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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - August 16, 2009

From: Brick, NJ
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Compost and Mulch, Pruning, Transplants, Trees
Title: Yellowing leaves on non-native weeping birch in Brick NJ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a young weeping birch-planted in spring-we water regularly, it gets good sun-and rain has been perfect--the leaves get yellow--and now they are a lot! Whats the matter? I love my little tree.I always thought yellow meant too much water? Little tiny leaves turning yellow and a lot of them--please help.

ANSWER:

Betula pendula is native to Africa, temperate Asia and Europe. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are focused on the care, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. We have no expertise in this plant, nor would it be in our Native Plant Database, but we can try to point you in the right direction. The first thing that comes to mind when yellow leaves are mentioned is chlorosis, which is a lack of iron, usually, that the plant should be getting from the soil. If it is not getting trace elements in the amount it should, the plant may be standing in soil that does not have good drainage. If you have a lot of clay in your soil, and if water stands on the surface after you water, drainage is probably the problem. You can begin to address the drainage problem by working compost into the soil around the roots, and avoid over-watering. The second possibility is that the European birch does not appreciate excessive summer heat, and it turns yellow in autumn. There is the possibility that your tree, so recently planted, is suffering from transplant shock, both from poor drainage in the soil and from summer heat.  If you consider transplant shock a possibility, you can trim off 1/4 to 1/3 of the upper portion of the tree, to reduce the strains on the circulatory system of the tree, and see if it continues to improve. For more information, see this website from the Department of Horticulture at the University of Connecticut, Betula pendula

 

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