Yellow leaves on River Birch

greatlakesmower(5)July 16, 2007

During dry summers, the leaves on my birches turn yellow and drop long before the fall. To prevent that from happening, I usually place a hose under the tree and run the water slowly for about an hour to give the tree water. This year, however, that does not seem to work.

Over a period of the past two days, two of my birches have turned almost completely yellow and are about to drop all the leaves despite my watering.

Am I not watering the trees correctly? We had a hot spell last week (few days over 90), but most of the summer has not been that hot.

I live in Southeast Michigan and the three birches are located at the end of the property next to a drainage ditch that is usually dry unless we get an inch or more of rain.


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You did not say how long your Birch trees have been growing on the property.

If they are well established, you most likely are not considering how wide spreading birch root systems are.

If you are putting a hose on the tree, that would not provide the needed water as quickly as the trees need.

It would rather be creating a situation where the area around the hose, or where ever gravity draws the water, is watered enough to become deep watered, but the trees wide spreading roots could still remain dry. Additionally very few of the roots will benefit from the deeper soil moisture.

Birch roots grow to the depth of the first foot or two of the soil, and they can spread across areas as wide as two, three, or more times farther than the birch's canopy spreads.

It would be better to use a sprinkler system that is designed to broadcast the water; not only around the base of the trees, but also around the extended surface area where the trees roots may have spread.

Another thing you might need to adjust is how soon you take note that the trees need watering. Do you watch and water at the very first signs of stress the trees show; or do you only jump into action, trying to respond when you see yellow leaves on the tree with some being shed?

If you can respond to your trees need for help, before their damage results in the trees going into a kind of shock, then they should bounce back much more quickly.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 11:42AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i am in SE MI .... we are in severe drought ... plus unGodly heat ....

your tree is stressed.. as are all mine ....

any water is better than no water ... broadcast it if you can as noted above ....

expect to see damage all over the neighborhood ... i spent 5 hours yesterday watering conifers and trees.. and am watering 24/7 on the hosta ...

if we dont get rain soon ... i fear big losses ...

most established [not planted this year trees] ... compensate for the lack of water by shedding excess leaves ... if you think of all the millions of miles of untended trees across the country .. and how they all deal with it.. they will be fine 99% of the time. ...

your only problem is that on your little lot ... it looks bad ...

just water the lawn .. and the trees will be happy .. a good soaking rain will really help ...

good luck


PS: do NOT EVEN THINK OF FERTILIZER IN ANY SENSE >.... trees just don't need it.. and it might do more harm than good ....

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 12:01PM
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what are your reasonings for not using fertilizers on trees? im not disagreeing, but i am interested

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 12:22PM
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Water. I have one that's been in the ground 6 months.
It's growing like a weed, but if I let the watering slide for
a few days, I get a few yellow leaves.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 11:41PM
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This could be a sign of chlorosis. If you have mulch aroung the tree, move it around so you have bare ground showing. Spread 2 cups HOLLYTONE evenly around and water lightly. This has worked for me and others in clay/Z5 before. The HOLLYTONE allows the tree to feed on the nutrients in the soil. I'm no expert, but it works for us.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 12:03AM
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"what are your reasonings for not using fertilizers on trees?"

Trees in general are adapted to growing in soils which are naturally low in nutrients. Adding extra nutrients, particularly during drought conditions, can adversely affect the tree's ability to take up water, and can also result in toxicity caused by higher concentrations of nutrients than they are able to cope with.

That applies to 'hollytone' too.

Never add fertiliser unless a soil test indicates a particular deficiency.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 6:38AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

yeah .. what resin said.. lol ....

its just a waste of money .... trees/conifers grow in cracks in pavement.. on top of mountains .. in deserts ... you name it, they grow there ... they barely need soil .. they barely need water ... and they dont need food ... all the trouble starts when we dig them up .. transplant them .. and start luvin them to death ....

they just don't need all that 'momma lovin' ...

a soil test is under 10 bucks and can be provided through the soil conservation district or Co. extension office ... look in the white pages under state gvmt or US [soil cons. dist] ...

a stressed plant turns yellow.. it could be soil deficiency or water ... if you take a man dying of thirst and jam him full of vitamins ... it wont help his thirst ... that is the simplest way to explain it .. IMHO ... and jamming him full of food/vitamins might kill him.. if he doesnt get rehydrated first ...


    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 8:09AM
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Hey, Folks-- I've just planted 2 river birches in ridiculously hot weather. One has already developed some yellow leaves, and the other has about half of its leaves already curled up and dead. That happened after the first night in the ground!! Should I water the trees extensively every day?? Please help!!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 11:29PM
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My young weeping birch started leaf yellowing. We've had a lot of rain but it probably wasn't soaking in enough. I used my trusty root feeder for a deeper root watering and the tree is doing great. I also gave it an application of Mycorrhizal and a biostimulant hoping this will give it strength.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 6:57PM
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The first three years after planting my river birch it looked awesome. It did have scales of which I treated. Last year the leaves came in palish green/yellow. I went to a nursery and they said it is low on iron. I followed their instruction, fed it iron and the leaves remained yellow all summer. This spring we fed the tree with iron and again the leaves are palish green/yellow and the leaf growth is sparse. Is it time to chop it down? I don't know what else to do.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 1:03AM
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