Water Sucker or Limb?

HGFzone8October 5, 2012

This Red Navel was planted in the spring. It has good growth. Well except for the leaf miners.

These shoots just game out above the rootstock. Are they new limbs or water shoots?


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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Cut them. They are railroading the energy supplies meant for either root storage or for top growth. Can you step back and show us a picture of the whole tree?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 1:13PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

If you leave them, you're going to end up with a bushier tree. If you prefer to have a more upright tree, trim them away.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:04PM
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water spouts/suckers = limbs

prune them according to how you like your tree to look.

citrus are bushy in nature. humans prune them to look like single trunk trees.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 6:27PM
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Red Navel... Cara Cara in most places; but often sold in Florida as Red Navel. You don't say what rootstock it is on; but if you want to accelerate growth and fruiting, leave the water sprouts; just prune them back to the level of the general canopy.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 7:07PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I remain unconvinced, lol. The removal of water sprouts/suckers is SOP. These are weakly attached branches...they TAKE from rather than give to the tree, much like epicormic branches. Because they are so shallowly attached, they make very poor choices for structural branches.

I thought that I missing something that was unique only to citrus, so did some prowling around the internet. I couldn't find any indication that suckers are acceptable, unless the top is killed by some event.

But that's me! :-)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 9:22PM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

I have an older navel orange tree that sends out a lot of suckers/water sprouts from below the original graft(the suckers are very thorny). I've been letting them grow and using them to practice t-budding on...the main tree isn't creating too many new branches although it blooms and bears fruit each year. But I've wondered just how much energy they are taking away from the main tree. Could they be keeping the tree from flushing regularly, or is it normal from an old (30+) citrus tree to not grow many new branches.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:27PM
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these are not suckers... meaning they come from the root, not from above the graft. They are what is commonly called water sprouts; if I am an idealist, I cut them off, as Rhizo suggests; if I am trying to accelerate the growth and fruiting of the tree, I leave them, as they photosynthesize and create energy for the plant. As with any water sprout, if you prune them back to the level of the general canopy, they will revert to typical growth.

So the question is, are you an idealist or a realist?

It's kinda like me, I am a generalist; that means I know less and less about more and more things until I ultimately arrive at knowing nothing about everything.

The opposite... a specialist, a person who knows more and more about fewer and fewer things, until they ultimately arrive at knowing everything... about nothing.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 11:00PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

That generalist and realist 'thing' is meaningless, you know. ;-)

Sprouts are sprouts are sprouts. Suckers are simply basal sprouts, those that appear lowest on the trunk. They can occur on grafted material or non-grafted. Water sprouts emerge higher on the trunk. Both are aggressive growers because they use photosynthates to promote their own growth, and not for the good of the tree body as a whole. These sprouts are well known to be more insect and disease attractive, which is one more reason why orchardists know to get after them right away.

The attached article is a good one. This particular topic is discussed in the sections titled " What to Prune" and "How to Prune".

About the only good thing about water sprouts that I can think of is that they can be used for really good scion wood for top working. either for rejuvenation purposes or to introduce pollinizers for different kinds of fruit trees.

Here is a link that might be useful: An interesting read

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:30AM
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The idea of automatically taking out water sprouts....which originate from above the bud union, is old school nonsense (I was going to use a harsher word, but deferred to rhizo's softer gender). If you want to accelerate growth and fruiting, you leave the water sprouts; they need to be pruned back to the level of the general canopy; and when that is done, they will revert to traditional growth... ergo more shoots, more leaves, more photosynthesis and faster development of the plant. In some varieties, for esthetic reasons you might want to take out watershoots; but in Meyers for certain, and in most other citrus, if your goal is to produce fruit, LEAVE the water sprouts, with the pruning back to canopy level caution.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 8:24PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

We're not soft, John. As I think you've encountered :-) We can kick it around with the "big boys". Your comment comes across as rude and belittling, and I am sure you're not meaning that. You can call it BS if you want, but perhaps are more erudite adjective might be "passe"? Rhizo, I asked Tom Shea at UCR Extension this very question during my class, as I have an unknown, very, very interesting lemon tree that tends to send up wild and crazy water shoots, especially now that I have rescued it. He told me they will turn into branches, and depending upon where they are, if they complement the canopy (i.e., aren't going to crowd existing branches, cross another branch, etc.), it's perfectly fine to leave them. I have left mine on a couple of trees (lemon, Page mandarin and my Cara Cara), and so far, I don't see that they appear weaker at the trunk union than other branches. The data you provided is 4 years old. Perhaps some of the philosophy has changed? I will double check with Tom and some of my current literature.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 9:20PM
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on older, thicker trunks water sprouts might be weakly attached. but from my experience on younger trees the water sprouts are as strong as regular branches.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 10:00PM
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That was an interesting discussion. Thanks everyone for the replies.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 7:19AM
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