How to Prune a River Birch Tree


The river birch is a deciduous tree found throughout North America. Used for erosion control along river and stream banks, the river birch also provides food for many bird species, including grouse and wild turkeys. The river birch has bark that is light-brown in color and resembles paper. The flowers are unisexual and the leaves are wedge-shaped with pointed tips. The river birch is found growing along stream banks and swamps and prefers most and fertile soils. It is intolerant of shade and requires full sun to thrive.

Step 1

Prune the river birch in the summer when it has quit producing sap. Birch trees are "bleeders" and should not be pruned or cut while producing sap. Pruning in summer will facilitate vigorous growth the following season.

Step 2

Use pruning shears to remove the top stems of the river birch. Maintain one branch leader to encourage the birch to grow tall. Prune all lateral branches that are twisted and old.

Step 3

Cut all broken or diseased stems and branches by removing the entire branch. Remove all insect-infected branches to avoid contaminating the tree and causing infestation.

Step 4

Prune young river birch trees to one central branch, keeping two or three saplings on either side of the tree. Removing shoots will free up available nutrients for the central sapling stem.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears


  • River Birch Plant Guide: USDA
Keywords: pruning, cutting, shears

About this Author

Callie Barber has been writing professionally since 2002. Barber's love for design and writing inspired her to create Design Your Revolution, a blog that shares creative and affordable ways to decorate indoor and outdoor living environments. Her articles have appeared on and Barber holds a Bachelors of Arts in international studies from the University of North Carolina.