River birch – Dropping Leaves

Q: We have a birch tree in the front yard which I think has exceeded its water resources. I have to rake every other week to prevent the brown dry leaves that fall in that period from blowing into the neighbor’s yard.

I have a drip hose under the mulch that I now turn on twice a week until water starts running down the driveway (about 30 minutes – 1 hour watering).

Should I remove it?

A: River birches typically lose leaves in July due to heat and water stress. Yours looks pretty healthy to me. The tree would lose fewer leaves if you extended the mulched area out to the ends of the branches and put more soaker hose out there where the roots are.

The name “river birch” indicates the environment this tree loves: moist riverbanks. When the soil around its roots gets dry, the tree quickly shows its unhappiness by dropping leaves. I see plenty of healthy river birches in full sunshine but I also see many which respond like yours every summer. The good news is that early leaf drop never seems to hurt a birch permanently.

Right now, the bermudagrass is stealing most rainfall and the soaker hose is putting water at the base of the tree where there are few roots to absorb it.

I see no reason to remove the tree.

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