Managing cottonwood suckers

Asked May 11, 2020, 10:59 PM EDT

Hi there, We have a very large cottonwood in our backyard that we had removed last October (it's not actually gone, since the stump is so large they had to leave it at about 12 feet high). The root system is still sending up suckers, and it's challenging to keep up with removal. The arborist said it may take a few years before the stump runs out of energy to sucker. I'm managing the growth using a string trimmer, but my wife was wondering about applying a weed killer. She found this article that recommended an herbicide with 2,4-D, and she found a product at Home Depot with that ingredient: We had tried to use sucker stopper in the past, which was a recommendation from your gardeners, but that was very time consuming. Would you recommend using an herbicide spray like this? We don't have pets, and we'd keep our 3-year-old away from the area, but there are many neighborhood cats, birds and squirrels in our yard, as well as the occasional raccoon and possum. We're not near any bodies of water, but I still worry about run-off of this herbicide. Also, the article mentions putting poison on the top of the stump. Not that I like the idea of climbing up a giant ladder to apply poison, but do you think it is too late to do so? Thank you! Sheila

Multnomah County Oregon

3 Responses

Suckers will keep coming back for at least a couple of years from a large cottonweed tree that was cut down.

Spraying the suckers with an herbicide like 2,4-D is a reasonable approach. The risks to kids, water, and wildlife are minimal when applied according to the label instructions.

If the instructions on the herbicide package describe stump treatment, that is another option if you feel safe doing that on a ladder. If there are sprouts coming from the tree trunk, then it is still alive and this tactic could work. If there are only suckers coming from the ground, then I would not treat the stump at this time.

Good luck.

Thanks! I was thinking of using a hose-sprayer application so that I don't miss any suckers, but I'm guessing the area will then be void of plant life (it's pretty much just weeds). I don't want new weeds to take over. Do we need to be ready to put down grass seed? In which case should I use a "weed and feed" vs. just the weed killer?

I've also seen spot-treatment bottles vs. hose sprayers, if you think that would be just as effective.

Here's a picture of the stump. Some of the roots we've dug up have come as far as the patio.

Thanks again!

I would spot treat the suckers that appear. With 2-4,D, it won't harm the grass.