Inhibition of plant growth by roots and trunk in ground?

Asked June 21, 2018, 9:09 AM EDT

Dear H&GIC, In Fall 2016, I cut down an old, unhealthy cherry tree and left the stump and roots in the ground. I planted four Japanese white birch trees bare root saplings. Please see attached pictures. The birch that is healthiest and growing well did start out as the largest and healthiest looking tree. It is also furthest away from the old stump. The other three birches are doing worse in what looks like a dose response associated with distance from the old stump. The one closest is likely not going to live. It did not produce many leaves this year. The next two a little further away (4-5 feet) from old trunk are not great, but have a full set of leaves that are quite small. Is there inhibition of birch tree growth by old roots and trunk from a cherry tree or from a chemical still present in the ground from leaves that fell around tree?

Howard County Maryland

5 Responses

The problem isn't related to the old stump.

These trees do not like temperatures over 75 degrees. It would seem they are struggling with our weather conditions. The largest tree may simply be more able to tolerate adverse conditions longer than the others. They also need constantly moist soil which isn't a problem this year!--but usually is because we have a summer or fall drought. Here is information about Japanese white birch:

This page also covers various other conditions one doesn't usually think of that can impact trees:


Dear ECN,

Thank you for your response. I believe we bought Japanese birches b/c they might be able to survive here vs. white paper birch that I am fond of from New England. Guess we are going to struggle with these.

Can you recommend a white birch that we can grow in Howard County? I see a couple houses in the area that have mature birches with grayish white bark.


River birch is native to Maryland, and there are some cultivars available that have whiter bark (for a river birch). They will never be as white as a New England birch, but have beautiful colorful bark. They are best bet for Maryland.


Thanks ECN. We have several river birches on our property and they thrive!

Have a good summer, sincerely, EFO.