En Espa—ol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - May 17, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Suckers from Oak Tree Roots in Austin
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

Hi. I am a home owner in Austin TX with several live oak trees. We love them and want to keep them healthy. We have a nice landscape in the back yard and Iím wondering if you can answer a question for me. We have dozens of tiny live oak growth at ground level from the roots of our oak trees, and Iím wondering if I can stop this without hurting the trees. Pulling them like weeds does not seem to help. And where they occur most frequently is where we have bare ground with mulch, or maybe individual shade plants, where the oak growth is very noticeable.

ANSWER:

These sprouts from the roots are usually refered to as "suckers" and Mr. Smarty Plants has addressed this problem in one fashion or another in several previous answers (like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this one). I addition, there are lots of questions about oak suckers on various gardening web sites.

To save wear and tear on your mouse, I'll try to summarize all of the above links in one sentence:

You can't get rid of them.

You can put up a fight though. The most effective way to deal with them is to cut them off below the ground surface. The problem with this is that there are usually too many for this to be practical and they will just keep coming up. But, if you have a small enough area like flower beds, it might work. Most people deal with the suckers in large areas by regular mowing or using a string trimmer while the suckers are still small. DO NOT attempt to control them with herbicdes. By the time you kill the suckers, you will have harmed the tree.

The most practical sounding advice I've read is in this article that suggests, "get a goat."

 

More Trees Questions

Seed germination for sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
December 15, 2007 - How can I germinate sugar maple?(step by step, please) I have some seeds but can't make them grow directly outside, so could you recommend a method which takes place inside?! I've heard something ab...
view the full question and answer

Problems with pin oak in Manlius, NY
June 20, 2009 - I bought a pin oak when it was ~5 ft tall. It has lived in clay/rock for the last 6 years--healthy, but didn't grow much (no surprise). This spring we planted 3 small boxwoods a few feet from its t...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for horses in Austin
October 27, 2012 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants We just bought 4.5 acres in Travis County off HWY 290. We have 3 horses we keep on it but there is very little grass in the pastures. What is the best type of grass to seed ...
view the full question and answer

Wild Texas olive trees in Chappell Hill TX
July 17, 2009 - Are wild texas olive trees male and female? Mine is evergreen with no olives. I would like to have another that is evergreen and has no fruit but all I find are deciduous and have fruit.
view the full question and answer

Possible woodpecker damage in Monterrey Oaks
November 17, 2006 - I live in NW Austin and have two Monterey Oak trees, each about 30 - 45 gal in size. They both were planted approximately 9 months ago. Both trees seem to have some cracking bark on the trunk along w...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center