The Q&A Archives: Why Birch May Fail to Thrive

Question: I have a single stem white birch which is about 2 1/2 inches in caliper. It has never done very well, each year it has more dead branches then before. A nursery fertilizes and sprays it, but it hasn't improved. I do not see any pests or deceased leaves. Any thoughts? Debi Affintio Gibsonia, PA

Answer: Sorry to hear your birch isn't doing well. Birches have shallow root systems which make them succeptible to drought. They are also poor competitors for soil nutrients if there are other vigorous trees or shrubs nearby. They tolerate no more than partial shade, prefering full sun. Birches establish most readily from young nursery stock, no more than 3'-6' tall, so if yours was larger than that when planted in your yard, it probably needs more time and TLC to perform well. Incorrect planting methods, (i.e. the planting hole was not much bigger than the root ball, or if roots were damaged, etc.) could be the cause. Ask the nursery that cares for your tree if they have noticed any pests or disease. If they are real professionals, they should not be spraying the tree without signs of pests. Make sure the tree gets plenty of water, and mulch with rich compost. Hope this helps!

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