River Birch not good for hosta?

dublinbay z6 (KS)September 30, 2012

I remember some earlier posts about certain trees not being good for hostas, but don't remember if river birch were included in that category.

The reason I ask is that about 5-7 years ago, my hosta lost their Sycamore tree shade. With too much sunshine (burning up the hosta!), I gave away several to a neighbor who has never done much for them except plant them in light shade and water occasionally (but not very often). In the meantime, I planted a clump of River Birch to provide some of the necessary shade the missing Sycamore tree used to provide. The River Birch are tall enough now that they provide shade from about noon to nightfall.

So what is the problem? My hosta (which I had had for years before the tree switch) just aren't doing well. I thought it was the shock of all that sun after the Sycamore was taken. But that was over 5 years ago. Since they get more sun in general (morning sun) than they used to, I assumed the sun was the problem. (By the way, Kansas sun is brutal in July and August, with temps over 100 on most days.) However, a few weeks ago, I visited the neighbor's garden and the hosta I gave her are big and thriving. It was quite a shock to me to see how well hers were doing compared to mine which look like they will hardly survive by the end of the summer. And mine get watered--hers don't.

So are the River Birch part of the problem? Several of the hosta are within 3-5 ft of the birch--and those hosta look the worst--really pathetic, if you want to know the truth.

Don't remember the names of the older hosta, but they were fairly common hosta at the time. A couple are the Venus/Aphrodite type with the later and larger white blooms--just surviving in my yard and thriving in my neighbor's. There is a Gold Standard in there also.

Any thoughts on what the problem could be?


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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

So are the River Birch part of the problem?

==>> they are ALL THE PROBLEM...

extremely shallow rooted.. fierce competitors.. and thugs ..

i doubt you could water enough to offset these beasts ...

you have to move your hosta ...


    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:00AM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Kate, I would suggest you Google "river birch roots." It will show you older posts from GardenWeb, and additional information that looks informative.

I have an average city lot, and it took me a long time to come to the conclusion that my trees are ruining my garden! I have maple trees and birch trees. I am limited by city "rules" as to what I can do with these trees, so I am now trying out different strategies. I leave many of my hostas in pots and this winter will be the first time I will be burying hosta pots in the soil (wish me luck!). I am also considering having larger buried pots permanently in my garden. It has been very discouraging to see my plants get smaller, not bigger.

This year I planted a few undulata univittata around one of my birch trees. All three show greening up and one is so much smaller and almost totally green! I never ever had that happen before I planted them there.

So I understand that birch trees have shallow roots. I would find out if this applies to river birch as well. If so, then that just may be the problem.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:16AM
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I have a birch with white bark. Was here when we bought the place. A few years ago, I piled some dirt around it and made a small bed. Stuck two or three hosta in there along with some Shasta daisy & other stuff. The daisies got along just fine but nothing else did. They managed but never thrived & sure didn't grow much, if any. I remember being shocked at how fast the new soil filled up with tree roots.

I would give serious thought to removing the river birch...Is it anywhere near your sewer line???...and replacing with a tap-rooted tree. Personally, I would plant a pecan tree. Nice shade, medium growth rate plus getting a harvest in the fall.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 7:12AM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

Thank you all for the advice. Guess I'll have to move my hosta to the west side of the house--which is actually a good place for them to grow, but I've been avoiding doing that because I rarely go over to the west side of the house and therefore will rarely even see my hosta. At least they will be healthy.

Don't want to get rid of my river birch clump--way too attractive and casts just the right amount of light shade late in the afternoon on one of the rose beds that enjoys a break after all day in the hot sun. I do have a few mums and daylilies growing near the river birch now--guess I'll have to think more along that line.

Thanks again for confirming my suspicions.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:19PM
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