• George R. Lee

Birch Tree Selection, Care and Expectations


Betula nigra; the black birch, river birch or water birch is a species of birch native to Eastern United States and is grown from the east coast over to Minnesota. This birch species can also be found in the northern parts of Florida and west into Texas.


There are 12 varieties of birch that can be found throughout the United States. The list includes the following:

  • Paper Birch

  • Cherry Birch

  • River Birch

  • Silver Birch

  • Japanese white Birch

  • Dwarf Birch

  • Water Birch

  • Gray Birch

  • Himalayan Birch

  • Erman's Birch

  • Yellow Birch

  • Weeping Birch


Currently tree nurseries indicate the Heritage River Birch appears to be their number one birch species sold. This popular variety seems to be more resistant to insect problems such as bronze birch borer and birch leaf miner. Although the river birch appears to be one of the hardiest varieties, it does have a few challenges you should take note of. As do most species of birch, the river birch likes to be located where there is some relief from direct sunlight. The Heritage Birch along with other varieties enjoy a moist and well drained soil. Some pest threats include powdery mildew, japanese beetle, gypsy moth, spider mites, and aphids. Birch leaf miner and bronze birch borer are continual pest threats for the river birch but at much lower risk compared to many of the other species.


Location and soil content are key factors for growing healthy, happy birch trees. Birch trees grow best in acidic soils with a pH level of 5.0-6.4 . These trees tend to struggle in soils that are too alkaline. Birch trees growing in soils testing at pH levels of 6.8 or higher may require ongoing soil care. There are several products and methods you can use to help keep the pH levels within the acceptable range. Depending on the current condition of your birch you may need to perform soil treatments in both spring and fall and in some cases only as often as once a year (again depending on the product and method of treatments).


Should your next landscaping project included planting a birch tree you might want to consider it's size at full maturity. A healthy, fully grown birch may reach heights of 60-70ft or even taller and have a width at its outer branch (horizontal) measuring 40-60ft. Not all birches grow to such sizes but certainly those in the River Birch family can.


When your next project includes tree planting you may want to start out by contacting your local arborist for site evaluation, soil testing, tree selection and perhaps planting. The arborist staff at Branch Tree plants trees daily. Let us help you with your next tree planting project, contact us today.