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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.

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

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Monday - October 06, 2014

From: Hattiesburg, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Pruning Citrus Suckers
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, you are the only person that has "not" insisted that the little balls on Satsuma and lemon trees were clumps of bugs. They are surely what you described in the answer to my previous question. And though I am a heavy duty gardener from NY to MS for many years, may I ask you how I would know where the graft site is on my trees? Just as you described, all the little seed balls are on shoots with leaves from the base. The only two real Satsumas are on a normal upper stem. The two trees are full with mostly shoots. Shall I cut them down? Assuming that shoots are like babies that will grow into adult stems is incorrect? Sometimes I do not cut the shoots wondering if they grow into adult stems. Last fall I cut them down and wondered if cutting caused the little seed balls. Without any problems, do you recommend routine pruning of the shoots? Regardless of rootstock, I guess what I really need to know how do I find the graft site? Thank you for clarifying what I never believed were bugs. Cold might have caused this, but usually I only worry about the lemon tree having no protection. The Satsuma leans against the house and is always protected until last year, I guess. I am grateful for your vast knowledge.

ANSWER:

Glad to see that the Satsuma problem diagnosis is correct and shoots (suckers) from the rootstock have sprouted up and are taking over the plant as well as producing inferior fruit. The graft on a citrus tree should be visible where the trunk swells or has a zigzag growth pattern where the nursery cut off the rootstock and let the Satsuma grow. 

If you can, try to prune out all the shoots coming from below the graft. These shoots probably have trifoliate (3 parted) leaves and thorns. Keep these shoots from the rootstock continually pruned out so that just the real Satsuma stems are allowed to grow.

 

 

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