Ask the Experts, Tree Care & Trimming

How to Properly Prune Tree Suckers and Epicormic Sprouts

Tree suckers (aka epicormic sprouts), those seemingly spontaneous shoots that appear along the trunk and branches of trees, can both intrigue and perplex arborists and tree lovers. While these sprouts play a crucial role in a tree’s resilience, their unchecked growth can lead to structural issues and negatively impact the overall health of the tree. In this blog post, we’ll explore the art and science of properly pruning and managing epicormic sprouts over time to ensure the continued vitality of your beloved trees.

tree suckers on live oaks

Section 1: Understanding Tree Suckers / Epicormic Sprouts

Before we dive into the practical aspects of managing tree suckers, let’s understand what they are and why they occur. Epicormic sprouts are dormant buds that lie beneath the bark, waiting to spring into action when the tree is stressed, damaged, or pruned. These tree suckers serve as a survival strategy, enabling the tree to regenerate and adapt to changing conditions.

Section 2: The Importance of Pruning

Pruning is a fundamental aspect of tree care, and managing epicormic sprouts requires careful attention. Proper pruning not only controls the sprout growth but also promotes tree health and aesthetics. Here are some essential considerations for pruning epicormic sprouts:

  1. Timing: Pruning should ideally be done during the tree’s dormant season, typically in late winter or early spring. This minimizes stress on the tree and reduces the risk of disease transmission.
  2. Selective Pruning: Target the removal of unwanted tree scukers and epicormic sprouts, especially those that pose structural or aesthetic issues. Selective pruning ensures that the tree’s overall health is not compromised.
  3. Gradual Reduction: To avoid excessive regrowth, it’s often best to prune epicormic sprouts gradually over several seasons. This approach helps the tree adapt to the changes and minimizes the shock to its system.
proper pruning of tree suckers

Section 3: Proper Pruning Techniques

Pruning epicormic sprouts requires precision and knowledge. Here are some techniques to ensure you’re doing it right:

  1. Prune Close to the Collar: Make cuts just above the branch collar, which is the swollen area where the branch meets the trunk. This technique promotes proper healing and prevents injury to the tree.
  2. Avoid Flush Cuts: Do not make flush cuts, as they can hinder the tree’s natural healing process. Leaving a small stub is preferable to protect the branch collar.
  3. Use Clean Tools: Always use sharp, clean pruning tools to make precise cuts and minimize damage to the tree.

Section 4: Regular Inspection and Maintenance

Having an ISA Certified Arborist regularly inspect your tree for new epicormic sprout growth, especially after pruning. Be vigilant, as these sprouts can reappear, especially in response to ongoing stressors. Maintaining a consistent management routine can help preserve the tree’s health over time.

Schedule a free 30 minute consultation with a Certified Arborist for tree sucker pruning recommendations.

Section 5: Seek Professional Assistance

If you live in the Dallas Fort Worth area and are unsure about managing epicormic sprouts or if your tree requires extensive care, consider booking a free 30-minute consultation with one of Southern Botanical’s Certified Arborists. These professionals have the expertise to assess your tree’s specific needs and develop a tailored management plan.


Properly pruning and managing epicormic sprouts is a vital component of tree care that can preserve the health, structural integrity, and aesthetic appeal of your trees. By understanding the science of epicormic sprouts and employing the right techniques, you can ensure that your trees continue to thrive and adapt to changing conditions, enhancing your landscape for years to come.