KC Gardens

River Birch with no leaves on top


Hello, we live near Columbus, Nebraska. We planted a three-trunk river birch tree last fall 2012. It only leafed out this spring on the bottom portion. The top branches don’t have any leaves, but they are pliable and appear to have buds. The tree is about 12 feet tall. Not even 1/4 of the tree has leaves. Is it salvageable? Will it recover? Thank you. - Kathleen -


  1. 10 months ago

    Hello, Kathleen. No growth on the top would suggest a problem with the root structure, in that the tree did not get sufficiently established to support the top growth. As the branches are pliable, I would check some of the buds to see if they are green and plump inside. If they are dry, it could be that a weather event killed the buds (late spring freeze, dessicating winds, or, again, they did not receive adequate moisture after planting, or too much.

    It would be helpful to know how the tree was planted, if it was balled and burlapped, or container grown, and what kind of care it received after planting.

    If the buds are dead, I might choose to start over. It will grow from the live portion, but you would need to due some heavy pruning, and be very patient. Another consideration would be if the tree has a guarantee or not.

    When we purchase plants, we never know exactly what conditions they have been subjected to before we get them home. Sometimes a particular plant just doesn’t thrive.

    Hope this helps. Good luck.

    Carole Johnson County Extension Master Gardener

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