Does my tree have suckers?

meanmon13(9)October 20, 2012

Hello all,

I have an orange tree that I bought from Sea World in Orlando,FL in May 2006. It came in a tall slender box and consisted of a four small branches sticking out of a small square plastic pot. The branches ranged from 2 inches tall to about 3 inches tall. That was nearly 7 years ago. Now the the tree is about 5 feet tall and 3 feet in circumference. I've been watering it regularly and it gets direct sunlight in the morning and evening and is shaded about half of the day. I've read online how to take care of orange trees and have tried to follow the advice. The tree is potted. Its soil is about a year old.. when I re-potted it I put a few inches of river rock on the bottom and used Miracle Grow Organic soil for garden plants and fruit trees. I fertilize my tree with miracle grow and citrus tree fertilizer.

I live in Brevard County Florida but I just moved here from South Carolina (I moved here in January 2012). When I lived in SC I always took the tree inside before first frost and didn't move it outside until after the last frost. It stayed outside in a sunny spot all summer... but now I'm planning on having it live on my porch all year around since i live in south-central Florida.

The tree has never bloomed or fruited for me but I've always thought that was because it was immature. Well, I was reading online that orange trees won't grow fruit if it has suckers. I have read that suckers are defined as branches that grow below the graft line. I've read many descriptions of the graft line but I cannot seem to find it. I'm afraid that my entire tree is one big sucker because it has thorns all over it and some are quite large.

If you guys could please help me and give me some advice it'd be much appreciated and my orange tree and I would be very grateful. Also, my orange tree just recently started having some white splotches on its leaves. I've bought some fungicide/miticide/insecticide that I got from a local nursery.

Here are some picture that should help you help me

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how to post pics on this forum:

well, i can't tell if they're separate trees or not.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 7:54PM
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lol, those pics were that giant when i opened them in my browser. :p

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 7:56PM
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typo, i meant they weren't that giant.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 7:57PM
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Thank you for embedding those images for me. I didn't know the forum allowed HTML. I'm on my phone right now otherwise I'd embed the others. I'll respond tmw with the rest embedded.

Sometimes I wonder if my tree is healthy and if I'm taking good enough care of it. I've read that citrus trees will start loosing leaves if somethimg is wrong with it.... I've never had that happen so I've taken that as a sign that I'm not doing to bad. Are you able to tell by those pictures if the tree is healthy or not?

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 11:06AM
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most of your leaves look good. not sure what this is, but looks like insect eggs.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 1:50PM
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Sorry about all the multiple duplicate posts I have no idea how that is happening >.Here are all the images embedded as promised.

If those are insect eggs then hopefully the insecticide i started using will kill them.

Can you tell from the pictures if my tree has suckers or not? Or any reason why it wouldn't be budding and providing fruit?

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 8:33PM
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Suckers have nothing to with the fact that a tree has been grafted, most any tree can develop suckers. Suckers don't normally flower and produce. The parent of the sucker can produce even if the sucker doesn't. I've read the clinical definition of a sucker somewhere here in the forums. I had a plum tree that had a sucker when I purchased the house, I chopped it immediately. Fifteen years later, the tree is still mis-shapen from the sucker.
On the surface, the root system kinda looks like it is strangling itself. If it looks that way underground as well, that could be a cause.
I read that in some fruit a kink in the tap root when it germinates will cause a tree not to fruit.
Eggs usually means trouble is coming, of course it could be a beneficial, but usually not.
You could have two plants in the same hole, which isn't an ideal situation either.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 1:18AM
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the reason why we're so concerned about suckers on this forum is b/c a lot of citrus are grafted. suckers from below the graft are undesirable and pruned off asap since they are usually trifoliate or sour orange rootstock and take energy away from the grafted sweet orange.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 5:10PM
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The roots only do that weird swirly thing at the very top. When I repotted the tree I found that majority of the roots went go straight down and collected at the bottom of the pot which at the time was filled with rocks, so a majority of the roots were surrounded by rocks 0.o. I removed all the rocks from around the roots and placed them in soil. The new pot also has river rocks at the bottom so I don't know if the tree is going to repeat itself.

So, is my tree grafted? and going off what Doglips said if my tree is not grafted but does still have suckers... how do I tell a sucker branch from a non-sucker?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 9:30PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

It is impossible to tell if your tree has been grafted, is growing on its own roots, or if the rootstock has taken over, meanmom. At least, from what we can see. I do not see a graft line anywhere, and with this many main trunks coming up from the roots, it is doubtful it was grafted, or if it was, the scion has died, and the rootstock has taken over. It is also possible one of the trunks is the scion, and the other trunks have sprouted from below the graft, and are rootstock. I see some of the branches have very large thorns, are ALL the branches producing new branches with thorns, or are the thorns just on branches emanating from one of the trunks??

All that being said, I suspect that this may possibly be a seedling orange tree (on it's own roots), which would account for the thorns as well as the late fruiting. It is hard to tell how long it might take for your tree to produce fruit if it is a seedling. Seedling citrus trees can take from 3 to 12 years to fruit. If it is on its own roots, it cannot produce a sucker from the rootstock as there is no rootstock. It has simply sent up multiple shoots. Up to you to keep trying to grow your tree, and see if it will produce for you, and if it does, if the fruit is edible.

Wipe the bugs and eggs off with a towel dampened with rubbing alcohol. Might as well remove all the pests you can see with your eyes, and then treat appropriately.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 9:47PM
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Sorry I wasn't intending to imply that you tree was or wasn't grafted.
Patty, I bow to your knowledge, but I think that you are incorrect saying that a seedling can't have suckers, suckers are really just asexual reproduction. I think the issue here maybe the definition.
The long and short of it is that suckers are not good, grafted or not, they fight and rob the parent plant for soil and light (when they occur next to the main trunk).
As Houston was saying, any branching (suckers or not) that occurs below the graft line has the genetic make up of the rootstock and not the scion. A branch below the graft line will produce undesirable fruit of the rootstock, a sucker will not produce fruit in the short run and will be the same genetic makeup as the rootstock and rob from the parent plant, either way, not good.
If you have some branches that have thorns and others that do not, you most likely have a grafted tree or multiple trees.
If you have a grafted tree, then almost assuredly the branching you see is below the graft line. I don't believe that citrus is ever grafted below the soil line (not positive, Patty?). I have heard that avocados should be grafted below the soil, but a different topic.
A sloppy definition of a sucker is branching from the root structure as opposed to the trunk.
So unless you have twins or two seeds in a hole, I'd guess that you have suckers.
Patty said that you may be waiting 12 years for it to fruit.
So I guess it comes down to how patient are you. If your happy enough with the tree without fruit let it go. If really want fruit now, go to the local nursery and buy a tree with fruit already on it. As soon as you are sure you have a grafted tree, whack the suckers. If it is not grafted, cutting the suckers maybe of little benefit considering that they trunks are all the same size. If you keep it, keep in mind that you may have a dud as far fruit goes.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 2:59AM
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Thank you for all the advice everyone :-) I'm really waaaay to attached to the tree to just replace it. To me it'd be like replacing a dog that you've had for years just because it turned out to have a different personality then you wanted. I'm fine with playing the patient game as I've been waiting already for almost 7 years for its first budding.

ALL of the branches have thorns and the thorns have always started out big (the leaves as well) and as the branch gets older the leaves get smaller and the thorns shrink. The thorns on the trunk are tiny and have almost disappeared.

I wish I had taken pictures when the tree was a sapling but when I purchased it I remember it as being four tiny little shoots sticking out of the soil. Three strong hearty shoots that were maybe 3" to 4" and a fourth that was about 2" tall. I had always explained away the four shoots by thinking that whomever grew these saplings to sell to tourists just put multiple seeds in the a pot to increase the chance of one of them sprouting and their having something to sell. So, if three of the four trunks are suckers they've been suckers the entire life of the tree.

So I guess do you guys recommend I cut off some of those branches and if so which ones?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 3:20PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Doglips, of course seedlings can have suckers sprouting up directly from the roots (although with citrus, they are not commom), that's not what I'm saying in my post. I think the actual question meanmom was after, was whether or not she was having growth emanating from rootstock versus the grafted scion (i.e., rootstock overtaking scion). She called them "suckers", which is a common misinterpretation for those perhaps new to citrus. I think she really is trying to find out if the tree was grafted, and has the rootstock taken over. That may not appear to the be the case based on her photos. Yes, any root of just about any plant can send up a sucker, even citrus (rare). But, the issue at hand, is what is really growing in the pot - is it a tree that is just rootstock, and has the scion died at some time in the past, or is this possibly a seedling orange tree that has several main trunks? I am postulating here that this may, indeed, be a seedling orange tree (a tree planted from an orange seed), that just happens to have several trunks. This could explain why the tree has so many thorns, and why it has not blossomed or produced fruit, yet. Seedling citrus trees are notoriously thorny and slower to flower and fruit. No, the graft line should never be planted below the soil surface, but who knows if that happened with this little tree at this point, it is impossible to tell. It will be up to meanmom to see if she has the patience to wait it out, and see if she ends up with sweet oranges, or something inedible :-)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 5:43PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Meanmom, it does sound to me like you've got at least one seedling tree, and possibly 4 :-) If you had 4 small sprouts in the pot, someone may indeed have planted more than one seed, OR your seed sprouted 4 seedlings (most citrus are polyembryonic, including oranges, which means a seed can produce both zygotic seedlings as well as nuclear seedlings all from one seed that contains many embryos. Some will be cross pollinated hybrids - the zygotic seedlings, and some will be clones of the mother tree - the clonal seedlings). So, I would just wait to see what fruit this tree or multiple trees produces for you. Don't cut any of the trunks down, since you have no idea what this tree/trees are. Wait until your tree sets fruit.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 9:58PM
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Almost all citrus trees sold in nurseries are grown as grafted trees. If your tree has thorns, it may be the rootstock that is growing, or you got a lemon tree that was mislabeled. The root girdling the tree will stunt its growth. Your tree may be happier in a larger pot. The tree you bought may have been aimed at tourists who wouldn't come back to complain later.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 11:17AM
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Anything which grows below the graft-collar should be removed.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 8:43AM
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Patty, I think we are arguing in agreement.
Hopefully without arguing.
To prove that there are no hard feelings I am willing to share your pummelo with you.

I forgot to mention that trees are more prone to create suckers when under stress as well. Which sounds less likely considering it was that way when it was purchased.

I can't tell from pictures what is what is what.

Let us know the findings.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 12:50AM
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