University of Maryland Extension

Water Sprouts

Water Sprouts

Key Points

  • Water sprouts are vigorous, usually, upright shoots developing from dormant buds on the trunk or large branches of a tree.
  • In many cases, pruning or removal of large branches stimulates dormant buds into growth. Heavy pruning results in more sprout production.
  • Stress can also stimulate growth of water sprouts but they are usually less vigorous than those stimulated by pruning.
  • Suckers are similar to water sprouts but originate from the roots or the trunk below the graft union.
  • Water sprouts should be removed promptly. Check the tree regularly and simply rub off new shoots as they emerge. Large water sprouts can be pruned off close to the trunk.
  • Allowing water sprouts to remain can ruin the tree's shape and divert energy from the rest of the tree.
  • If necessary, you may choose to train one or more sprouts to replace any missing branches.

Rev. 2020

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