The Q&A Archives: Birch Tree Decline

Question: I bought and planted an ornamental weeping birch tree in late spring last year. The tree did well the first year, but this spring the buds that formed were green inside, but didn't open. What happened? Is the tree dead?

Answer: Insufficient water may have been a factor. Any newly planted tree needs attentive watering during dry spells for the first few years, in addition to regular watering the entire first season. Another possibility is that a late frost nipped the buds and the tree will leaf out again in time. If the tree is grafted, there is a chance that the graft is failing. There is also the possibility that there is a pest or disease at work, or that there was some accidental herbicide damage, or salt runoff from a walkway during the winter, or there are constricting support ties on the trunk, or any number of other unusual circumstances. I suggest that you do some detective work, and perhaps consult with the nursery where you bought the tree, to determine the cause of the trouble. In the meantime, make sure to keep the soil moist over the entire root zone, and water deeply when needed rather than providing a light daily sprinkling.

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