Tree Suckers

What Are They

Tree Sucker 8Suckers, sometimes called watersprouts, are vegetation shoots that grow on a tree but are not actual structural tree branches. Often, they grow in clusters that are connected at one point, usually at the base of the trunk or underground on the tree root. Suckers multiply rapidly and compete with the tree for valuable nutrients.

How To Remove

Tree suckers are unsightly, undesirable and important to remove. If the sucker is small, you can break it off easily by hand at its base. If the growth is larger, use a pair of bypass pruners to cut off the sucker. Try to cut it off as close to the tree as possible to aid in the tree’s wound response process.

In extreme cases, growth regulators may be used to reduce and/or control sucker growth. One of the most common and readily available products is Monterey Sucker Stopper.
If the tree has already been removed and suckers are growing from remaining roots, an herbicide like a root killer can be used. However, be cautious because the root killer can harm other existing trees and shrubs in the area.

Flatheaded Borer

A Wood-boring Beetle

larvae and adult LCThe flatheaded borer is a metallic wood-boring beetle that can do major damage to your trees, even killing young trees. The adult borer lays eggs in crevices or injured areas of trees. The larvae that hatch immediately start to bore tunnels in the wood just under the surface of the bark, which is what they feed on. As the larvae grow they continue to tunnel through the tree, digging deeper and deeper to reach fresh moist wood.

Recognizing an Infestation

Larvae Excavation LCThe borer beetle is identified by its metallic appearance, but their larvae do the most damage. The larvae’s body has a flat enlargement just behind the head, and are light in color. The tunnels made by the flatheaded borer larvae injure the tree and are filled with finely powdered sawdust. Their digging causes sap to flow and the affected area will appear wet. As these wet areas dry they may crack and expose the borers’ tunnels. The tunnels they create are winding and flattened looking with oval shapes at intersections. When the adult beetle emerges from the bark or wood it leaves a characteristic oval shaped hole.Tree Damage LCProtecting Your Tree Asset

insecticideThe best way to protect your trees is to prevent an infestation. By creating a healthy growing environment for your trees, you remove the opportunity for the borer to lay eggs. Proper pruning and care are essential to having and keeping strong, sound trees that can fight infestation.

If you do have an infestation, prune away as much of the infected area as possible and spot treat it by applying insecticide to the surrounding area. Insecticide will only kill the larvae if the chemicals can reach them just below the surface, but it will help to prevent any future invasions. Bayer Tree & Shrub Insect Control is an example of an insecticide that can be purchased at Home Depot to treat a borer infestation.

Monsoon Season: Ready or Not Here It Comes!

With summer temperatures creeping into the triple digits, Monsoon Season is just around the corner. Summer monsoon storms offer much needed rain to our desert environment, but also pose the biggest weather related risk for trees. If not pruned and thinned properly, your trees are more likely to become the victim of high monsoon winds.

Now is the time to assess your trees to determine if they are in need of pruning before the monsoon storms arrive. If you didn´t prune your trees in the cooler months, it is prudent to do the work before the storms arrive. In preparation for monsoon winds, the tree´s canopy should be thinned so wind can pass through the tree easier. Typically, most pruning involves lifting a tree´s branches to a height that people can walk under. When monsoon winds arrive, the tree´s canopy is top heavy because the weight of the trees is concentrated above a certain height. Assess your trees in the upcoming weeks and remove overly thick foliage, correct damage from previous storms and remove dead or structurally unsound branches to minimize the chance the tree will be damaged or cause damage during a storm.

Having proper tools to prune your tree is important to the health of the plant material. Limbs up to 1/2 inch in diameter can be pruned with hand pruners. Long-handled pruning loppers can handle limbs up to 1 inch in diameter but a special pruning saw is needed for larger limbs. Hedging shears or power hedge trimmers should not be used to prune trees because they will not be able to make proper cuts and will damage the tree.

Before and AfterIn spite of the damage these summer storms can cause, there is a silver lining to the monsoon clouds: moisture! The monsoon presents us all with a great opportunity to save water. We assess the amount of water each storm brings and suspend or adjust irrigation schedules appropriately. Not only is rainwater free, it is also superior to irrigation water due to its lower alkalinity. In addition to providing moisture, the rainwater helps leach accumulated salts away from the roots of shrubs, trees and turf.

Following a storm, check the status of your irrigation controller. Power outages can reset irrigation clocks and schedules, and it may not be appropriate for the weather. If your property receives a substantial amount of rain, turn off your irrigation system. Be aware of your plant material and soil moisture in order to determine when the water needs to be turned on again. Overall, you may not need to water as much as you did in the drier months.

Catclaw Rust

There is a Fungus Among Us

CatClawYou may have noticed brown clusters growing on your Catclaw Acacia trees. Known as Catclaw rust, the fungus infects the terminal ends of branches and causes a distorted, bunchy growth. It produces spores on the leaves of the tree in the late spring and summer that eventually cluster together and appear dark brown in color. Unfortunately, the cooler temperatures throughout May and the beginning of June were ideal conditions for the fungus. The monsoon season brought higher levels of humidity, yet low levels of rainfall this year, allowing the fungal spores to spread readily and rapidly.


Is There a Treatment for the Fungus?

According to Dr. Mary Olsen, Plant Pathology Extension Specialist at the University of Arizona, there is no known effective and practical treatment for Catclaw rust. The fungus is a normal occurrence in nature and prompts a “survival of the fittest” environment among the trees. The fungus typically has a two year life cycle from the start of each new spore growth. Under favorable conditions, the outbreak could be similar next year.

Catclaw RustRemoval or branch pruning of the Catclaw Acacia is not advisable at this time. Eliminating the affected branches may further weaken the tree by creating an open wound during the growing season. Furthermore, the fungal spore can be easily spread through pruners and disseminated in air currents.

What Can You Do?

The good news is that the less-than desirable brown clusters can be removed when the tree is in dormancy (December through the end of February). Here are some guidelines for removing the brown clusters:

  • Infected branches should be cut off from the union of two branches only when the tree is dormant.
  • Do not cut in the middle of the branch or the fungus is likely to growth back.
  • Remember that it will take two years for the fungus to “run its course.” Fungus that appears next spring may take another 2 years to dissipate.
  • Trees that are completely infested should be removed from the landscape.
  • Continue to monitor your trees and have patience.

It is expected that most trees, unless heavily infested, will recover. For more information visit the University of Arizona Plant Pathology Extension website:

Planting and Caring for New Plants

Whether you want to add new plants to your yard or you’re replacing plants you lost to winter’s freezing temperatures, now is the time to plant to give them the best chance of surviving the summer heat.

Shrub and Tree LandscapeIdeally, new plants should be installed when nighttime temperatures are over 55 degrees for a prolonged period of time and daytime temperatures are less than 90 degrees. For our desert landscape, plant replacement is most successful in the early spring because temperatures and humidity allow the plant to establish itself in its new environment before the harsher summer weather arrives. Certain tree species like acacia salicina and the desert willow demand spring planting because they establish new roots very slowly.

When choosing your new plants and trees, ask yourself these following questions:

Is it the right plant/tree for the right space?

How big is your plant or tree going to be in its mature size as it relates to its space? Does it have thorns that could grow into the common areas and sidewalks?  Do the roots have enough space to find the nutrients it needs? Expect trees to have root systems that reach out underground has far as its canopy extends.

What kind of light does it need?

The closer that the plant is to those hard surfaces like sidewalks and brick walls, the more sun and heat it will absorb. Be cautious of placing plants near these reflective surfaces.

How much water does it need?

Young plants will need more water as they root out looking for nutrients in the soil. Look for signs of distress like wilting or curling of leaves, leaves losing their color, and dead stems as signals of needing to water more. Also consider possibly using mulch or fertilizer to boost the young plant’s growth.

A young tree will need to have more emitters located near its trunk initially. These emitters will need to be moved from the trunk on a yearly basis to encourage the spread of the roots as the tree matures.

Frost Damage – Tree Recovery

Recent cold fronts moving through Phoenix have caused widespread frost damage throughout the Valley — particularly in Ficus and Sissoo trees. If you’re noticing signs of frost damage in your trees, we have some tips for restoring their health.

Patience is key

Frost Damaged TreeTrees with frost damage will require time and patience to nurse back to health. If you wish to recover your tree, the key factor is to give it time and provide it with the appropriate amount of water consistent with normal growing needs. Though a tree may appear unsightly and heavily damaged above ground, its root systems are durable and likely remain healthy and ready for new growth. First, focus on the restoration and recovery of your tree. Once your tree has made its recovery, you can  then focus on aesthetic pruning. It could take several seasons — but with the appropriate level of care — your tree can make a full recovery.

Caring for frost damaged trees

When the threat of frost has subsided and new growth has begun, its time to begin pruning. Start by doing a scratch test. To perform a scratch test, simply use your fingernail or a pocket knife on the trees smallest twigs and branches to determine the extent of the frost damage. If the wood is healthy, the tissue or flesh of the plant will reveal a green color. If you find brown or black tissue, this means the branch is dead. You will need to continue your scratch test on larger twigs and branches until you find where the green tissue begins. Once you identify where the healthy tissue begins, you will want to prune up to that point.

Proper pruning

If you decide to prune your tree yourself, its critical that you be properly equipped. Having the right tools to prune your tree is important to the health of the plant material.

Limbs up to ½ inch in diameter can be pruned with hand pruners. Long-handled pruning loppers can handle limbs up to 1 inch in diameter, but a special pruning saw is needed for larger limbs. Hand pruners and loppers should be of the scissor or bypass type rather than the anvil type. Hedging shears or power hedge trimmers should not be used to prune trees because they will not be able to make proper cuts and will damage the tree.

It is a good idea to wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and closed shoes when pruning; additionally, wear safety glasses, a hat and gloves to help prevent an injury. Unless you are a trained tree worker, avoid using a ladder or climbing a tree to trim it. Most importantly, never attempt to prune a tree that is near a utility line!

Frost Damage: Ficus Trees

The Dreaded FreezeFicus-2

When cold air fronts move through the Southwest, temperatures plummet and frost sneaks up on many of our sensitive plants and trees. Ficus trees are no exception.  Many smaller Ficus trees may be lost all together and, unless particularly protected, significant portions of the larger trees may be severely damaged due to hard frosts.

While it is hard to be patient, it is best to wait to see if new growth will come back. By the middle of May it will be evident if any new growth has emerged. If it has, it is generally found at the center and lower portions of the tree.

What To Do With Ficus Trees?

What can be done with a partially green Ficus tree? You can prune the tree by cutting just above the last buds. This process may take out the majority of the original tree but with continued corrective pruning and time the tree may, baring additional hard frosts, recover to an acceptable level.  Depending on the original size of the tree and the amount of damage, the right decision may be to remove it. Hiring a Certified Arborist to properly evaluate and perform the work is recommended.  A list of arborists can be found by visiting:

To Prune or Not To PrunePruned-Ficus

It’s difficult to look at your half green Ficus tree knowing that it used to be full, healthy and beautifully green. Unfortunately, your tree will never be the same no matter what you decide to do. If you decide to prune the dead tissue, it will take years before it grows to its original size. If you decide to leave it, the green will eventually fill in, but you’ll be looking at brown dead tissue for several years.