Gardening Plant propagation Shrubs

New Shrubs From Suckers

Shrub suckers are sometimes produced quite some distance from the mother plant. Source: Montage:

Suckers are those offsets that sprout from the base of the mother plant or from adventitious buds on its roots, often some distance away. Many gardeners hate them, pulling them out or cutting them back whenever they see them, but the wise gardener may come consider them differently … as potential fodder for multiplication.

There is probably no easier way of multiplying woody plants that through suckers. You just have to dig them up and sever the root or stem connecting them to the mother plant, then plant them elsewhere. This can be done in almost any season, but is probably most successful in spring or fall.

Aftercare simply involves watering the plants a bit more often to help them settle in and produce new roots.

It couldn’t be easier!

Avoid Grafted Shrubs!

This sucker coming out of the ground near a grafted rose will not be the right variety. Source:

Some shrubs are sold grafted onto the rootstock of another species or variety (although always a close relative). Most roses, some lilacs and almost all standards (shrubs trained to look like small trees) are grafted plants. Any suckers appearing from the roots of a grafted shrub will be typical of the rootstock species, not the desirable variety. So, if a large-flowered ‘Peace’ hybrid tea rose is grafted onto the rootstock of the small-flowered rambling rose ‘Dr. Huey’ (the typical situation) and produces suckers, the suckers will be ‘Dr. Huey’ … probably not what you wanted!

Shrubs That Sucker Readily

The following shrubs tend to sucker and therefore offer plenty of opportunities for easy propagation.

20180904D aralia_elata
Angelica tree (Aralia elata). Source:
  1. American elder (Sambucus canadensis) zone 4
  2. Amur maple (Acer tataricum ginnala) zone 3
  3. Angelica tree (Aralia elata) zone 4
  4. Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) zone 4b
  5. Blackberry (Rubus fruticosa and others) zone 5
  6. Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) zone 3
  7. Bramble (Rubus spp.) zones 3 to 7, depending on species
  8. Buffaloberry (Shepherdia spp.) zone 2
  9. Bush honeysuckle (Diervillea spp.) zones 3-5, depending on species
  10. Chokeberry (Aronia spp.) zone 4
  11. Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) zone 2
  12. Cliff green (Paxistima canbyi) zone 4b
  13. Common buckthorn (Rhamnus catharticus) zone 3
  14. Common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) zone 2
  15. Common lilac, syn. French lilac (Syringa vulgaris) zone 2b
  16. Devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa) zone 5a
  17. Doghobble (Leucothoe spp.) zone 6

    False spiraea (Sorbaria sorbifolia). Source:
  18. False spiraea (Sorbaria sorbifolia) zone 2
  19. Flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) zone 3
  20. Forsythia (Forsythia spp.) zones 4 to 6, according to species
  21. Fragrant currant (Ribes odoratum) zone 2
  22. Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) zone 3
  23. Grapeholly (Mahonia spp.) zones 4 to 8, according to species
  24. Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) zone 2
  25. Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) zone 4
  26. Hazelnut (Corylus spp.) zone 3
  27. Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) zone 4
  28. Jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens) zone 4
  29. Kerria (Kerria japonica) zone 4
  30. Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) zone 3
  31. Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolia) zone 5
  32. Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) zone 2
  33. Pussywillow (Salix caprea, S. discolor) zone 4
  34. Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) zone 3
  35. Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) zone 2

    20180904F Rosa rugosa
    Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa). Source:
  36. Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa) zone 3
  37. Running serviceberry (Amelanchier stolonifera) zone 3
  38. Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) zone 2b
  39. Shadblow serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) zone 4
  40. Siberian dogwood (Cornus alba) zone 2
  41. Silverberry (Elaeagnus spp.) zones 1b to 7, according to species
  42. Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) zone 3
  43. Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) zone 3
  44. Snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.) zone 3
  45. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) zone 3
  46. Sweet box (Sarcococca spp.) zone 7
  47. Sweet gale (Myrica gale) zone 2
  48. Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) zone 2
  49. Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) zone 5
  50. Wild rose (Rosa spp.) zones 1 to 7, depending on species
  51. Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima) zone 3

If a shrub doesn’t produce suckers, try cutting it back hard. That will often stimulate sucker growth.

Suckers: they can be friends or foes, depending on how you view them!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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