KC Gardens

River birch - no leaves on some branches


Our River Birch has several branches that did not leaf out this year. The branches are sporadically spaced throughout the tree so not just the top or bottom. Ttree are two other trees within 30 yards. The first is about 20 yards away and is a Mulberrt tree; the second is 30 yards away and is a silver maple which is extremely large. I’m curious if we didn’t water the tree enough last year. We started watering about once a week in July and August. We are located in the north western part of Cass County Missouri. Thank you in advance. - Laura -


  1. 9 months, 1 week ago

    It may be small comfort, but many River Birches declined due to the drought and extreme heat that we had last year. As an example, a neighbor has two river birches, both watered, and one just up and died after the summer.

    River birches have fairly shallow roots, and in a competition for water, your Silver Maple and Mulberry will win the race.

    Even though you watered last year, the intensity of the heat caused plants to transpire faster than the water could be replaced. There is only so much we can do.

    I would prune out the dead limbs, check the trunk carefully to see if there any apparent damage, and water the tree more frequently in dry times. The tree should be mulched under the canopy, as this will conserve moisture.

    To check if you need to water, feel down in the rooting area about an inch. If it feels dry, water deeply with a slow trickle. River birches like even moisture. I would water in winter also when you can.

    Hope this helps.

    Carole Johnson County Extension Master Gardener

Sign in with Facebook to comment.

Copyright 2014 The Kansas City Star.  All  rights  reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten  or redistributed.