What Causes a Tree to Only Have Branches on One Side in Falls Church, VA?

A healthy tree will naturally grow branches on both sides, creating a balanced and aesthetically pleasing appearance. What happens when a tree only has branches on one side? Is it normal?  

As one of Falls Church’s highly rated tree services, the G & V Tree Service crew delves deeper into unbalanced tree growth causes. Keep reading to learn about the tree flag phenomenon and tips on correcting unbalanced growth in trees.  

tree only has branches on one side

Reasons Trees Lose Branches on One Side  

Potential reasons your tree has branches on only one side include:  

Strong Winds  

If wind regularly blasts a tree, it can bend branches and eventually kill them. Over time, the tree will resemble a flag in the wind, with all branches pointing to one side due to wind stress and tree branch distribution.  

Fixing the problem may prove challenging because you’ll need to block the wind. Rather than build a wall or another structure to block the wind, consider removing the tree and planting a new one in a different location.  

Cold Winter Temperatures  

Unusually cold winter temperatures can cause trees to dry out, leading to winter desiccation. This occurs in certain areas where extreme dryness kills leaves on the tree’s upwind side, restricting healthy growth.   

The other side of the tree continues growing limbs because it doesn’t experience excessive dryness. Before long, you’ll notice the tree only has branches on one side.  

Girdling Roots  

This occurs when a root strangles the trunk underground, cutting off circulation to one side of the tree. This restriction prevents water and nutrients from reaching the affected side, causing the abnormal growth and death of branches on that side.  

Uneven Sunlight and Tree Branching  

Trees naturally grow toward sources of light to optimize photosynthesis. An imbalance in sunlight exposure can lead to a tree having branches predominantly on one side, especially if the disparity in sunlight is significant and occurs over a prolonged period.   

Pruning and managing stressors helps balance growth and tree health.  


Some experts propose that trees in certain areas release hormones to restrict branch growth on the upwind side of their structure. They suggest continuous pressure prompts the tree to release auxins, resulting in the characteristic flag-like shape of a tree with branches on one side.  

It’s important to note that scientists haven’t definitively identified the exact cause of this behavior. The issue remains complex and warrants further research.  

Trust Your Local Tree Service  

When your trees need attention from dependable tree care experts, G & V Tree Service won’t disappoint. We specialize in large and dangerous tree removal, but our crew has plenty of experience in all tree services, including:  

  • Tree pruning  
  • Cabling and bracing  
  • Storm damage service  
  • Utility tree trimming  

Whether your tree has no leaves or only branches on one side, trust our tree care experts to get to the root cause of the issue and provide sustainable solutions.  

Call G & V Tree Service at (703) 569-2570 to schedule tree service in Falls Church, VA, or nearby.