Birches are deciduous trees that look especially striking in autumn, as their shiny white or grayish-white bark creates a stunning contrast against the tree's brightly colored fall foliage. These trees have scaly buds and toothed leaves that grow in an alternative pattern. Birch trees make excellent shade and ornamental trees, but they do require some attention and care to thrive. When planted in the right locations and soils, they make attractive additions to landscapes.
Geography and Time Span
Depending on the species, birch trees can grow in different climatic zones if given sufficient water. They're somewhat short-lived trees, particularly in regions with dry, hot summers where they can typically decline and then die within roughly 20 years after they've been planted, says the University of California.
TreeHelp.com considers soil to be the critical key in growing healthy birch trees. Birch trees do best in moist, cool soils. Because they have an exceptionally shallow root system, they can't tolerate even brief drought periods or hot soils. Although they need shaded areas, they also require full to partial sun for their leaves to grow properly. Therefore, it's important to find a location where soil is shaded, moist and cool, but tree leaves can still receive full sunlight for the majority of the day.
Birch trees need to be pruned for maintaining their best health, longevity and a strong structure. SavaTree.com recommends removing any lower hanging branches that may interfere with driveways or walkways. Remove any diseased or dead branches to avoid decayed fungi from infecting other tree branches, as doing so allows for more sunlight exposure and air circulation within a tree's canopy.
Birch Leafminer Pests
One of the most problematic pests of birch trees is the birch leafminer. Initial signs of an infestation are tiny green spots on leaf surfaces that later change into hideous brown splotches, notes TreeHelp.com. Although they usually don't kill a tree by itself, the pests can cause tree weakening, making a birch tree more vulnerable to borer attacks. Systemic insecticides are usually effective for controlling these pests. Trees should be treated again the following spring to avoid leafminers recurring.
Paper, white and yellow birch trees with thin leaves and dying upper branches are usually the initial signs of damage from the bronze birch borer. Bumps and ridges on limbs and branches, with bark occasionally showing D-shaped holes, are other symptoms. Birch trees receiving no corrective care typically die a few years following the appearance of the earliest dead branches. Control methods for bronze birch borer should focus on promoting the best possible tree health.