Birches (Betula) are much appreciated during autumn and winter when the gorgeous bark and leaves can be fully seen.
Birches produce light, open canopies which doesn’t produce dense shades, making them good trees for small gardens and for under planting.
Scientific name: Betula
Plant type: Trees
Height: 8m - 15m
Spread: 3m - 8m
Foliage color: Green (spring), Green (summer), Yellow (autumn)
Stem color: White
Season of interest: Winter
Sunlight: Full Sun, Partial shade
Soil: Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Moisture: Moist but well drained, Well drained
Garden type: Architectural, City & Courtyard Gardens, Informal Garden, Wildlife Gardens
Planting type: Flower borders and bedding, Low Maintenance
Birches grow fast, usually slender, upright trees mainly grown for their decorative bark, which looks especially good in winter.
They have green leaves – although there are varieties like Betula pendula purpurea that has purple foliage – and turn yellow in autumn which are a delight contrasting with the bark color.
How to plant
Birches do better in full sun positions. Flower borders and beds, city & courtyard gardens, cottage & informal gardens are some of the suggestions of usage for birches. They grow well in the majority of soils and will even tolerate waterlogged soils.
Plant bare-root trees during the dormancy period. Container-grown tress can be planted any time of the year, but preferably in autumn, winter or spring.
Dig a hole that can accommodate the roots and add a layer of organic matter – such as compost or well-rotted manure – to the base of the hole and dig in. Place the roots and adjust the planting depth so that the tree is planted at the same depth as it was originally grown. Stake the tree firmly so that it is fully supported against the prevailing winds. Water the tree so the soil will fill the gaps between the roots and any air pockets are eliminated.
Keep the tree well watered while it is establishing mainly in the first year.
Birch species and cultivars
Betula pendula is the common native silver birch.
Betula albosinensis ‘Pink Champagne’ produces pink bark.
Betula ermanii ‘Grayswood Hill’ has creamy-white, tinted orange bark and green leaves turning golden yellow in autumn.
Betula pendula ‘Purpurea’ has the typical silvery-white bark. The foliage starts dark purple/red in spring, then turns purple/dark green throughout summer and finally bronze/purple in autumn. Young branches are also a deep purple.
Betula pendula ‘Tristis’ is a tall tree with silvery-white bark and blue-green leaves turning yellow in autumn.
Betula pendula ‘Youngii’ produces a dome shape of branches that weep down to the ground, and green leaves that turn yellow in autumn.
Betula utilis var. jacquemontii has the whitest of all birches and green leaves turning bright yellow in autumn.