How to Plant a Birch Tree
WHITE BIRCH TREE is commonly grown as an ornamental tree in the Algoma area. This week I’ll provide you with some tips on how to grow them and keep them happy.
Let’s start at the beginning. If you are planning to plant a birch, there are some things you should consider first. In the forest, birch trees thrive in excellent, moist soils.
Their very shallow root systems make them sensitive to even brief periods of drought. In short, they grow poorly in hot, dry soils.
With this in mind, try to place your birch in a location where the soil will be shaded, cool and moist. However, birch trees require full-to-partial sunshine on their leaves to grow well to complicate things a little.
So the challenge is to find a place where the soil will remain calm and moist, but the leaves will receive full sunshine for most of the day.
Avoid areas where the soils are compacted, and remember that your birch has very shallow roots that can be easily damaged by soil disturbances or foot traffic.
Birch trees usually do best on slightly acidic soils (pH 5.0- 6.5) though all white-barked birch, and our native paper birch, in particular, can grow well on alkaline soils.
Most birches prefer moist but not wet soils, so try to avoid poorly drained locations.
A common mistake is planting young trees under overhead wires. Remember that most birch trees growing in yards will reach heights of 13 to 16 meters.
Don’t plant very close to your house or other buildings. Give them room to fill out.
Once your tree is established, you should observe some cultural practices to help your tree develop and maintain good vigor.
Birch Tree Care
Mulching moderates soil temperatures, keep it cool during the summer heat, and conserve water in the soil. Mulching reduces competition from other plants.
Mulching also supplements organic matter to the soil as it decomposes and reduces soil compaction. Finally, placing mulch around a tree reduces the likelihood of damage from lawnmowers or weed trimmers.
The best materials for mulching are organic. Use such things as wood chips, shredded bark, or leaf compost.
Sufficient water is probably the single most crucial factor in maintaining a healthy birch tree.
During the growing season, a slow (two to three hours) watering that penetrates the ground 18 to 40 cm once a week is a good rule for maintaining soil moisture.
I do not recommend infrequent, light waterings. They encourage shallow roots, which are subject to drought damage. Adjust your watering to the amount of rainfall received.
Fertilizing is beneficial only when nutrients are lacking. If you are uncertain, do a soil test to determine if corrective measures are needed.
Most landscapers prune trees right before they go dormant in the spring or late winter. However, this timing is not ideal for birch trees.
If they are pruned after their winter rest, they will bleed heavy amounts of sap. Therefore, it is best to prune birch trees in late summer or early fall.
Pruning at the right time will not only prevent sap flows but also help you avoid the egg-laying season for many insects that infest pruning wounds.
These insects can cause unsightly damage and spread serious diseases. Birch tree borers can be deadly to trees. It would help if you cut down their early summer flying season as soon as possible to reduce the chance of them attacking your tree.
How to Prune a Birch Tree
There are several steps involved in pruning a Birch tree.
Do not over prune; never remove more significant than 25% of the live canopy.
As I learned the hard way, never “top” a birch tree, they don’t like it. Pruning is best done just before the tree begins to grow in spring.
Never topple a tree. Take out branches less than 5 cm in diameter. The collar or thickened area at the trunk’s attachment should be removed from branches less than 2 inches in diameter.
To remove the branch, use a quick cut using long-handled pruners.
After that, clean the tool with a 10 percent bleach solution or household disinfectant.
Three cuts are required to remove larger branches.
Here’s how it works:
Measure 18 inches (46cm) from the trunk of your tree. Outwardly along the branch. The 18-inch (46 cm) mark.
Cut one-third to one-half of the way through the branch starting at the underside and moving upwards.
This prevents the branch from ripping bark and wood off the tree. The Main Cut – Measure one inch (22.5-5 cm).
Start at the bottom and begin to cut the branch downwards. As smooth as possible, cut all the way through.
Tidying up – The 18-20 inch (46-51cm.) The stub left behind can be an eyesore and can even cause disease if it’s not removed.
It won’t regrow, so trim it flush with the collar.
Birch Tree Pests
Unfortunately, I do not have room to talk about potentially serious insects either. Be aware that bronze birch borer is a severe pest of paper and yellow birches.
The damage is especially noticeable on ornamentals such as the cut leaf varieties. This insect can and does kill many ornamental birches in the Algoma area.
I strongly recommend that you avoid planting any of the ornamental varieties of birch for this reason.
You should also be aware of birch leaf miners. As its name suggests, this insect mines the leaf tissue from between the top and bottom layers of the leaf, causing ugly brown blotches and early leaf drops.
While birch leaf miners will seldom kill a tree, it can contribute to reduced growing vigor, especially in years of extreme weather conditions. It is easily controlled using Cygon 2E.
Follow instructions very carefully when using this product, or you could kill your tree.
Consult an expert if you think your trees are infested with either of these pests.
If you follow the guidelines that I have presented and throw in a little love for good measure, you should have happy and healthy birch trees for a long time to come.