How to Prune Gray Birch


The gray birch is a deciduous tree native to the U.S. but also occurs from Novia Soctia to Southern Quebec. Used as a winter landscape plant, the gray birch also provides food and cover for mammals and birds, including grouse, moose and deer. Gray birch bark is chalky white with distinct black markings.The leaves have serrated edges and yellow flowers that begin blooming between April and May. The gray birch is found growing along streams, lakes, ponds, and swamps. It requires well-drained and moist soils; it prefers sun to part shade.

Step 1

Prune the gray birch in the summer after the tree has quit producing sap. Gray birch trees are "bleeders" and cannot be pruned while the tree is producing sap. Pruning in summer will ensure vigorous growth the following season.

Step 2

Remove the top branches of the gray birch using pruning shears. Maintain one strong stem leader to allow the birch to grow tall and straight. Cut back all lateral branches that are twisted and gnarled.

Step 3

Remove all diseased shoots and branches by cutting off the entire limb. Remove all pest-infected branches to avoid infecting the tree.

Step 4

Prune young gray birch trees to one main stem, keeping three or four saplings around the tree. Remove all sucker shoots, which shoot up from the base of the tree, as soon as they become visible.

Tips and Warnings

  • Soils that have a high pH can cause chlorosis, or when the leaves produce insufficient chlorophyl, of the foliage on the birch. Always test the soil before planting the tree and during its lifetime to ensure its a healthy pH for the birch tree.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears


  • Gray Birch Tree Plant Guide: USDA
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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.