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16 October 2014
Gardener's Corner

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Winter 2004
John Cushnie On...

1st July 2009

First time gardeners soon get to know that suckers are trouble. They are to be removed before they take over the plant or form a mini jungle in the garden.

Sound advice when growing roses, apple trees and most grafted or budded ornamental shrubs.
There are exceptions to every rule and it is worth remembering that not all suckers are bad.

Where the suckering plant has not been grafted onto a different rootstock then shoots arising from below soil level will be identical to the parent plant. Good examples of such plants are Rhus typhina (Stag’s horn sumach) and Populus x candicans ‘Aurora’(variegated poplar).Both produce copious numbers of suckers identical to the parent plant. Unfortunately one of these plants is usually enough for most gardeners.

Many other trees send up suckers that, as rooted plants, are much in demand. Embothrium coccineum (Chilean fire bush) is a beautiful hardy, evergreen tree with racemes of scarlet flowers in late spring and early summer. It suckers freely.

Shrub roses such as Rosa rugosa with its large, single white, pink or mauve flowers and big, tomato-like, bright red rose hips will spread far and wide by suckers. They are ideal for planting an informal flowering screen.

Mature plants of Yucca gloriosa produce large rounded, fleshy shoots at the base. These are slow to grow but after 6-8 months will suddenly burst into growth becoming every bit as beautiful as the parent plant.
When propagating by sucker the secret of success is to remove the shoot with some root. In the case of embothrium it will be necessary to dig down in winter to expose the parent root that the sucker is attached to and cut it off with a portion of that root and hopefully some fine roots as well. Pot it up at the same depth as previously grown in a soil based compost. Position it in a shaded, sheltered part of the garden and water as necessary. After a year it will be well rooted and may be re-potted or planted out in its permanent position.

With yucca use a sharp knife to remove the shoot together with some of the stiff, wire-like roots. Pot into free draining, gritty compost.
Just to confuse the issue. Deciduous azaleas used to be grafted onto the “common”, yellow flowering Rhododendron luteum. If you are lucky enough to have suckers then separate them with some roots and pot them up. They have the most delightful perfume and are well worth growing.

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