Birches as a group are fast growing and easy to care for landscape trees. They are generally grown in a multi trunk form referred to as a clump. This form mimics how they appear in nature. There are a number of different birch species so you can choose the one that fits your location. Birch can be used for screening, mass plantings, shade trees and can make excellent landscape specimen plants!
Betula nigra – River Birch
This species can grow quite large and provides excellent shade. Reaching heights up to 40’ to 60’ at maturity, it is a rapid grower and has a broad upright oval form. While it prefers moist soils it does well in most soil types. It does best in acidic or neutral soil (with a pH of 6.5 or lower). River birch is highly resistant to the most common insect problems that are known to plague birch, including bronze birch borer.
It is native to the eastern United States and is relied on by native wildlife. Chickadees, sparrows, finches, pine siskins and even wild turkeys all feed on the seed produced each summer and use the birch for nesting and cover. In addition, the foliage is the larval food source for a number of butterflies including morning cloaks and tiger swallowtails. Each year the foliage turns a wonderful yellow to add to the riot of fall color in the landscape.
The bark on river birch is one of its most beautiful features. It is a blend of cream, tan and orange and all branches from 1” up to 10” in diameter are covered by the strongly exfoliating or peeling bark. The cultivar Heritage has been selected because of its exceptional pale cream to almost white bark color and vigorous growth habit.
Betula populifolia Whitespire – Whitespire Birch
The best word for this selection is outstanding. Grey birch is a native species that is best know for its ability to grow on very poor soils. Whitespire is a selection of Grey Birch with glossy green foliage, a brilliant yellow fall color and a pyramidal habit reaching 40’.
The bark is a chalky white with very little exfoliation. Even the bark on young trees colors up well. This native birch supports wildlife by supplying nesting sites and cover. Birds, especially goldfinches and other small seed eaters feed heavily on Whitespire birch seed. Whitespire has proven to be disease and pest resistant and is the most carefree white birch available today.
Betula x Royal Frost – Royal Frost Birch
Royal Frost is the best purple foliaged birch available by far. There have been several purple leaved selections made but each one had problems. Royal Frost with its dark purple foliage and white bark has avoided those problems and makes a great addition to any landscape. An upright growing tree, this birch will reach 30’ and remain 10’ to 15’ in width. Foliage can lighten from dark purple to dark green depending on summer stress and then the fall season brings a surprise with orange fall color! Hybridized using Whitespire Birch as one of the parents, this selection has shown great resistance to bronze birch borer and leaf miner. Also, like its parent, it has proven to be very adaptable to various soil types.
Betula utilis Jacquemontii – Jacquemonti White Birch
This birch has the recognition as being the whitest barked birch of all and never disappoints with its beautiful bark color even on young plants. Upright growing, this tree will reach 40’ in height and 25’ in width. Best suited to well drained average to good garden soils, this birch makes an excellent specimen tree.