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Birch Tree: How to Grow + 11 Most Common of Birch Trees

Birch Tree

The birch tree is a member of the Betulaceae plant family and belongs to the genus Betula. They are small to medium-sized trees and shrubs that grow in temperate zones throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Anyone who is asked what makes birch trees unique will quickly mention their stunning bark. It can grow in shrubby clusters in some forms and some grow as traditional single-trunk trees, while some form clumps of trees with many trunks.

The most prevalent attribute of birches is their varied or white bark, which has papery plates, prominent horizontal lines, and peeling layers. This latter characteristic is often what gives the plant its popular name, paper birch.

Although birches are a popular choice for landscaping, they are often less durable than other hardwoods and are susceptible to pests and diseases.

The majority of birch trees thrive in full-light and moist soil. If a big tree is planted too close to your house, its roots may eventually find their way to your plumbing.

But don’t let this stop you from planting birch trees! They’re not difficult to grow and will work great for your landscape. Birches grow fast and add a beautiful touch to your yard relatively quickly.

In this article, we’ll share the 11 popular types of birch trees to think about for your landscape, along with USDA hardiness zones where they are frequently cultivated in the US and other countries. We’ve also added handy overall for the sun exposure they’ll need and the type of soil that’s best for them.

Quick Guide: How to Grow a Birch Tree

Although you can grow birch trees from seeds, most people prefer to plant growing seedlings.

To grow a birch tree, start by picking an area that receives full sunshine for at least six hours each day. Mulch your birch seedlings to prevent root burns until the tree’s entire canopy is able to adequately shade them because the roots of birch trees grow quite close to the ground’s surface.

After that follow standard practices for tree planting when digging the hole and staking the sapling.

Make careful to frequently water your young birch tree. Regularly check the soil’s moisture level. Moist birch trees need moist soil but look into the specific type of birch tree you’re growing for more specific tree care information.

11 Common Types of Birch Trees

1. Bog Birch (Betula pumila)

Bog Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 2 – 9 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Requirements: Moist soil, can tolerate clay or alkaline

Mature Size: 5 to 10 feet

Bog birch is a medium-sized, short-lived, clump-forming shrub that is native to North America. It grows well in wet sites. The plant can survive clay soil, alkaline soil, and road salt in addition to occasional flooding.

It thrives when planted in residential landscapes near sources of water or in soggy regions. Bog birch is an excellent plant for rain gardens.

Swamp birch, glandular birch, dwarf birch, and resin birch are some more common names for this tree.

2. River Birch (Betula nigra)

River Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 4 – 9 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Requirements: Moist, but not alkaline

Mature Size: 40 to 70 feet

Native to the eastern United States, river birch is a fast-growing, increasingly popular tree for home landscapes. It can develop into a single-trunk tree or a clump of trees with multiple trunks.

Its unique salmon-pink to reddish-brown bark peels off to reveal lighter inner bark, adding year-round interest to the landscape. Fall sees a stunning buttery yellow change to the otherwise dark green foliage.

The bronze birch borer is effectively repelled by river birch. It is one of the few birches that can withstand extreme heat.

Red birch, black birch, and water birch are other names for river birch.

3. Cherry Birch (Betula lenta)

Cherry Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Requirements: Moist, acidic well-drained loams

Mature Size: 40 to 70 feet

Cherry birch is a huge tree with a single main trunk. This tree’s gleaming red-brown bark and golden foliage make it an appealing choice for lawns and naturalized areas.

Mature trees’ bark develops vertical fractures that eventually take the form of erratic scaly plates, mimicking cherry trees’ bark in appearance. The tree blooms in April and May and bears fruit from August through October, providing food for deer, moose, rabbits, and many birds.

This tree is resistant to the bronze birch borer, which may decimate other species of birch, and it also draws lovely butterflies to the surrounding area. Its broken twigs give off a smoky wintergreen scent, while birch beer uses fermented sap as a component.

The tree is a native of the eastern United States, from northern Georgia to Maine. The cherry birch is also known as the black birch, sweet birch, mahogany birch, Virginia roundleaf birch, or spice birch in some areas.

4. Dwarf Birch (Betula nana)

Dwarf Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 1 – 8 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Requirements: Moist, rocky, well-drained soil. Can tolerate nutrient-poor soil

Mature Size: 6 inches to 3 feet tall

Betula nana is a small dwarf shrub that is native to the arctic and chilly temperate zones, particularly tundra landscapes. Although it may thrive in a range of environments, it prefers a moist but well-drained setting.

It does not perform well in the shade. In landscapes, the dwarf birch is hardly ever used, but in cold northern regions, it is crucial to cover vegetation.

Greenland, Iceland, northern Europe, northern Asia, and northern North America are the tree’s native habitats. Bog birch and arctic birch are two more names for this tree.

5. Silver Birch (Betula pendula or B. verrucosa)

Silver Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 2 – 7 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Requirements: Moderately moist to wet, sandy well-drained soil

Mature Size: 40 to 80 feet

The silver birch is a tree with unique white bark that peels away in papery strips, and it is native to Europe and Asia. It has a lovely pendulous habit.

It develops into a single-trunk tree with a crown that gradually morphs from pyramidal to more rounded and oval in shape. The silver birch, also known as weeping birch or European white birch, was once widely employed in landscapes, but its vulnerability to the bronze birch borer has curtailed its use in recent years.

Weeping birches are often distinct species of silver birch (Betula pendula), which is a naturally occurring or cultivated tree.

6. Gray Birch (Betula populifolia)

Gray Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Requirements: Moist, well-drained sandy soil

Mature Size: 20 to 30 feet

Gray birch is a deciduous tree native to North America. It is known for its distinctive silvery-gray bark that peel\s in horizontal strips, adding visual interest to landscapes.

The gray birch typically grows to a height of 30 to 50 feet, with a slender trunk and a narrow crown. Its delicate, triangular leaves are green in spring and summer, transforming into vibrant yellow hues during autumn.

This fast-growing tree is adaptable to various soil conditions and thrives in full sun or partial shade. It serves as an excellent choice for ornamental purposes, adding elegance and a touch of natural beauty to gardens and parks.

7. Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii)

Himalayan Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 4 – 7 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to infrequent light shade

Soil Requirements: Moist, well-drained loamy soil

Mature Size: 30 to 50 feet

Himalayan birches have attractive spring blossoms, a deep yellow fall color, and sparkling white papery bark that adds to their visual appeal. It has a single trunk that swiftly branches out into a pyramidal shape, and it is a medium-sized tree.

This species of birch is highly susceptible to damage from the bronze birch borer and is typically required to be removed and/or replaced, particularly in milder zones. In cooler climates, the tree is more resilient and lives longer.

This tree is native to Nepal and the West Himalayas. It also goes by the names jacquemonti birch and white-barked Himalayan birch.

8. Japanese White Birch (Betula platyphylla ‘Japonica’)

Japanese White Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 3 – 8 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Requirements: Moist, well-draining sandy or rocky loam

Mature Size: 40 to 50 feet

This species, also known as Asian white birch, is a medium to large tree with white bark, slender spreading branches, and branchlets that droop. The Japanese white birch grows well in northern and eastern exposures that receive some afternoon shade, despite the fact that it likes full sun.

The key requirement is that the soil be continually moist. This birch works best in cooler climates, like several other members of the birch family; warmer climates enhance susceptibility to birch borer insects.

9. Paper Bark Birch (Betula papyrifera)

Paper Bark Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 2 – 7 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade

Soil Requirements: Moist, sandy, loamy soil

Mature Size: 45 to 100 feet

This tree has gorgeous white bark and yellow fall color and is primarily native to Alaska, Canada, and northern U.S. states. It can grow as a single-trunk tree or in clumps of several trunks. Paper bark birch gets its name from the thin white bark that peels from the trunk in paper-like layers.

It is sometimes referred to as the white birch or the boat birch. This is the traditional birch tree, which has historically produced a variety of useful items, including canoes and shoes made of birch bark.

For birds and other wildlife, buds, catkins, and leaves, combined with twigs and bark, provide a source of food. The paper bark birch is resistant to the bronze birch borer.

10. Water Birch (Betula occidentalis or Betula fontinalis)

Water Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 3 – 7 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Requirements: Soggy, natural soil

Mature Size: 25 to 40 feet

Water birch is found in dense thickets along streams in hilly parts of western North America. The bark is smooth and a deep reddish-brown to blackish color.

Its bark does not peel like the bark of other birch trees. The common North American beaver uses this tree as a source of food and building materials for its lodge.

Other popular names for the tree include western red birch, river birch, black birch, and red birch.

11. Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

Yellow Birch Tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Hardiness Zones: 3 – 7 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Requirements: Fertile, well-drained sandy loam

Mature Size: 50 to 80 feet

The yellow birch, so named because of the color of its bark, is a rather old birch that can survive up to 300 years in old-growth forests. It normally lives for 150 years.

It is a tree with a single stem, and its yellow-bronze bark peels off in long, thin strips. In addition to being a significant woodland food source for birds and other wildlife, this species is also important to the North American lumber industry.

Native to northeastern North America, yellow birches are also known locally as swamp birches, curly birches, gold birches, and hard birches.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Birch Tree

There are a few things to consider when taking care of a growing Birch tree. Each year, remove dead and diseased branches to ease the strain on the trunk.

Look for insect infestation on your tree, particularly the Birch borer and leafminer as well as aphids. If the undersides of the leaves appear to have sap on them, drawing ants, you may have an aphid infestation.


Other Tree Guides from Planet Natural:

Ash Tree Guide: What Is It + 15 Common Species of Ash Trees

Dogwood Tree: Care, Planting, History, and Common Types

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