There are three types of birch trees: European weeping birch, paper birch and river birch--the paper birch being perhaps the most well known with it's white peeling bark. No matter the type, all birch trees will grow to heights up to 40 feet and are native to cooler Northern regions. Most birch trees require very little pruning, but it is important to learn a few basic guidelines to keep your birch tree, no matter what type, in top form.
Prune any large branches in late spring after the leaves have matured and reached their full size. Avoid pruning in early spring before the leaves have developed, which causes the cuts to bleed sap and deplete the tree of moisture and sugar. If the tree does bleed, keep it well watered to reduce any moisture loss.
Remove large hanging branches that do not add to the aesthetic look of the tree and may pose a hazard near sidewalks or walkways. Do not cut the branches flush with the trunk, but leave a small stump. Cutting flush with the trunk can cause structural damage to the tree.
Cut off any water sprouts. These are rapidly growing shoots that grow upright from the trunk. It is best to prune the water sprouts in late summer, after the tree has finished it's spring growing period, to keep new shoots from growing.
Cut off any suckers that grow from the base of the tree. These are rapidly growing shoots that form from the roots. It is best to cut these back in late summer, after completion of the tree's spring growth, which helps to limit any new growth of suckers.
Finally, remove any broken, diseased or dead branches. Thin out any branches in the center of the tree to improve light and air circulation.