle

    1. Spray the leaves with 5% vinegar. Keep spraying until the sprouts do not keep growing and producing green leaves. It kills the sprouts without killing the tree. This solution to the problem came mostly from trying to eliminate these sprouts while stopping new growth. My dog is a scavenger and loves to eat anything on the ground. These sprouts will make her throw up. I had the same problem with Hackberry sprouts that grew in response to a Hackberry tree that I had cut down. The Hackberry sprouts, when eaten, give my dog really bad diarrhea. Just keep spraying until they stop growing. Won’t kill your dog or the tree!

  2. Thanks James. I’ve read or scanned six online articles looking for a solution to this oak sprout problem and yours is the best so far. Not just saying that because I’m from CC. Wish there was an easy solution, but thanks for the answers and some alternatives. By the way, none of the three oaks I’ve bought from your nursery have had this problem.

  3. I have a large live oak and the sprouts around the tree have started to grow to a larger sprout being 5′ tall. Can I just cut them down and will they harm the large oak tree?
    Please advise. Thanks,

  4. Can these oak suckers be dug up and transplanted until they grow independent roots?


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  6. We live in the woods. Oak suckers mowed turn into small nails. My dogs foot got pierced by one between her toes and bled for some time. I can’t walk outside at my own new house without thick soled shoes for fear of being stabbed. This i cannot live with! I don’t see “pull and cut” being much different than tilling. What to do about the spikes?

    1. Just moved into a house with my fiancé and dog. We are having the same problem, I cut the grass really low exposing the suckers and most of the front yard is now composed of spikes … seriously “sucks”

      1. Yes its sucks. You can cover the sprouting area with heavy gauge geotextile and rock, or remove the tree and roots (major job). I had one gentleman tell me he excavated all suckers and surface roots and the tree had not resprouted. But I can’t believe that is a permanent condition/solution.

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    1. If you remove a tree, but it keeps sprouting from roots, triclopyr will kill those sprouts. But if surrounding trees or shrubs have roots in the same zone, they will be damaged.

  8. Hi, I plan to plant Hosta plants around the oak trees but the problem is the seedlings popped up around the tree.
    So the question is: will the seedlings harm the hosta plants, bleeding hearts or astilbe flowers? Thank you.

  9. By the way, I plan to purchase some more bags of the naturally organic topsoil to pour in the flower bed further away like 4′ to 5′ from the oak tree to make the flower bed for the hostas, bleeding hearts, ferns and astilbes. Will these plants be okay? Thank you.

    1. Marlo, I assume you are a long way from Corpus Christi. Those plants mostly will not grow here. But if your oaks are suckering from the roots, I would not plant in those areas, the sprouts will be very competitive with anything you plant.

  10. Is the a seed product for Floritam or St Augustine grass to avoid re-sodding? Maybe a suitable alternative to plant in bare spots until the Floritam fills in?
    Thank you!

    1. No seed for Floratam. Buy a few pieces of sod, cut them into 4″x4″ squares, partially bury them , keep watered and fertilized. They will spread fairly quickly next spring.

    2. And Wayne, I see I neglected to mention that though Floratam is superior in sun, Raleigh does better in shaded areas such as underneath large or closely planted live oaks.

  11. Think I may have gone about the sucker removal all wrong. I used a propane burner to burn down the sucker hedge that has grown up inside the brick wall perimeter around my Oak tree. I have noticed some browning of the leaves on the tree. Hopefully just a shock and it will green back up in a week or so.

    1. Hopefully. I had never thought of that idea, would be a little afraid of trying it. But sometimes a plant problem will make you so mad, you will try anything. Please let me know if this works out for you, and I will pass it along.

    2. Bill – do you have any updates on your torching approach? I hoped this would be the silver bullet… since i don’t like any of the other options :). Great blog, though. I appreciated reading through everyone’s ideas and James’ original post. Stay vigilant with those suckers!

    1. I never heard of anyone trying that, Gery. It might work. The matrix of the artificial grass might hold the suckers back, or you might need another layer under it of heavier construction geotextile. But artificial turf is usually put atop a base of crushed stone or similar, I worry that the extra layer of base material might cause problems for the tree.

  12. It’s truly a great and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared
    this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. I have been searching for an indepth article on these tree sprouts for sometime now. Thanks for the informaion and a couple of solutions.

  14. People who come in on this web site trying to sell something and leaving their advice for how the web site’s experts handle things, ought not to be so rude!!! Please stop and refrain from interfering in what this site was intended for. We come in for here advice, and we are not here to be sold on some other product from rude and nasty opportunists!

  15. Never say never! : > ) After an unusually wet spring and early summer many lawns in KC – including ours – are filled with the small seedlings from sprouted acorns. We know it’s acorns and not sprouts from the tree roots because when pulled every little seedling root has an acorn attached to it! Several shorter than usual mowings have not done them in – they just continue to leaf out again in a day or so. Hardy and persistent little guys! : > ( Considering attacking them by hand, but oh the hours it would take. Any other alternative?

    1. Suzanne, I’m at a loss for solutions. A broadleaf weed killer such a Triclopyr will kill oak seedlings without harming the grass, but a spray application will definately damage or even kill the main tree. Roundup will kill the seedlings AND the lawn without harming the main tree, if they are indeed seedlings and not suckers. Using a wiper application of Triclopyr with NO spillage of chemical might be successful, but is risky. So I can’t wholeheartedly recommend any of these. You could attempt covering with old carpet or refrigerator boxes to suffocate the seedlings, being sure you still apply adequate water to the roots of the main tree. Best of luck.

  16. This is so helpful James! I will try the go-turf and mulch. I don’t have large area, and initially pulled all of the sprouts by hand! (Two days) Once I pulled them, my other plants (Society garlic, lantana) started blooming! We are selling this house, but I want this little suckers to GO!

  17. And Wayne, I see I neglected to mention that though Floratam is superior in sun, Raleigh does better in shaded areas such as underneath large or closely planted live oaks.

  18. Geotextile is the devil. The previous owners put it down everywhere, with rocks and mulch on top. The problem is the world doesn’t stop. Leaves, catkins and such keep falling, burying the mess. You will never rake or blow it all away. Roots grow through it, making near impossible to remove. Now, deciding to dig a hole to plant a shrub is a torture instead of a joy.
    The inventor should be prosecuted.

  19. I still like the decking idea around the tree, but my concern is that they will eventually push up through the boards and being that there is “strength in numbers” may actually push up the deck!

  20. I have laid down thick black plastic rolls over the suckers and then covered that with mulch. Never saw those suckers again. In another area I am trying an herbicide Sucker Punch.. Too early to tell if that will be the answer

  21. The sprouting tree we have is in our front yard. If we cover it with heavy plastic for a few weeks, will that kill off the sprouts without harming the tree?
    It’s a small yard and we want it to look nice. Thanks Steve

    1. No, covering with plastic will not kill the sprouts. You can hand prune continually, or mow, or cover with heavy grade geotextile and rock.

  22. We removed the tree, grinded it down and still getting suckers. We are using round up. The suckered are relentless.

    1. Syl, our Brushkiller with Triclopyr will be much more effective than Roundup for killing out those oak suckers, but it will probably still take repeated applications. Applied according to label directions, it will not kill your St. Augustine grass.

  23. Hello – I just bought a home with beautiful oak trees in the yard – which is nearly covered with about 4″ oak sprigs – likely kept short by mowing. I pulled a few and there are no acorns attached so they’re coming from the main trees. After reading thru these comments, I wondered if any persistent ground cover might successfully compete with these? You mentioned Asiatic Jasmine. If I planted AJ, mowing would be impossible. Would a thick growth of AJ likely keep the sprigs from growing tall? Trying to figure this out! Thanks!

    1. No, groundcover will definitely not prevent the sprouts from growing. If you plant asiatic jasmine as a groundcover, you can use power hedge shears to trim the jasmine and oak sprouts to the same height, and the jasmine camoflages the oak sprouts since the leaf color size and shape are so similar.

    2. I think I like the geotextile fabric idea – covered by a deck! Any thoughts/recommendations about the best geotextile? I see woven and non-woven and heavy duty and commercial grade.
      Thank you so much!

  24. Please can someone tell me how I can get rid off the sprouts on my front yard Fron the Oak tree , have try everything and nothing works and by the way why the tree do that?

  25. Will torching the sprouts work as an alternative ? I have them all over my backyard so putting gravel over it wouldn’t be a solution…

    1. If you read above, you will see a reply from someone who tried this, and afterwards was noticing some browning in his tree. I had requested he give us a followup of the result but he has not. So I would be hesitant to try this. And I doubt it would be effective for much longer than mowing anyway.

  26. We live in the Florida Suncoast area (Tampa Bay area, gulf coast). We had a live oak that needed to be removed due to disease. It was cut and the stump ground down, but not completely because of a nearby huge rock. Now (within two weeks since it was cut), the entire lawn is full of suckers, and the grass is not growing well. We had suckers before, but not nearly what is there now. It’s taking over the lawn. The other comments discuss options without harming the tree, but the tree is gone. What can we do to eliminate them and re-grow the grass since the tree is already gone?

    1. If no other trees or shrubs have roots in that area, you could use triclopyr on the suckers. Follow label directions.

  27. I cut all the suckers as deep as I could, then used the plastic bags from hardwood mulch making sure they overlapped. Then I covered the plastic with a thick layer of mulch. This actually works pretty good. Only have an occasional sucker poking up.

  28. You are absolutely wrong about seedlings growing from acorns. I have about a million in my yard and flower beds. I know the difference between a sucker and a seedling.
    When I need advice I won’t be asking you.

    1. dang girl. wrong side of the bed eh?
      SO the bulk of us actually have legit suckers which was his point .
      . Acorns can be blown /raked up, easily pull up if you just maintain correctly.
      In comparison, suckers are impossible to deal with as you can read .
      Be a blessing.

      1. Thanks Robin, that was my feeling, but I didn’t say. Now that I’m an old man, I may be more likely to reply in kind.

  29. We have artificial turf and some sprouts are coming through. I am more concerned about mounding underneath the grass which may be where some are trying to come through. Our turf has been there for 8 years. As far as Sucker punch, it doesn’t even put a dent on them and very thick/goopy and very expensive for the amount of sprouts that we have. Our front yard as Asian Jasmine (well established) and it seems to keep down the suckers. Right now the other area we are weed wacking and putting a fence around it (to keep dogs off spikes) until we come up with another solution. We have been here 30 years. This has happened after a big (5 year) drought season. And once you start pulling them up, more will come up from the break areas.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. Yours is the first time I’ve heard back from someone trying the Sucker Punch. I had my doubts as to whether it would work, but couldn’t say without someone reporting about it so thanks again.

  30. I’ve been pulling up acorn seedlings in a pachysandra bed for years. I see from your writers that some of the ones I can’t pull up are suckers, so I cut them off at the dirt, however I think they resprout the following year. Is there any chemical that could be used on the seedlings that will NOT kill the pachysandra?

  31. We have a cabin in Utah. Elevation is About 64 hundred ft.. We have grumble oak. Because of the drought, oak sprouts are totally out of control.
    We have tried Sucker punch in a very small ,but are afraid of killing our trees. What are your thoughts?

    1. My experience is only with southern live oak. I’ve never tried sucker punch or other hormonal chemicals but I doubt their effectiveness until I see at least anecdotal evidence otherwise. The only solution I know of is to cover it with a heavy gauge of Geo textile

  32. I removed the oak tree and do have a lot of sprouts… I will be spraying them with chemicals and planning to use heavy gauge, may be even two layers. Will the sprouts die underneath it? Or they will just won’t come out but still will be alive there? I would think they need sun and water to stay alive….Thank you!

    1. A product containing triclopyr is appropriate to kill sprouts unless there are other trees or shrubs in the same area. A heavy gauge geotextile even single layer is adequate to smother additional sprouts, but be sure you have adequate overlap between widths, and use a wide roll (12′).

  33. One of the most frequent questions we get is How can I control all of the small oak sprouts that are coming up under my live oak tree? This can be a very frustrating situation for those who are attempting to make flower beds, plant ground cover or other ornamental plants, or just trying to enjoy their lawn by frolicking barefooted through the grass.

  34. Hi, Does watering and fertilizing the lawn reduce or exacerbate live oak sucker shoots? The lawn is zoi zois grass and has a sprinkler system in central Texas. Removing the two old trees is not an option.

    Is it better to dig up and remove the shoots in the fall and winter when the trees generally hibernate?

    Does trimming tree branches stimulate suckered shoots?


    1. I am not aware of any suckering response to watering and fertilizing. I could theorize that lack of watering may stress and therefore initiate suckering. I don’t think moderate trimming would stimulate suckering, but severe suckering might. The only factors I have personally observed, some trees will never sucker, and some will without any observable cause, and some are in between, thus indicating a variable genetic factor. I commonly see live oaks sucker when the roots are mechanically disturbed, or when they encounter a root zone restriction. such as a driveway edge or especially a curb. I have not yet observed any difference in response to what time of year you trim the sprouts, but in a lawn it would be every time you mow.

  35. So we have lots of sucker roots springing up. We just tilled the ground, hoping to remove many of the sucke roots. What else can I do to make sure they don’t come up again. My front yard is not very large.

  36. I live in very hot dry South Texas. I have a beautiful oak tree in my front yard with about a thousand suckers in a compact space. I thought I could live with the “ground cover” but its really unsightly. So I took your advice and got it mowed down. The leaves trapped in there filled an entire large bin reserved for organics. Unbelievable. Now I’m busy manually cutting down all the spikes. My plan is to use heavy gauge geotextile as you suggested, and then lay landscape rocks. That should be easier to keep clean than the jasmine. Hope it works. Thank you so much for the advice!

    1. Linda, please update us in annually with how this is working out for you. And during leaf drop, keep up the blower or vacuum to remove fallen leaves and then tassels to prevent them composting between your landscape rock.

  37. Will do James! I’ll post before and after pics if it’ll let me. There are are so many leaves, acorns, and tassels are all over the place every year, I figured rocks were the best alternative for me. Thanks again.

    1. FYI Jordan – I used Sucker Punch regularly to see what would happen. (It’s not cheap!!) It has to be hand-sprayed on each little sucker’s’ leaves (takes forever) or brushed on each sucker’s leaves. The sucker will turn brown, but a bunch more will grow in the same area. It is endless, and gets very, very expensive. It costs about $30 on Amazon for 16 oz and that does an area of about 4′ x 4′. I tried it over and over for a full summer and it looks just as bad or worse than ever. I have 6 oak trees in that spot, so plenty of suckers. I could easily spend $300 per application to cover the entire area, yet more would come. Not worth it!

  38. Really great on the geotextile advice!! What weight should we use as I am seeing such a wide range.

    Thank in advance.

  39. I wouldn’t trust A lightweight consumer type product. And don’t trust that products sold in the mass market with a commercial designation is really up to the task. Greatly exaggerated. A medium to heavy gauge woven Geo textile is likely to come on a roll from 6 to 12 foot wide by 300 foot long. Also a spun bonded material of extra heavy gaugewould be on a much larger spool than a retail type

  40. Where I live in the NorCal Sierra foothills, the sprouts under the oak tree are NOT from the big oaks tree roots, they are grown from the acorns. I have pulled over 300 of them this year, most with the acorn still attached, some broke off. There are probably another 600+, I really need a spray to kill them. Any ideas? I have already used Milestone, so far, no luck, the little sprouts are still growing taller every day it seems.

    1. Kat, You might try Eraser with dosage of 4 tablespoons to 1 gallon of water It has done wonders to get rid of Oak Volunteers in my yard. There is no residual affect to the soil and after about 48 hours it has no effect on pets. Do not use Eraser Max as it will leave a residual in the soil, possibly harm animals, and you cannot plant anything for a year or so afterwards, do not confuse the two. Keep in mind it worked on my Oak Tree Volunteer which are from the tree and have no acorn attached, but it is still worth a try? See your local distributor for your area and there are many now. They will be able to recommend the correct dosage as a double check, and they can tell you the correct dosage to spray in your area with any adjacent plants around that area. However you have to directly spray right on the plant to kill it. We have had very good luck using this product, however only time will tell how long the effects will last? Thanks.

    2. I would not recommend Eraser, as the active ingredient is glyphosate, the same as Roundup. It may kill the sprouts, but some of that glyphosate can be taken into the large tree. If the amount of sprouts in relation to the massive size of the tree is pretty small, well I guess this is how the writer has not had problems. But there is danger in applying glyphosate to root sprouts.

    3. Sorry Kat, I just saw that you are talking about oak SEEDLINGS, not root sprouts. You could use Eraser, or any other brand of glyphosate including Roundup. But I would be 99% sure they are not root sprouts before using glyphosate!

  41. If you can have water available, you might try a weed torch. I would follow that up with A thorough watering to be sure you don’t have any smoldering in your leaf litter.

  42. So I did a big mistake and cut my sprouts down then applied roundup to the area to make sure they don’t resprout again. I did this before my research. I have Spanish Oaks. What’s the recourse and how do I save my tree now?!

    1. Nothing will “neutralize” the Glyphosate (Roundup) other than time and bacterial action, but glyphosate does not enter through roots, only through green leaves and green shoots. So likely the damage will be minimal. You could apply horticultural molasses to encourage soil microbial activity

  43. 10 years ago a landscaper applied geotextile material and a large amount of rocks underneath my large 26 year old oak tree. Thousands of little oak trees appeared around this area and a very large area around the tree and killed my grass. I was told the rocks were killing my tree for lack of air and water. I paid a guy to take the material and rocks out. There is a large pill of death roots or old grown oak seedling present now. Should they all be cut out ? Where do I go from here. The landscaper told me he could use a dig deep and remove the seedlings and put down some more St Augustine grass after trimming the dead limbs off this tree and the other for more light. I live in Austin and since the cold spell we had in Jan they have gotten very bad. I keep them trimmed but the area looks black and very unattractive. Thanks for your assistance.

    1. This sounds like a pretty complex situation that I can’t understand or make recommendations on remotely. I would search for good reviews on a certified arborist and get them to take a look.

  44. The sprouts were so bad around my oak they towered over the jasmine, broke through mortar and dislodged stones in the planter ring wall. It required regular trimming akin to a hedge. I tried burning and excavating to no avail. It sprouts through thick landscape fabric and grows in mounds. After the hard winter, I cut them to the ground, burned the edges and dug out the mounds with a mattock. Then I covered the area in cheap plywood, stapled landscape fabric over that and covered it under a thick mulch bed. It still bursts out of the seams around the planter and at the trunk.

    I have another oak 50 feet away similarly planted with a nice bed of jasmine and no sprouts. This tree must be a genetic anomaly.

  45. What a lively discussion about those pesky live oak sprouts! So, I’m not alone in the battle…. Years ago we put down landscaping cloth under a row of live oaks and covered it with a thick layer of rocks. Our hope was that enough water would get through the cloth so that the trees got sufficient water, but the suckers would die out. In the spring I would blow the leaves away and had no baby oak trees to deal with. Eventually we had to remove the rocks and cloth. What did we discover under the cloth- a four inch thick layer of sturdy live oak roots/runners/whatever they are! It’s taken about three years now, but I’m finally getting close to bare earth when I weed wack the forest of baby trees. I keep a good supply of nylon weed wacker line and just knuckle down to the job periodically.

  46. After 20 yrs. of dealing with these live oak suckers, here are my theories on these pesky painful suckers, which are impossible to get rid of under live oaks – at least in TX!:

    1) pull by hand to keep suckers to a minimum!
    2) plant zoysia (spelling?) grass, as it is the only grass that you are going to be able to grow under your live oaks over time due to the shade & lack of sun, so give up the thought of a lush green sucker-less lawn under your live oaks now!
    3) Haven’t ever tried chemicals, but I actually don’t think ANY chemical could kill our live oaks – at least in TX – & why would you want to kill these magnificent evergreen beauties? – yes, even with the suckers all around them (which can get pretty heavy during certain times of the year – but just stay the course at that steady hand pulling)!
    4) resign yourself to the fact that you will not get to skip barefoot through the grass under your live oaks as a) you’ll likely barely have any grass to speak of due to the lack of sun under your live oaks, & b) you’ll likely end up in the ER by being stabbed in the feet by those suckers!
    5) I think James is 100% right about these suckers becoming more “plentiful” under large oaks in a smaller yard when he said the live oak’s ever-growing roots running into a structure like a sidewalk, house or wall will just redirect those tree roots upward out of the ground as they have to grow somewhere & will also produce even more suckers to contend with! These tree roots & suckers are HUGELY powerful, and we have already had to completely replace our brick and concrete front walkway once due to live oak root walkway “upheaval”! You can’t keep a live oak root – or sucker! – down!
    6) Mowing and hand-pulling the suckers are the only things that will allow you to grow any grass whatsoever under your live oaks!
    7) Wear heavy duty rubber gardening gloves when you pull the suckers & put your back into getting those sucker roots! It’s great exercise, although you might have to pace yourself (or develop carpel tunnel)!
    8) I do think every time you pull 1 sucker, you create 3, but that’s life – & the beauty of the huge live oaks above the mowed down, hand-pulled suckers is worth it!
    9) Pull suckers when you are mad at your husband or boss! Yes, put those airpods in, play your favorite podcast & get after it then! You’ll get twice as many pulled, eliminating suckers while also eliminating taking your anger out on those 2 – or saying something you may just regret later!
    10) Stand back & look at your work after a good sucker pulling session! You will have 1 of 2 reactions!: You’ll either think “it’s rewarding” or think “oh my Lordy, I haven’t even made a dent!” (depending on the time of year!)
    11) In TX, even “Snowmageddan” in the winter of 2020, with ice on the ground for several days, & no power, killing most of our other landscaping & plants, didn’t kill a one of those live oak suckers, so forget your rocks & gravel, herbicides, poison & decks…..you’re not killing the suckers! All you can do is wk toward eliminating them for a time by hand-pulling & mowing!
    12) Learn your lesson for your next house….Never plant little live oaks in a small yard – you’ll just end up with large live oaks and suckers in a small yard & a big annual tree trimming arborist bill! You can’t kill a live oak, too, no matter what your arborist tells you! Have them really trim – AND THIN – those live oaks so at least a little sun can break through & you just might have some grass!
    13) Build a large stone border under the edge/perimeter of the live oaks outer branch tips & fill that stone border in (after your thin grass sod removal) with solid mondo grass sprigs! Did that 8 years ago & haven’t seen a sucker since (the mondo is either hiding the suckers or killing them out)!
    14) Finally, hang a wooden/rope swing under your live oaks & swing to your heart’s content after a good aggressive couple of hrs. “sucker pulling” (but be sure to wear some athletic shoes to be able to get to the swing w/o your feet getting “stabbed” by those suckers)!

  47. My live oak in Sarasota (Gulf coast of FL) doesn’t sucker. But the one 30’ away with a more jagged leaf (almost little points like holly) has 10,000! Mowing knocks them down. Storm damage took down some limbs. I wonder if that encouraged the tree to put up more suckers. Also wonder if modest pruning yearly would reduce the nutrients needed from the roots and therefore slow down the suckering.

    1. Suckering is genetic, like freckles, some trees will and some won’t. And some are stimulated by environmental conditions to sucker, like when roots are damaged by rototilling or backhoe damage. So it’s feasible that storm damage would do the same. I do not think top pruning will make suckering less likely.

  48. It sounds like you need major equipment to cut down a tree. My backyard has some trees that need to go. I’ll have to hire someone with good online reviews to help out.

  49. We moved here (Swinney Switch) 25 yeas ago with a little better than 1 1/2 acres with much johnson grass. Regular mowing keeps it in check in our yard but it is a major pain in our vegetable garden. Is there a solution other than digging to China to remove this. I won’t use harmful chemicals and spraying with vinegar seems too difficult because of the closeness of the veggies. Can you help. We have raised beds and johnson grass grows from the paths into the raised beds via the underground roots, tubers, or what ever you call these evil things.

    1. I suggest you dig to China (no, just 18″-24″) and put in a plastic rhizome barrier around each raised planter. Then stay busy digging every rhizome inside each planter until you have got them all.

  50. What a great discussion. I am in New Orleans with a big 100 year old live oak in my backyard adjoining an area of sun with grass. There’s a block fence, running the length of the yard along its back perimeter and this is where the suckers sprout. I put elderberry, beauty berry, titi and similar native shrubs among the suckers and a couple of hammocks strategically placed. An arborist thins and trims the oak every 2 years. On the non-sucker side I put native shade forbs & ground covers. Altogether it’s actually gorgeous. When a sucker gets 4’ high is when I cut it back. It works for me. Plus I like the birds, squirrels and butterflies that come around.

  51. I’ve tried Sucker Punch on some of the thousands of live oak sprouts in my yard, without meaningful results. Like some other readers, only one tree (I have 5 live oaks) produces these little devils. This one tree has a concrete fish pond, a sidewalk and a driveway at its base; hence, the proliferation of suckers. Weed whacking only serves to “prune” them and they grow back bushier than ever. I’m going to try vinegar, and continue to hand-pull the suckers and the roots on which they sprout. I can fill a Lowe’s bucket full to the brim in about a half-hour. But the mature trees are lovely, and also protected by City ordinance.

  52. We simply have adopted the practice of having our gardeners weed eat any volunteers that come up each week.
    The issue with Oaks, is that they are just like people who are born with various characteristics. One of those characteristics with a Oaks, is that some trees are genetically pre-disposed to throwing volunteers. It does not mean they are not a great tree! To solve the problem, you find a way to dispose of volunteers early and just as soon as they arrive. This you do, in order “not” to have to ever deal with the hard wood that sets up after a few months. Religiously, when we mow now, our gardener weed eats all volunteers. If you have too many (of course) this may not work. However, although the area where we have volunteers is pretty large, it only takes a few minutes to weed eat if you do it each week? Anything else you do may jeopardize the tree or another one close to it? We have tried several ways to get rid of them and in the end, you learn it is best to just “live with it!”
    All I can say, is that we are blessed to have great gardeners who do this for us. At first, they too balked! – but they soon learned it is easy if you just do this each week.

  53. I am always searching for a solution to stop the suckers beneath our live oaks.

    When we moved to a new house I decided that the previous homeowners had poured concrete around the tree to control the suckers. In a few years the concrete slab began to lift. We decided to remove the concrete slab and the suckers were very dense and several inches thick – I still am amazed they can lift concrete. It was a lot of work to get to the soil again.

    I have not found anything (that has not been recommended) but was hopeful when I read about the torching. Hoping someone responds if that has worked or not.

  54. for those who are considering torching – it only lasts for a week or so. I have torched the sprouts in my yard, by my sidewalk, in my side yard, under the trees and they all just burn and then come back after a few weeks. as for “pullig those suckers up”, when the percentage of sprout-to-grass is 40% or 50%, you will do a WHOLE lot of pulling. while James advises using textile cloth to “smmother” the little b@@tards, I laid a criss-cross pattern under the group of 6 Live Oak trees in my front yard and ti kept the growth controlled for about 6 months, at which time the sprouts had moved to the part of the yard where there was no textule covering. eventually, the sprouts started groing sideways until they found the seam of the cris-cross textile and now I have a line of sprouts at each of the seams. I think the solution is to bomb the merciless little buggers completely out. too bad the county won’t let me cut down the trees.

  55. My oak with its million suckers may be dying (lost some big limbs in the last storm, and perhaps was pushed by the wind, damaging the tree and roots). If it dies and I have someone rototill the whole area where there are suckers, will “chewing up” the suckers kill them all and be the end of the problem? How deep would they have to dig?

  56. My OCD due to not having a perfectly green edged lawn has been biting at me.

    After going through this chat, I realize that I can’t do anything about the sprouts. I’m so disappointed now, esp since our shrubs are so perfectly pruned.

    Out of 12 live oaks, the one that belongs to us is the only one sprouting!

    Any ideas on how to make it look half decent since perfection is out of the question 😔

    1. Planting Asian Jasmine is a good option that you can keep looking neat and tidy while hiding the suckers.

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