I have a question regarding the proper removal of branches extending from the base of a tree I have. These are much thinner branches that have grown from the base of the tree since spring and I was wondering if I should leave them alone or if possibly I could remove them with pruning shears to help with the overall look of the tree. I would say the branches are probably no thicker than half an inch around at most. Also, how can I prune them to prevent them from growing back later?

Certain species of trees, such as crab-apple, sprout profusely (sucker) from the root stock. This commonly happens on grafted plants so the shoots and foliage on suckers may appear different than the rest of the tree. You can simply prune these off at the junction at the base of the plant anytime they appear. They will grow back and often increase in number with time. Pruning these suckers are just a normal part of maintenance of such trees. There is a product called Sucker-Stopper RTU that contains the active ingredient Ethyl 1-napthaleneacetate, which is a plant growth regulator that suppresses sprout formation. It is sprayed on the base of the cut sprouts immediately after pruning. Sucker Stopper suppresses sprout growth for a year after application. It is not readily available in garden centers, but you may be able to buy it online if you search for Monterey Sucker-Stopper RTU.

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