Colorful and unique bark is synonymous with Birches. They are a popular choice among gardeners, the pristine white bark of the paper birch, the golden-bronze colors of the yellow birch, and the salmon and creams of the river birch’s bark, make these trees a striking addition to any garden. But they do demand a little care and attention in order to thrive.

Horticulturist, Adam Wheeler reminds us that in the forest, birch trees thrive on cool, moist (well drained) soils. They have very shallow root systems that are sensitive to drought and heat. But birch trees also require full to partial sun on their leaves to grow well. So the challenge when growing a birch is to select a site where the soil will remain cool, but the tree will also receive full sunshine on its leaves for much of the day. Typically, a good location for birches is the east and north side of a home where the building provides afternoon shade.

Once you have picked the right spot for your birch, you want to keep a few things in mind. Birches are a relatively short-lived species but they provide year-round interest, golden yellow autumn foliage, a distinct silhouette and bark in the winter, and attractive foliage all summer. Some species are more susceptible than others to the bronze birch borer and sawfly, so it would be wise to pick a species that is naturally pest resistant. Birches are also important backyard plants, they are North American natives, good for wildlife, and host plants for varieties of moths and butterflies.

Here are a few birch tree suggestions for your yard.

  • Betula nigra ‘Heritage’, is a North American native that grows to 40 -50′ high. The tree’s bark features colorful patches of cream and apricot that peel and reveal hues of salmon and brown. The river birch is one of the most popular birch trees for landscapes. It is utilized extensively due to its attractive ornamental features, excellent adaptability (tolerance to heat, wet and clay soils and urban stress), and it is one of the only birch species with resistance to bronze birch borer.
  • Betula nigra ‘Little King’ is a compact version of the native river birch, perfect for smaller gardens. It also can be used as a deciduous hedge and is also resistant to the bronze birch borer.
  • Betula nigra ‘Shiloh Splash’ is a new variegated selection of the river birch. The leaves have a green center with an attractive ivory margin that makes for a striking specimen tree.
  • Betula nigra ‘Summer Cascade’ is a weeping pendulous variety of the river birch also naturally resistant to the bronze birch borer.
  • Betula nana is dwarf birch variety, with delicate round-toothed leaves, a very sweet, demure shrub with copper colored (non-peeling) bark.
  • Betula lenta or yellow birch is also a native know primarily for the strong wintergreen scent of its branches, it is also a host to numerous native moths and butterflies.
  • Betula papyrifera or the native white birch most easily identified by its pure white bark that peels off the trunk in thin, paper-like layers. This species can be very susceptible to the bronze birch borer.
  • Betula ‘Crimson Frost’ is noted for its burgundy-red to purple foliage and exfoliating white bark with cinnamon hues, also susceptible to the bronze birch borer.

Special Thanks:
Broken Arrow Nursery
13 Broken Arrow Road
Hamden, CT 06518

The excerpt above is from a Cultivating Life segment produced by Erin Frost. Cultivating Life with host Sean Coneway, explored how we’ve all moved out of our houses and into our backyards. Each week, the show celebrated how Americans are reconnecting to the land.