What Causes a Tree to Only Have Branches on One Side?

Is it normal when a tree only has branches on one side? In this post, Georgia Tree Company, specialists in emergency tree removal in Alpharetta, discuss this phenomenon and how you should respond. 

Why Does This Happen?

Trees naturally grow branches on either side of their trunk to stay balanced. While the branches aren’t always exactly symmetrical, they will look relatively even. It is, therefore, disconcerting when you see dead branches on one side of the tree, leading to questions like can dead trees grow leaves in certain conditions. Before you panic, however, there are several things to consider.

Before you panic, however, there are several things to consider. Many things can cause this issue, so we recommend calling in an arborist to check trees for hazards. Otherwise, here are some of the reasons your tree only has branches on one side.

Reasons for Trees to Lose Branches on One Side

Do any of the following apply in your case? If not, call us for a full risk evaluation. 

Strong Winds

Does wind blast the tree regularly? Over time, this will bend branches and, eventually, could kill them. The tree then looks like a flag when the wind blows because the branches all point to one side. 

Fixing this problem is difficult because you need to cut off the wind. As we often use trees as windbreaks, you’ll need to consider putting up a wall or some sort of building. It might be easier to remove the tree and plant a new one somewhere else. 

Winter Desiccation

This condition occurs due to drier weather in winter. It’s more common in some areas than others and occurs because the tree dries out on one side. Eventually, the dry side stops growing branches, but the other side continues as normal. 

The main difference between this and the first condition is that the branches will die off more quickly. Additional watering can correct this issue, but you should watch the tree for signs of overbalancing. 


Some arborists attribute the condition to the release of auxins. These are hormones that inhibit branch growth. The reason for this is, however, a particular stressor, usually wind damage or desiccation. Finding and dealing with the stressor is the only way to fix this issue.

Pests and Disease

The chances of pests being the cause is slim unless the tree is on a border or up against a fence. Signs of pest damage are easy to spot and simple to treat. 

Diseases like verticillium wilt and phytophthora root rot may cause this problem and need professional treatment.

Root Damage

Girdling root is a problem that occurs when a root starts to strangle the trunk underground. The root cuts off circulation on one side, resulting in the tree looking sick or dying. An arborist may cut away the offensive root. 

Contact Us for Expert Advice

The best way to determine why your tree only has branches on one side is to call in an arborist. If you’re grappling with the question of how to bring a tree back to life, contact Georgia Tree Company at 404-990-0010 to schedule a consultation and arrange emergency tree care.

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