Shrub suckers are sometimes produced quite some distance from the mother plant. Source: nutritionrx.ca. Montage: laidbackgardener.blog
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!
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.
- American elder (Sambucus canadensis) zone 4
- Amur maple (Acer tataricum ginnala) zone 3
- Angelica tree (Aralia elata) zone 4
- Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) zone 4b
- Blackberry (Rubus fruticosa and others) zone 5
- Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) zone 3
- Bramble (Rubus spp.) zones 3 to 7, depending on species
- Buffaloberry (Shepherdia spp.) zone 2
- Bush honeysuckle (Diervillea spp.) zones 3-5, depending on species
- Chokeberry (Aronia spp.) zone 4
- Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) zone 2
- Cliff green (Paxistima canbyi) zone 4b
- Common buckthorn (Rhamnus catharticus) zone 3
- Common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) zone 2
- Common lilac, syn. French lilac (Syringa vulgaris) zone 2b
- Devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa) zone 5a
- Doghobble (Leucothoe spp.) zone 6
- False spiraea (Sorbaria sorbifolia) zone 2
- Flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) zone 3
- Forsythia (Forsythia spp.) zones 4 to 6, according to species
- Fragrant currant (Ribes odoratum) zone 2
- Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) zone 3
- Grapeholly (Mahonia spp.) zones 4 to 8, according to species
- Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) zone 2
- Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) zone 4
- Hazelnut (Corylus spp.) zone 3
- Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) zone 4
- Jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens) zone 4
- Kerria (Kerria japonica) zone 4
- Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) zone 3
- Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolia) zone 5
- Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) zone 2
- Pussywillow (Salix caprea, S. discolor) zone 4
- Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) zone 3
- Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) zone 2
- Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa) zone 3
- Running serviceberry (Amelanchier stolonifera) zone 3
- Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) zone 2b
- Shadblow serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) zone 4
- Siberian dogwood (Cornus alba) zone 2
- Silverberry (Elaeagnus spp.) zones 1b to 7, according to species
- Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) zone 3
- Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) zone 3
- Snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.) zone 3
- Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) zone 3
- Sweet box (Sarcococca spp.) zone 7
- Sweet gale (Myrica gale) zone 2
- Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) zone 2
- Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) zone 5
- Wild rose (Rosa spp.) zones 1 to 7, depending on species
- 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!