I’m gonna get you, sucker!

In January of 2010 the City of Davis removed a diseased Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford') in our front yard. This tree was the messiest thing you've seen, and I wasn't sad to see it go although I do miss the shade it produced. Here's the house with the tree in early 2009. You can clearly see the mistletoe infestation that led to its demise.

Mistletoe-infested Bradford pear, February 2009

We replaced the tree with a giant clumping timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii). This particular species thrives in our hot-summer climate and has the potential to grow to 55 feet. Initially, it looked small and lost in the space:

Bambusa oldhamii on February 2, 2010,
planted from a 5-gallon container

However, it has tripled in size since then and last fall sent up culms that are almost 1 inch in diameter. That's still leagues away from the potential 5 inch culms that a mature oldhamii can produce, but the front of the house isn't looking quite as lost any more.

Bambusa oldhamii on February 28, 2011

Even though the stump of the Bradford pear was ground out, down to 2 ft., suckers kept popping up very quickly. (Like all callery pears, Bradford is prone to suckering—another strike against it, in my book.) All year I removed the suckers by cutting them off as far below the ground as possible. In many cases, the root from which they originated was actually quite close to the surface. My thinking was that eventually what energy is left in the roots will be used up and they will finally start to die and rot.

Predictably, there were no new suckers from late fall through early spring but they’ve been sprouting merrily since then.

Suckers in March of 2011, not only where the pear tree had stood…
...but also quite a distance away
This tree really wants to live…
…but I don’t want it to

I recently came across a product called Sucker Stopper RTU, made by Monterey Lawn and Garden Products, and I decided to try it. There are many testimonials on the Internet from customers who swear it works even though they use it to suppress suckers on trees they actually want to keep. In my case, I want the d**** thing to die!


On April 1st, I sprayed the suckers with Sucker Stopper RTU, a viscous, milky substance that clings to the suckers rather than running off.

Sucker Stopper RTU applied on April 1
Sucker Stopper RTU applied on April 1

Within a few days, the areas in contact with Sucker Stopper RTU began to turn brown and then black. This is what it looked like five days after application:

Five days after application
Five days after application

I don’t quite know what to expect at this point. My hope is that the growth regulator in Sucker Stopper RTU will migrate down to the roots and stop sucker production at that location. Maybe that is enough to kill off the roots. Or maybe there is more energy left in them than I thought and I’ll have to try another application.

If all else fails, I could try brushing full-strength Roundup® on the suckers. To be honest, I’d rather not resort to that since the suckers are very close to our Bambusa oldhamii as well as other perennials nearby, and Roundup would not be good for them.

Dear readers, if you have any ideas of how to put an end to my sucker problem, please leave a comment in the area below this post.

Note: To find out more about the callery pear disaster inflicted on America in the 1960s, check out this article.


  1. I've never had to deal with suckering trees, so no help from me. I only put well-behaved plants in my yard. ;-)

  2. The trees were a "gift" from the city. Every house gets one or more for their front yard, and the city maintains them. The upside is that our town is very green; the downside is that in the past they've made castrastrophically bad choices, like Bradford and Aristocrat pears.

  3. Awww, I wanted to see a b. oldhamii vs suckers battle to the death.

  4. David, you might get your wish yet. The suckers haven't died yet so I'm not sure they will...


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