University of Maryland Extension

Water Sprouts

water sprouts from trunk

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. You may choose to train one or more sprouts to replace any missing branches.

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