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Apical Bud vs. Axillary Bud: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 21, 2023
Apical buds are located at the tips of stems, driving vertical growth, while axillary buds form at leaf axils and can develop into branches or flowers.

Key Differences

The apical bud, situated at the tip of a plant stem, is responsible for the plant's vertical growth and elongation. It contains meristematic cells that promote upward growth. The axillary bud, found at the junction of the stem and leaf (the axil), has the potential to grow into a lateral branch, flower, or sometimes a thorn.
Apical buds exhibit apical dominance, where they suppress the growth of axillary buds to prioritize the plant's vertical growth. This dominance is regulated by hormones like auxins produced by the apical bud. Axillary buds, in contrast, may remain dormant until the apical dominance is reduced, after which they can grow and diversify the plant's structure.
In pruning or pinching practices, the removal of the apical bud stimulates the growth of axillary buds, leading to a bushier plant appearance. This technique leverages the balance between the apical and axillary buds to shape plant growth. Axillary buds, when activated, contribute to the branching pattern of the plant, enhancing its spread and volume.
The apical bud's role in dictating the direction and extent of a plant's growth is vital in determining the plant's overall shape and height. In contrast, the axillary bud's potential to develop into various structures, including branches or flowers, adds to the plant's complexity and reproductive capacity.

Comparison Chart


At the tip of plant stems
At the junction of stem and leaf

Growth Contribution

Vertical growth and elongation
Lateral branches, flowers, or thorns


Exhibits apical dominance
Subject to suppression by apical buds

Hormonal Influence

Produces auxins for upward growth
Growth activated when auxin diminishes

Pruning Response

Removal leads to axillary bud growth
Activated and grows upon apical bud removal

Apical Bud and Axillary Bud Definitions

Apical Bud

Apical bud produces hormones for stem elongation.
The health of the apical bud affects the plant's upward growth.

Axillary Bud

Axillary bud has the potential to form lateral branches.
When a plant's apical bud is cut, the axillary bud grows outwards.

Apical Bud

Apical bud is responsible for vertical plant growth.
Trimming the apical bud can stop a plant from growing taller.

Axillary Bud

Axillary bud can develop into diverse plant structures.
An axillary bud may bloom into a flower in spring.

Apical Bud

Apical bud exhibits apical dominance in plants.
The apical bud's dominance suppresses lateral branch growth.

Axillary Bud

Axillary bud contributes to the plant's bushy appearance.
Pruning activates the axillary bud, making the plant fuller.

Apical Bud

Apical bud is the primary growing point at a plant's stem tip.
The apical bud's growth determines the height of a tree.

Axillary Bud

Axillary bud is often dormant due to apical dominance.
Axillary buds may remain inactive until the apical bud is removed.

Apical Bud

Apical bud leads the development of new plant tissue.
The apical bud's activity dictates the plant's growth direction.

Axillary Bud

Axillary bud is located at the base of a leaf stem.
Axillary buds can turn into flowers or new branches.


What role does the apical bud play in plants?

It drives vertical growth and suppresses lateral growth.

Can apical buds affect the growth of axillary buds?

Yes, through apical dominance, they suppress axillary buds.

What happens when an apical bud is removed?

Axillary buds get activated and start growing.

How do apical buds influence plant height?

They determine how tall a plant will grow.

Do axillary buds contribute to plant width?

Yes, they lead to lateral growth, increasing plant width.

What is an apical bud?

It's the main growth point at the top of a plant stem.

Is the apical bud always active?

Yes, unless it's removed or damaged.

What is an axillary bud?

A bud located at the point where the leaf joins the stem.

Are axillary buds always active?

No, they often remain dormant due to apical dominance.

What hormones do apical buds produce?

They produce auxins for vertical growth.

Can all plants form axillary buds?

Most plants have axillary buds, but their development varies.

Do axillary buds produce hormones?

Not primarily, but they respond to hormonal changes.

Can axillary buds turn into flowers?

Yes, depending on the plant species.

Can axillary buds become dominant?

Yes, especially when the apical bud is removed or damaged.

Is the growth of axillary buds always desirable?

It depends on the desired shape and size of the plant.

What can axillary buds develop into?

They can become branches, flowers, or sometimes thorns.

How does pruning affect axillary buds?

Pruning can stimulate their growth.

Why do gardeners often remove apical buds?

To encourage a bushier, fuller plant growth.

What's the relationship between apical and axillary buds?

Apical buds dominate and control the growth of axillary buds.

Do apical buds contribute to fruit production?

Indirectly, by leading the plant's growth direction.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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