How to Prune Yellow Birch


Yellow birch, also known as Betula lutea, is a large, wild-looking tree that possesses bark that looks frayed in every direction. When mature, the origin of the name "yellow birch" is readily apparent, with a silvery outer bark and a vivid orange or yellow inner bark. Like most other birches, yellow birch is prone to "bleeding" excessive amounts of sap, and should therefore be pruned in very late spring or summer after the leaves have matured. There are two common methods of pruning--thinning, which opens up the tree, and heading, which can lead to a bulkier, more filled-out tree.


Step 1

Remove a large limb with several cuts, using a pruning saw. Pruning saws are recommended due in part to the size of the branches you will be working with.

Step 2

Create a small cut on the underside of the branch, approximately 6 inches from the base of the branch, where the branch meets the trunk.

Step 3

Make a second cut further up the branch from your first cut, working towards the outside of the limb. Make this cut on the top of the branch, and be certain to sever the branch entirely.

Step 4

Add a third and final cut from the top of the branch to the bottom, working on the inside of your first cut. Sever the branch completely. Pruning in the three-cut method reduces the loss of bark below the severed tree limb. This is especially important for yellow birch, which may bleed sap profusely even when pruned at the appropriate time.


Step 1

Identify a bud, or a little nodule that indicates where a leaf originates from.

Step 2

Cut the branch at an angle across the stem starting just above the bud and angling towards the opposite side of the branch. Use pruning shears to accomplish this.

Step 3

Protect the bud from any splintering that may occur by beginning the cut above the head of the bud and not angling the cut towards the bud.

Step 4

Use your pruning shears to make as clean of a cut as possible. Jagged edges increase the risk of pruning-related complications.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't hesitate to remove dead, diseased or infested limbs or branches immediately. Losing these branches as soon as possible will ensure the maximum health of your tree. If you feel uncomfortable or cannot adequately prune your tree, speak with your county extension office about finding a reputable arborist. In cases of extreme disease or destruction, ask about a tree surgeon.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning saw
  • Pruning shears


  • The Wise Garden Encyclopedia; E.L.D Seymour; 1970
  • Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening and Landscaping Techniques; edited by Barbara W. Ellis; 1990

Who Can Help

  • A Guide to Birch Tree Care
Keywords: yellow birch, pruning trees, prune, heading, thinning

About this Author

Elizabeth Tumbarello has been writing since 2006, with her work appearing on various websites. She is an animal lover who volunteers with her local Humane Society. Tumbarello attended Hocking College and is pursuing her Associate of Applied Science in veterinary technology from San Juan College.