Below is a list of plants that, in my experience, are likely to form suckers even when they are healthy.
Suckers are the fast-growing but weak growth that begins from the root of a woody plant, the trunk or main stem of woody plant, or from below the graft union in a grafted plant. Suckers are the result of bad health or bad luck on some plants, but are more common on others that sort of “plan” to make suckers, using them to spread. This list is an attempt to list those plants, in which suckering is their natural way of being.
When you use these plants, expect them to try to spread over time from where you planted them, via suckers. You have to accept this and make it a part of your aesthetic, or control it during your pruning sessions.
Woody Plants Likely to Sucker
- Angelica tree or devil’s walking-stick, the aralias
- Arrowwood (Viburnum acerifolium)
- Birches, white and gray
- Buckthorn, common
- Chinese toon
- Dog-hobble (Leucothoe)
- Dogwoods, the shrub kinds such as tatarian, red osier, and swamp dogwood
- Empress tree
- Grapeholly (Mahonia)
- Hazelnut or filbert, American (Corylus cornuta)
- Honey locust
- Locust, black
- Some maples, such as Amur maple and box-elder
- Raspberry and similar briars such as black raspberry and blackerry
- Rose, many straight species such as meadow, prairie, and carolina rose
Expect all vines to “sucker” profusely, if these can be considered suckers. They are able to extend themselves easily throughout your garden in many cases if left unchecked.
When to Use Suckering Plants
Suckering shrubs and trees are good in large areas that you need to fill in a naturalistic way. This can be a cheap and effective manner to accomplish this goal.
- Wood lots at the edges of your property are formed quickly by suckering trees.
- Windbreaks and screens, due to the dense growth habit.
- Transitional spaces, like by a waterway or between a forest and a garden, are well served by suckering shrub masses.
- Meadows play nicely with suckering shrubs like berry briars, wild roses, sumac, and other species native to your area’s meadows.
- On land that you can’t access easily or which is hard to plant, such as a steep hill or rocky hill, a suckering shrub can be the low-maintenance and beautiful answer.
You can also use suckers as scions for grafting work. By planting one of these shrubs and repeatedly cutting old stems down to the ground, you will have produced a stool bed for the harvesting of scions.