Birch Care

Growing Birch

Birches are charming trees that provide unique color and texture in a yard or landscape and make excellent specimen plantings. Mature trees can reach up to 40 feet tall. The white exfoliating bark is the standout feature of these trees, but many varieties also put on a spectacular fall foliage display. Green leaves turn vibrant yellow in the fall, depending on the cultivar. Spring catkin flowers are not very showy but introduce color and texture. 

Birch trees are fast-growing, deciduous, and part of the Betula genus. These trees grow in zones 2 through 7 and are native to North America, Europe, and Asia.


Planting Birch Tree

Birch trees prefer full to partial sun, ideally morning sun and afternoon shade. Plant them in a moist, sandy, or loamy soil that promotes drainage and has a neutral to acidic pH. Situate the tree so it is clear of buildings, and utility lines, and consider the mature size when choosing a planting location.

Watering Birch Tree

Birch trees prefer constant dampness and do well in naturally wet areas. Young trees need consistent moisture for the first growing season. Trees planted in marsh or wetland areas seldom need additional water, but dry sites will require regular monitoring and irrigation. A slow, deep watering that saturates the soil up to 18 inches deep is sufficient. Apply an organic mulch around the base of the tree to retain moisture.

Fertilizing Birch Tree

Fertilization is typically unnecessary for Birch trees, especially when grown in rich soil with high organic content. In poor soil, fertilizer can be beneficial and may help the trees thrive. Use a balanced fertilizer intended for trees. Apply a slow-release product in early spring, which will supply a gentle level of nutrients through the growing season. Avoid fertilizing in late summer and early fall, which can promote a late flush vulnerable to frost.


Pruning Birch Tree

Prune Birch trees when they are dormant in early winter. Shape the tree to maintain a pleasing form, and do not remove more than 25% of the canopy. Remove dead or damaged growth at any time. Avoid pruning the tree between May 1 and August 1 when female birch borers are active and attracted to open cuts.

Caring For Birch Tree in Pots

Large Birch trees are better suited as landscape plants, but some small varieties make excellent potted plants. Dwarf varieties, such as Cesky Gold® Dwarf Birch, may be able to stay in a pot indefinitely, but non-dwarf cultivars will eventually need to be planted in the ground. 

Select a large container with drainage. Use rich, acidic soil that is moist and well-drained. Keep the soil damp and water when the top few inches of potting mix are dry.


Winter Care For Birch Tree

Birch trees grown in dry climates need a deep watering in the fall before winter. Trees in damp areas or climates that receive winter rainfall do not require additional water. A fresh layer of mulch will retain moisture and protect the roots from chilly temperatures. Wrap the lower trunk to protect the delicate bark from scorching in bright sunlight.

Sources: “How to Grow and Maintain a Healthy Birch Tree.” US Forest Service.