I have two Bradford Pear Trees at the front of my yard. They were planted ~1997. (The HOA requires all lots in the development to have them.)

Little sprouts that keep popping up from the ground around the trees. Both trees do it, but one tree does it much more than the other one.

They appear to be sprouting from the roots of the tree itself. They have leaves that do not match the tree at all. Almost looks like a different plant, but they are absolutely growing from the tree itself (I dig into the soil to check).

I heave read online that these sprouts are called "suckers", and are a common problem with Bradford Pear trees, due to the shallow root system.

If left unchecked, the suckers will grow a few feet high and turn into bushes unto themselves. So, I have been periodicaly cutting them down. Currently they are low enough that the lawn mower keeps them in check.

Is simply cutting off the suckers the best way to deal with them? Is there a good way to keep them from sprouting in the first place?

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    IMHO your HOA needs to be shot! There are a lot of objections to these non-native trees (scent, mess from fruit, etc), but the two big ones I've encountered are: they only look pretty when complete - they are relatively fragile and will lose branches in storms, ice, etc. Secondly if you're in grackle country then grackles just love these trees. People plant them thinking they look nice and then wonder why they have a grackle problem.
    – winwaed
    Jun 24, 2011 at 15:46
  • I cut mine down. The suckers still came back. I had the stumps ground. They still came back. I mowed over them for 5 years and I think there is still a shoot or two.
    – Dale
    Jun 29, 2011 at 19:16
  • I was thinking about landscape fabric and/or those rubber mulch circles to entomb the suckers under the ground, but I still think they'll poke through. Jun 30, 2011 at 12:41
  • @msemack are the trees mulched? Especially are they "volcano" mulched?
    – Mike Perry
    Jul 2, 2011 at 15:23
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    No mulch. Grass runs right up to the edge of the tree. I've thought about putting mulch down, but I feel like they would just sprout through the mulch. Jul 6, 2011 at 13:55

6 Answers 6


We also have these Bradford pears (or some other such flowering pear) in our neighborhood that do this (some more than others). Some trees/rootstocks are just notorious for suckering from the base/roots. You aren't doing anything to hurt the tree by cutting off the suckers and this is the only (and best) way I know of controlling them.


Cut the suckers at the lowest point to can get near the roots to control the growth of each sucker. Otherwise you are merely trimming them.

Also, you are getting a different plant from the roots because your Bradford Pears likely were grafted from a branch on a mature flowering tree to rootstock from a related but different type of tree with roots that are more viable than your typical Bradford Pear tree.

  • Grafting a root system from one tree to another? That sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. :-) Jul 11, 2011 at 19:28
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    @msemack That's actually how most dwarf fruit trees are grown. The root system won't support a full-size apple/pear/whatever tree, so it stunts the growth.
    – Doresoom
    Apr 23, 2012 at 15:51

I know some folks will say this idea hurts trees because it may limit rainwater reaching the healthy roots but trust me, it works and I have not lost a tree yet!

Purchase some thin sheet aluminum. Mine came in a roll about 14" wide, not sure of the mil thickness but it probably was used for roofing. Cut a piece that is about twice the diameter of the tree. Then, with a pair of tin snips, cut a semi circular hole the diameter of the tree on one side of the sheet while being careful not to get cut on the sharp cut edges. Repeat with another sheet and place both sheets on the ground around the trunk of the tree. Depending on the size of the trunk, you may have to adjust the size of the sheets and the size of the hole.

Cover the aluminum with a thin layer of dirt, mulch, etc. If you are worried about water not reaching the roots, perhaps punch a few holes in the sheets, but BEWARE, those nasty suckers may find the holes (:-)


I have the same issue. I've tried mulch -- the suckers eventually come through. I put down river rocks at the base of the tree -- the suckers grow between the rocks too. I trim them, pull them out, and occasionally I have used roundup when they are out of control, but nothing I have found eliminates them. The only way to control the suckers is to constantly pull, trim, cut as they grow. I hate this tree!


The last comment I read is the best "I hate this tree" It is a pain. Don't buy one is the best recommendation. I've trimmed them, I pulled them, I dug them out, I chopped the roots and I have mulched them. They still come back. They are relentless. They grow between the blocks in the wall. They're everywhere. What I'm doing now is just pulling the tops off by hand. They come off quickly and easily. This seems to be the fastest way to get rid of them. It doesn't take long to clear the area. All other methods don't seem to slow them down. I have to pull them every two or three weeks and it takes me a half hour. This seems to be the least amount of time and effort.

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    Hi Dennis, welcome to the site. I removed the question part of your post because this is a Q&A site not a forum: answers are supposed to address the original question, and not engage in extended discussion. If you really want to know about whether weedkiller will affect the parent tree, please use the Ask Question link at the top of the page to do so. Thanks, and again, welcome.
    – Niall C.
    May 11, 2014 at 23:04

We talked to an arborist at a local nursery, who recommended cutting the tree suckers as close to the root as you can and then spraying them with Treekote.

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