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Problem Solver: Water Sprouts Tutorial

In citrus, “Water Sprouts” as they are commonly called, are juvenile adventurous branches that shoot straight up and out of the canopy.  They often have huge thorns and big leaves.  This can be confusing as they often mimic “root suckers” in their growth habit and appearance but there are several vital distinctions to help you identify each type.

Always locate and become familiar with the graft or bud union on the trunk of the tree. This is where the rootstock is grafted to the fruiting wood or scion or varietal.  ANY growth on or below the scar of the graft is a rootstock sucker and should be removed. If left to grow, it steals vitality from the fruit bearing upper part of the tree.  Root suckers will have big leaves and big thorns like a water sprout. Often the leaves are a slightly different color and or shape than the above- the-graft leaves.

Water sprouts originate from above the graft. They can and will bear fruit in time.

The thorns can be pruned off and will not re-grow.  This is a genetic trait to protect the tree from marauding grazing animals. That would be you.  Water sprouts can be pruned at any time to shape and form.  Feel free to head them back or thin them out. Keep in mind they can and will bear fruit in the future, the weight of the fruit will bend and shape them into the rounded citrus form.