Birch trees are popular additions to yards because of their attractive shape and interesting bark, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns that birch trees require more care than many other trees to keep them healthy. Planting them correctly helps to get them off on the right foot.
Selecting a Tree and Planting Site
Pick a variety of birch tree that’s right for your climate zone and weather conditions. This is critical. The USDA estimates that most birch trees die within 20 years of being planted, often because they weren’t the right species for the area. Discuss which type of birch tree is best for your situation with a reputable nurseryman or your county extension agent.
Site your birch tree on the north or east side of your house so the tree can get some shade in the afternoons. Birch trees need to have sunshine on their leaves, but they prefer their roots to be cool and damp.
Plant your tree far away from any overhead wires. Keep in mind that a mature birch can reach 50 feet in height.
Plant your tree away from driveways, sidewalks or trails where traffic compresses the soil. Because birch trees have roots that lie close to the surface of the soil and spread out over great distances, constantly pressing the soil down on the roots can damage them.
Plant your tree at least 20 feet from your house.
Choose a place for your tree where the soil drains well and has a pH level of 5.0 to 6.5. Determine the pH of your soil by contacting your county extension office or state agriculture department and asking for a soil test. If the results are less than optimal, consult the extension agents or state workers about how to amend it.
Planting the Tree
Take the tree out of its container and spread its roots out well. Cut off any tangled roots.
Dig a hole for your birch tree that is wide and shallow, at least three times as big as the widest part of the root ball.
Look for the part of the root ball closest to the beginning of the trunk that spreads out horizontally. This is called the “root flare.” Put the tree into its hole so that the root flare will be just below the surface of the soil after you’ve filled in around it.
Fill the hole up about halfway with dirt. Water the tree and let the soil settle in around it.
Fill in the hole the rest of the way and water the soil again. The soil in the hole should be level with the surrounding soil.
Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the tree and up against its trunk.