How To Take Care Of Birch Trees?
The tall and elegant birch tree comes in over 60 known varieties, each with its own unique textures, colors and characteristics. A part of the Betula genus (family Betulaceae), birch is a fast-growing and short-lived species known for its pleasing aesthetics, especially its stunning fall colors.
This hardwood, deciduous tree is a popular choice for landscape cultivation as it is easy to grow. All you must know about is the basic care, right techniques with fertilizing birch trees and knowledge about birch tree diseases. It is planted in groups for screening and privacy and as a specimen tree to create an attractive display.
With its airy crown and slender trunk, a stately birch tree will add more charm and grace to your gardens and backyards.
- Right Variety For Your Landscape
- Temperature & Humidity
- Do Birch Trees Need A Lot Of Water?
- How To Fertilize Birch Trees?
- Pruning – Should I Trim My Birch Tree?
- Protection From Pests And Diseases
But before you decide to plant this wonderful tree in your garden, you must understand how to care for a birch tree. Here is everything you need to know about birch tree care so that it remains healthy and maintains a fast growth rate.
Popular Birch Varieties
Before we come to birch care tips, here are a few popular birch tree varieties you should know about:
- River birch (Betula nigra)
- Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
- Cherry birch (Betula lenta)
- Silver birch (Betula pendulaor verrucose)
- Himalayan birch(Betula utilis var. jacquemontii)
- Japanese white birch(Betula platyphylla ‘Japanica’)
- Paper birch(Betula papyrifera)
- Bog Birch (Betula pumila)
- Dwarf Birch (Betula nana)
- Water birch (betula fontinalis)
How To Take Care of Birch Trees The Right Way!
This step-by-step guide to effective birch tree care will help you ensure healthy and steady growth for your birch.
This f2. ast-growing tree requires cool and moist soil for healthy growth. A spot where the canopy of the tree will receive full sunlight but the soil remains moist and cool is an ideal location to plant your birch tree.
Consider planting the tree on the eastern or the northern side of your home where it can get the afternoon shade. Make sure not to grow your birch tree near the waterline as this may cause its shallow roots to grow towards the waterline.
2. Right variety for your landscape
Research and select the right birch tree variety for your landscape. River birch, paper birch, silver birch, gray birch and Himalayan birch are a few popular varieties for landscape cultivation. Choosing the right variety according to the hardiness zone of your region is vital if you want to keep your tree healthy.
Birch trees are not really that picky when it comes to soil types. The only thing you need to remember while taking care of your birch is to make sure the soil is not too wet or too dry. Although cool, moist (but well-drained) and slightly acidic soils may work well for most birch trees, some varieties may have varied preferences.
4. Temperature & humidity
Birch trees require an average growing temperature of about 20 to 30 degrees C. Too much heat can be detrimental to the health of your tree. Too much humidity may also end up stressing the tree.
Providing your tree with adequate light is also an important part of birch tree care. Birch trees prefer full sun and can tolerate partial shade. Since this species is shallow-rooted, its ideal location would be a spot where its leaves receive ample sunlight while the soil remains moist and cool.
6. Do birch trees need a lot of water?
Birch trees thrive in moist soil. Frequent watering is vital in the summer, especially during the first year of the tree’s active growth. If your region receives insufficient rainfall, you may need to make extra efforts to ensure your birch tree receives ample water.
During the growing season, make sure your tree gets slow (2-3 hours) and deep watering at least once a week. One way of doing this is to lay a hose on the ground and let it run slowly over your tree’s root zone. Watering should gradually decrease as winter approaches.
Here’s another important point you must know about the process of how to care for a birch tree. Mulching your birch tree comes with an array of benefits. It helps moderate the soil temperatures, reduce the growth of weeds, retain water present in the soil and enriches the soil by adding organic matter once it starts decomposing.
Placing mulch around your tree will also make its stem less prone to accidental damage. Results?
You can use leaf compost, shredded bark, or wood chips. While spreading the mulch around the root system of your birch tree, make sure it is about 3 feet away from the tree trunk.
8. How to fertilize birch trees?
If the soil of your tree is lacking in nutrients, adding fertilizers may help ensure its healthy growth. Use slow-release fertilizers for fertilizing birch trees. You can take a soil test to find out whether your tree requires fertilizers.
9. Pruning – Should I trim my birch tree?
Caring for your birch tree also involves regular pruning. By pruning your birch tree, you relieve its trunk from carrying all that weight of dead branches. Pruning will help support its structure, encourage it to stay centred and promote healthy growth. It also helps in protecting the tree from various pests including aphids, and bronze birch borer.
However, prune only when necessary. Cut or damaged trees are more susceptible to being targeted by insects so make sure not to prune your birch tree excessively. Heavy pruning may also lead to an increase in soil temperature and reduced soil moisture by causing more light to penetrate to the root zone of the tree.
10. Protection from birch tree pests and diseases
Birch trees tend to be quite vulnerable to pests like aphids and bronze birch borer. To protect your tree from birch tree diseases and these unwarranted guests, monitor it regularly for signs of pest infestation like splotched leaves, holes in the bark and thinning at the tree’s top. If your tree is being attacked by pests and insects, act immediately.
How To Tell If A Birch Tree Is Dying?
Protecting your tree from diseases and pests is an important part of your birch tree care routine. Here are a few common problems and symptoms that may affect the growth and health of birch trees.
Bronze Birch Borer – If your tree is weak, damaged or wounded, it becomes susceptible to the attack of the bronze birch borer. This highly damaging pest is a wood-boring beetle. Its larvae bore into the layers of your birch tree and can damage it by interrupting the sap flow.
Signs that your tree has been infested by this pest include dead branches and thinning at the crown of the tree and winding galleries right below the bark in its trunk.
Birch Leaf miner: Next up on our list of birch pests and diseases is the infamous birch leaf miner! If your birch tree has been infested by the birch leaf miner, you will see small green spots on the surface of its leaf.
After that, the leaves tend to develop brown splotches. The birch leaf miner larvae burrow into the leaves in search of nutrients. Although this pest infestation is not lethal for your trees, it can surely weaken them and make them more susceptible to other infestations.
Common and European Birch Aphids – Aphid infestation will cause the birch tree leaves to turn yellow and twist as aphids suck the sap out of them. Severe infestations may also lead to more serious issues like leaf drop or branch dieback.
If your tree is infested by aphids, you will notice that the undersides of its leave seem to be dripping with sap. This sap is the honeydew which the aphids secrete and which ends up attracting ants.
Birch Tree Canker – Indications that your tree is suffering from birch tree canker include the appearance of irregular sores on its trunk, branches and stem. These sores may also ooze watery sap. This problem is a result of a fungus that enters from the soil when the trees are not yet established or if they are wounded. This fungus may lead to leaf and branch dieback by killing the water-conducting tissues.
Scorch and heart rot: Other common birch tree diseases that may have been hindering your tree’s growth are scorch and heart rot. Scorch causes drying on leaves (but not curling). Heart rot, on the other hand, is a fungal infection occurring on the innermost ring of the tree trunk. It leads to the formation of fungal shelves on the outside of the tree trunk.
Can You Save A Dying Birch Tree?
Preventive measures and timely treatment is key to keeping your tree safe from pests and diseases. These effective birch tree care tips can help you save a dying birch tree.
- Scorch is not exactly fatal for your birch tree and usually goes away without any treatment.
- Timely treatment with anti-fungal can save your tree from the damaging effects of heart rot.
- For treating birch tree cancers, remove and destroy the affected tree branches. Also, cut cankers from the tree but make sure to disinfect your tool between the cuts.
- Coating wounds on the tree with tree paint can help keep fungal infections and birch tree diseases at bay.
- Treat your stressed or diseased birch tree with a systemic insecticide through soil or leaves. This will help get rid of problems like birch leaf miner and bronze birch borer.
- To treat bronze birch infestation, get rid of the infested branches. Adequate watering and proper mulching will keep your tree healthy, thus helping avoid bronze birch infestation and other birch tree pests and diseases.
- Use insecticides for getting rid of aphids. Lady bugs can also help get rid of these annoying pests.
Facts And Questions
Q. How long do birch trees live?
A. A healthy birch tree can live as long as 40 to 50 years. However, it is quite common for several birch varieties planted in yards (especially white-barked birches) to live up to only 20 years of age.
Q. How much is the birch tree growth rate per year or on average?
A. Birch trees are a medium to fast-growing species. On average, they can grow anywhere between 13 inches to 24 inches in a year. Usually, birch trees can be anywhere between 40 feet to 70 feet in height. But they often remain much smaller in landscape cultivation.
Q. What disease kills birch trees?
A. The birch tree diseases birch dieback can end up killing a birch tree. It can be a result of several factors including temperature extremes, heavy thinning, drought, bronze birch borer invasion, insect invasion and more.
Q. Which is the best mulch for birch trees?
A. Mulching is an essential part of birch tree care. The best mulch for this plant species are wood chips, shredded bark and leaf compost.
Q. How long do paper birch trees live?
A. This birch variety has an average lifespan of about 30 to 50 years. Your birch tree will live longer if you know how to take care of birch trees and make sure it gets optimum growing conditions.
Q. What bug kills birch trees?
A. The bronze birch bronzer can prove to be fatal for a birch tree. An essential part of caring for your birch tree is to make sure you take timely and adequate measures to treat an infested tree.
Hope this guide helped you get answers to some vital questions on fertilizing birch trees like how to fertilize birch trees, when and how much to water them, and how to rightly protect them from pests and diseases.
With this you now know how to care for a birch tree and keep it healthy for long.