Birch Tree: A Growing Guide

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Birch trees of the Betula family most frequently are found in the Northern Hemisphere’s colder places because they tend not to thrive in dry, hot regions. Approximately 18 species are North American natives, with the most popular varieties being the white birch, black birch, the river birch and the poplar birch.

Birch trees are most often identified by their white, yellow, or gray bark that may separate into thin, papery pieces. The bark may be characterized by dark, horizontal raised lines. The trees typically are small or medium size with leaves that have serrated edges. Birch trees produce fruit, called a samara, consisting of a single seed with paper-like wings.

Birches have been characterized as a pioneer species, describing their tendency to colonize open areas. Gardeners frequently use them as a focal point in the landscape or as a border for a walkway. These trees provide year-round interest with their leaves in the summer and autumn and scrolls of bark in the winter.

Healthy foliage of birch tree due to a grow guide and adequate sun

Birch Tree Care Guide

If you’re planning to add some birch trees to your landscape, it’s best to plant them either in the spring or fall. This is because of the moist soil and cool temperatures.

Birch trees have a shallow root system, which means that they prefer moist, cool soil. They also appreciate having at least six hours of sun per day. Planting these trees on the east or north side of a building may be particularly advantageous thanks to the morning sun and afternoon shade.

Birch trees thrive particularly well in slightly acidic soil, but they can tolerate a wide range of soil types. It’s unwise to keep them either too wet or too dry, as moist soil tends to encourage the best growth.

Birch trees can be planted alone or together in a grouping. It isn’t necessary to give each one a large amount of its own space. In fact, some landscapers will plant three birch trees in a single hole. This creates a small copse with the trunks touching at the base.

If fertilizer is required, it’s best to use a low-nitrogen variety, like an 11-22-22 formulation. Application in the late fall or early spring is best. If your soil is rich, fertilizer may not be necessary.

Design Ideas

Birch trees do not cast a heavy amount of shade, which means that even sun-loving plants may do well beneath them. Some options may include rhododendron, vinca minor, dicentra, hosta, blue wood sedge and lady fern.

Also, consider highlighting the birch’s light-colored bark with a backdrop of dark evergreens.

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About the author: Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at TheGreenPinky. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.

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