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Maintaining healthy, happy birch trees

Q: We have been told that what we thought were weeds in our front lawn are suckers from the roots of white birch trees. We recently removed a damaged birch tree close to this area. Is there any way to know if the suckers are from the removed tree or if we may have damaged another one? Is there any way to control the spread of the suckers without damaging the trees? Your help would be greatly appreciated.

A: It is unusual for birch trees to be sending up suckers, so what you probably have is the residual from the removed tree sending up the sucker growth. Light applications of a broadleaf weed killer used on lawns should kill them without harming the living birch tree's roots. Any herbicide that is available in retail stores labeled for selective control of broadleaf weeds will do the job.

Q: We bought a house last year that has three tall white birch trees. The trees appear to be very healthy and happy because we have catkins everywhere. Starting last fall, I noticed a birch seedling coming up in a different part of my yard and have let it continue to grow because I love these trees. I have been trimming the lower branches to encourage it to grow taller and want to know if I am doing the right thing. At what point or height should I stop trimming and let it do its thing? At what age can I transplant the tree with the least stress? Is it possible to train this sapling to weep?

A: The younger it is, the easier it will be on the tree and the mover. I would suggest waiting until late fall or early winter to do the moving. As for trimming, I have a rule of thumb with my birch trees that says any branch that interferes with my mowing gets trimmed. The longer you leave branches on the tree, the faster the trunk will thicken. Give it another year before allowing it to "do its own thing." If it is going to weep, it will do so on its own, so all your clever maneuvering with pruning won't achieve that weeping effect. Sorry.

Q: My gerbera daisies started out beautifully with lots of gorgeous blooms. However, there are no more blooms shooting up. The green of the plants is lush and very healthy. Any idea on what to do to get more blooms? I do deadhead when the blooms are spent.

A: You have done everything you needed to do, so be patient! They will bloom when they are good and ready!

To contact Ron Smith for answers to your questions, write to Ron Smith, NDSU Department of Plant Sciences, Dept. 7670, Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 or e-mail