How to Prune Weeping Birch Trees

Overview

Weeping birch (Betula pendula 'Youngii') has white bark that peels off over time. There is no central leader or main trunk to the tree, and its stems hang down, which causes the weeping appearance. The branches and limbs grow up from the center of the tree, then bend over and grow toward the ground. A healthy weeping birch should live 40 to 50 years, but some die before they are 20 years old. Weeping birch is also susceptible to birch leafminer and bronze birch borer, serious insect pests that can cause widespread damage. Pruning a weeping birch will keep it healthy by removing diseased limbs and resulting in a better shape.

Step 1

Prune weeping trees in the winter, before spring growing begins. Avoid pruning between May 1 and August 1 because that is the flight period of the bronze birch borer, which will infect open wounds in the bark.

Step 2

Pull up all shoots or sprouts that appear in the ground around the bottom of the weeping birch tree. They will make the appearance messy because they grow straight up and don't weep.

Step 3

Prune dead, damaged and diseased branches as soon as they are noticed. They do nothing to enhance the tree's appearance and may actually cause insect infestation to spread to other parts of the weeping birch.

Step 4

Cut unwanted branches next to their collar, which is the thicker area where the branch meets the trunk of the tree. Avoid leaving a stump. Pruning close to the collar will encourage faster healing.

Step 5

Be careful with larger limbs. Make a cut under the unwanted limb, going about 1/3 of the way into the branch. Follow with a cut on the upper side of the branch just a little forward from the previous cut, meeting the previous cut to cause the branch to fall away. With the bulk of the limb's weight removed, you can then finish the job by cutting off the remaining stub close to the collar.

Step 6

Cut branches off that touch the ground. Use pruning shears to place the cut next to a bud if you want to shorten the limb. To completely remove it, prune it where it meets the tree trunk.

Step 7

Remove branches that rub or cross each other as well as those that are not weeping. Again, make cuts next to the collar to optimize healing.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't prune more than 25 percent of a weeping birch's live canopy. Don't use wound dressings because they will not repel borers or close wounds. Weeping birch sap is sticky and can mar cars and other objects placed under the tree. If your weeping birch is near a parking area, prune so that branches don't hang over parked cars to avoid sap stains.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw or chain saw

References

  • Birch Tree Care
  • USDA
  • Forest Resources Extension
Keywords: weeping birch trees, prune weeping birch, cut branches

About this Author

Kelly Shetsky has been a broadcast journalist for more than ten years, researching, writing, producing and reporting daily on many topics. In addition, she writes for several websites, specializing in medical, health and fitness, arts and entertainment, travel and business-related topics. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Marist College.