Weak growth patterns on trees can weaken the plant because these unwanted growths redirect resources away from the main branches while also compromising the healthy form of the tree. Learn to recognize weak growth types so you can prune them away before permanent damage occurs.


Suckers are a real problem on some types of trees. Lilacs, apple trees, and many types of hardwood trees are prone to producing suckers around the base of the trunk or up from a main root. These weak, whip-like stems often look like a new tree or plant trying to grow near the trunk. If left alone, the suckers become almost weedy as they will grow quickly and siphon energy away from the trunk.

Fortunately, you can manage suckers with some timely trimming. Simply cut them off, just below the soil surface, whenever you notice suckers growing. It may take multiple cuts to finally kill off a new sucker. Trees under stress tend to produce more suckers, so make sure the tree has sufficient water and nutrients, and check it for any pest or disease issues.

Water Sprouts

Water sprout is a funny name for a troublesome tree growth pattern. Water sprouts begin like any new branch growing from the trunk or a main lateral branch, but instead of growing at a roughly horizontal angle to the trunk, they take a sharp upward angle and grow straight toward the sky. Water sprouts also grow more quickly than a normal branch, which increases the chances of them breaking off and causing damage.

Remove a water sprout at its base, just as you would prune off any larger branch. Cultural conditions that can lead to water sprout growth include poor pruning practices that have stressed the tree, such as topping. Drought and certain tree diseases can also increase the chances of sprout formation.

Twiggy Growth

Twiggy growth sometimes occurs on the trunk of a tree. Generally, there should be no new branch production below the lowest layer of the main lateral branches. Occasionally, a tree will produce twiggy, weak branches lower on the trunk than desired. These new twigs are typically weak, and they don't tend to survive well, which can weaken the tree or invite pest issues to the exposed dying twigs.

The fix is simple -- trim off any new branches that try to grow in below the main canopy. Not only will the tree look better, but it will also be healthier since it won't be diverting energy to keeping the twiggy branches alive.

Contact a tree care company in your area for more information.