Birch trees (Betula species) are desirable for their distinctive bark, which often peels from the tree in gray, white, brown or cinnamon-colored, paper-thin layers. The foliage of birch trees is also pleasingly delicate and airy in form. For these reasons, many landscapers and home owners often plant birch trees as an ornamental tree. Unfortunately, the birch tree's fragile beauty imitates its hardiness. This tree is susceptible to insect pests, diseases, and adverse environmental conditions. The birch tree often declines and dies well before the age of 20. Proper care can lengthen the life of the tree.
Plant your birch tree in a location that gets plenty of sunlight. All types of birch trees thrive in at least partial sun, which is defined as at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Paper birch trees, which are cold-hardy and can be found growing in northern climates, will benefit best from a location where they can receive a full day of sunlight.
Choose a growing site where the soil is well-draining, not boggy or covered with standing water. While birch trees in general like moist conditions, they will not fare well in areas where extended flooding occurs. Soil that is rich in organic matter and has some added sand is ideal.
Water your birch tree every other week during the growing season. Birch trees need a lot of water in order to thrive. Use a soaker hose to deeply and slowly water the tree. Set the hose up under the canopy line of the birch, and let it slowly drip water for several hours. Leave the water on until the soil is moist to a depth of at least 3 feet. Water only once a month when fall arrives, then resume frequent watering in the spring.
Fertilize your birch tree with a 30-10-10 fertilizer formulated for evergreens. The fertilizer should be slightly acidic. Apply the fertilizer in mid-May according to the directions on the label as per the size and age of your birch tree.
Set down a 2-inch-deep layer of mulch around your birch tree in the spring, after you fertilize it. Extend to the mulch to the edge of the tree's canopy line. This will retain moisture and fertilizer in the soil, and also help prevent weeds from growing.