Tree Basal Shoots: What To Do With Basal Shoots On Trees

It starts out looking like a poorly placed branch emerging from the base of your tree. If you allow it to grow, you’ll find out just how different it is. It can have leaves in a different shape or color than the tree. These growths are called tree basal shoots and may need to be pruned out. What is a basal shoot? Read on to learn more.

Tree Basal Shoots

What is a basal shoot? By its terms, tree basal shoots are growth or shoots that appear at the base of a tree. When you start delving into the question though, it can be a little confusing. Some experts distinguish between water sprouts, suckers, offsets, and basal shoots, with recommendations on what to do with each.

One of the primary distinctions is between a sucker and an offset. Both are basal growths on trees. A sucker grows from a bud on the root of the tree, while an offset grows from a bud at the base of the plant. Since suckers grow from the roots, they can appear some distance away from the parent tree. Certain types of plants produce so many suckers that it becomes problematic and invasive.

Basal growth on trees is not unusual and sometimes these shoots can be useful. If you are wondering what to do with basal shoots, read on for tips.

What to Do with Basal Shoots

Whether your basal shoots are suckers or offsets, they can be welcome or unwelcome. Since these shoots are exact genetic replicas of the parent plant, you can reproduce the plant by digging up the basal growth and transplanting it to another location.

However, some plants produce a multitude of basal shoots that can quickly form thickets. Brambles are among the most annoying since they are armed and dangerous. On the other hand, the suckers produced by plants like raspberries keep the berry patch going year after year.

Basal Shoots on Cloned Trees

When you plant a fruit or other ornamental tree, there is a good chance that the tree has been “built” of two parts grafted together, the rootstock and the canopy. The growers use the canopy of an attractive or productive cultivar and allow it to grow into the rootstock of a strong, hardy tree, forming one tree.

On grafted trees, the rootstock tree often throws out suckers in an attempt to reproduce the species. These types of tree basal shoots should be pruned off quickly. Allowing them to grow will reduce vigor and drain energy from the productive canopy on top.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.