Caring for Your Birch Tree
The birch tree is popular among homeowners due to its beautiful bark, modest size and graceful branches. Two of the most common birch tree species in the Northeast are the River Birch and White Birch. The White Birch tree is characterized by its beautiful white bark (when mature) and drooping branches, whereas the River Birch tree has a brownish-red exfoliating bark and pyramidal to rounded crown. These characteristic bark qualities provide interest in the landscape throughout all four seasons. A birch tree’s leaves are green with sharp edges, which turn yellow in the fall depending on the species.
How to Grow Birch Trees: Due to its shallow root system the birch tree is very sensitive to heat and drought. It needs moist, cool soil, but also sunshine on its leaves to flourish. When planting a birch tree select a site that will shade its roots in the afternoon and still provide sun to canopy for much of the day. Mulching also helps to maintain soil temperature.
Most birch trees grow best in slightly acidic soils, although White Birch trees can grow in alkaline soil. Keep in mind the height of the full grown trees when planting and do not plant under overhead wires. These attractive ornamentals do require a little extra care to ensure a long life-span.
Size of a Birch Tree: 30-65’ high / 15-30 spread depending on species
If you’d like to establish birch trees in your landscape, we can connect you with one of our pre-vetted landscape experts that can help you select, purchase and plant new birch trees.
Birch Tree Care
Birch trees are susceptible to borers as well as other insects and tree diseases. A preventive insect control program is recommended to reduce problems. Keep your birch trees as healthy as possible through regular monitoring, pruning, watering and using birch tree fertilizer.
Newly planted birch trees benefit from ArborKelp®, SavATree’s exclusive seaweed biostimulant which aids in tree establishment, promotes root growth and heightens stress tolerance.
Mature and established trees benefit from fertilizer feedings of organic-based macro and micronutrients for the nutrition necessary to sustain their health.
Pruning Birch Tree Leaves
Birch trees should be trained to grow with a center leader and should be pruned to maintain optimal health and a strong structure; remove lower hanging branches that interfere with walkways or driveways.
Birch tree pruning is recommended to preserve or improve tree structure, vigor and life-span. Pruning can reduce specific defects or structural problems in a tree to greatly lessen the risk of failure.
Broken, diseased, or dead branches are typically removed in order to prevent decay-producing fungi from infecting other areas of the birch tree.
Removal of live branches is occasionally necessary to allow increased exposure to sunlight and circulation of air within the canopy of the birch tree. This assists in reduction of certain tree diseases. We also advocate the removal of branch stubs to promote successful and proper healing of wounds.
Your SavATree certified arborist is equipped with the latest techniques and state-of-the-art equipment to keep your birch trees healthy, beautiful and safe. Contact us today for information on birch tree pruning or any of our other birch tree care services.
Prevent Birch Tree Diseases & Pests
There are several damaging birch tree diseases and pests. Some of the most common are:
Bronze Birch Borer – This potentially lethal pest can be difficult to control in birch trees. It is an invasive wood-boring beetle whose larvae bore into the layers of the tree and interrupt the flow of sap. Trees that are weak and already have wounds in the bark are especially susceptible to attack. Indications of a problem with a bronze birch borer infestation include winding galleries just beneath the bark in the trunk and thinning at the top of the crown of the tree. Fortunately pruning and other treatments are available that can help protect your trees.
Birch Leafminer – The larvae of this insect burrow into the birch leaves looking for nutrients. To identify the problem look for small green spots on the leaf surface in May or June. The leaves will then develop brown splotches. While the birch leafminer usually does not kill the tree, it can disfigure and weaken it, making it more susceptible to a bronze birch borer infestation.
European Birch Aphid and the Common Birch Aphid – Aphids suck the sap out of the birch tree leaves causing them to yellow and twist. A severe infestation can cause leaf drop and branch dieback. Often the undersides of the leaves seem to be dripping with sap. This is honeydew secreted by the aphids, which in turn, attract ants.
Other birch tree diseases, problems and pests include:
- Birch canker
- Heart rots
Many of these insect and disease conditions can weaken the tree and lead to tree death if not treated. If you suspect a problem with your trees, call a SavATree certified arborist right away for an evaluation and treatment options. Our birch tree care experts can help protect your trees and keep your landscape beautiful.
Diseased photo: Birch disease 5393596-Bronze Birch Borer by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org