European Hornbeam not leafing out

So I have this Hornbeam. I ve had it for a couple of years and it was always very vigorous. This early spring I repotted it, buts have swollen, but it is not leafing out. Every othe hornbeam is thriving in leaves an almost hardend off, but this one wont even open a bud. Im getting nervous about it and preparing myself for the worst. Its about 18y old and I really like it.

At the very least I want to learn from it. What happend to it?
Repot to early? one night of late frost? place it to much in de open space catching wind and cold after the repot? Did I demolish the Shin? Took too many roots off?

  1. Anyone who thinks that it might come to life?
  2. What would be the best way to go about finding out what has happend to it?

This is a picture, Pre-repotting on 16th of March. Buds have show more swell since…


Yes, probably the one night of frost with tree being set a little further out than the other.
Iff the buds are still swelling and scratch test ok, then it would be very proper balance of water and oxygen.


Have you got any close up photos of the buds as they are now?

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I have had this happen, with two separate trees and both were over aggressive root reductions. One never pushed and the other is still limping along a year later. Balance of water an oxygen is all you can do. Depending on your zone and if you have a heat mat it might be worth using (depending on your current air temps).

Are the buds still hydrated or are the unopened but dried up? Can you add a close up pic of them?


Thanks for your replies. Scratch test still shows green.

Here are some pictures of the buds today.

looks promising but ultimately its up to the tree at this point. If it does push, I would anticipate branch die back but. Definitely go hands off, allow whatever foliage that does come to start making new roots. good luck

I am less optimistic, hornbeams that have buds pushing show these green lines on the newly exposed parts I don’t see them. Also the twigs start to look shrivelled.

What happened I don’t know and I abuse a lot of young hornbeam but so far successful. More information like pictures of the repot and in the case of exposure to frost temperatures.

How do you have so much weeds / moss on a freshly repotted tree?

I hear what your saying. The picture is taken just before I started repotting it.

I’m totally in the dark. I have many trees and hardly any of em die. Especially hornbeams seem to be very forgiving, but this time….

Have you considered that the damage was done before the repot? I lost a tree due to staying too wet over winter before a repot. What did the rootball look like when you repotted it?

I remember Ryan said you need to maintain sheens in hornbeams Maybe you’re lucky with your other hornbeams and this one not so lucky. Sorry. Hate loosing beloved trees

Pot not deep enough for a hornbeam

I agree the twigs are looking a little shriveled as if they are drying out. No real sign of frost damage on the buds. Do the buds look and feel dry?. Do the lower and inner branches have a similar appearance to the twigs in the photos?
I wouldn’t give up on the tree yet. Look backwards towards the trunk, can you see the start of any new buds forming? most likely in the crotches?

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Has been in this pot for years, thriving.

If your buds are swelling, then the tree is still alive.

To know if the tree is alive or dead, you can try peeling off the bark and see if the cambial layer is green.

Sometimes trees are late to leaf out and some trees lag behind substantially.

I still have a hornbeam that has just begin to bud break and others have been in full leaf for six weeks. This year I put it in a big growing pot.

There are a number of variables and all the ones you describe can hurt the tree.

See what the tissues look like underneath the bark and that will tell you if it’s alive or gone.

I think your tree is just taking time.

I have a Zelkova that does not come to leaf until June.
That one is in the ground and the roots being colder may be a reason why it is always so late.

Hopefully your tree will come around and respond well to your previous root treatment.

Good luck,


We should really stop recommending scratching the bark. If the tree isn’t dead it will create a wound that will do no good for the tree. At best it will be a minor scar at worst an entry point for pathogens further decreasing the odds for recovery.

I agree but for it to not “be a thing” there has to be alternative way to confirm if the tree is still alive/at least still transporting water. Is there an alternative way to indicate so?

I like to find a small branch that is not critical to the design and either cut it or break it to check for green.

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Patience, I might gently test flexibility as dead twigs become brittle quickly but in general I just wait and observe. Twigs and buds shrivel, deciduous bark changes colour and texture, and if it didn’t leaf out by mid summer it is most likely dead. But I would always decide on a combination of cues.