Birch trees thrive in nutrient-rich organic soils that are consistently moist and acidic in pH. Though they can adapt to less than ideal soil conditions and survive, their appearance can suffer. They are grown for their airy canopies, upright growth habit and distinctive and decorative peeling bark. In addition to being grown as specimen landscape trees, birch are also cultivated for use in the paper industry and to produce decorative objects and household furnishings.
Acidic Soil pH
Birch trees require acidic soil that hovers around 6.0 pH. When forced to grow in alkaline soil with a pH above 7, the tree can experience iron chlorosis. This causes the tree to lose the green color in its leaves and drop them to the ground prematurely in early to mid-season. Amending alkaline soils with elemental sulfur can reduce the pH. Soil tests can be purchased at the nursery center to help make a determination if you are in any doubt about your soil makeup.
Birch trees thrive in moist to occasionally wet soils. Very sandy soils or clay soils are low in organic material and cannot hold onto moisture sufficiently. This can cause drought stress if regular rain or irrigation is not provided to the birch trees. Although birch trees can survive light occasional drought stress, they will respond by dropping leaves from the canopy, which is never desirable.
With their constant water usage, nutrients get absorbed and washed through the soil readily when growing birch trees. Nutrient-poor soils should be amended with generous amounts of compost and/or well-aged manure to boost the soil fertility and to aid in holding moisture to the roots. A mulch of leaf mold or shredded bark will also add to the soil quality as they break down over time, acting as a light natural fertilizer.