- Type Deciduous tree
- Lifespan 100 years
- USDA Zones 4 to 9
- Light Prefers sunlight
- Crown Weeping or open canopy
- Location Craves moisture
- Design Tip Pleasing in clusters
- Pairs Well With Grasses
- Peak Season Yellow autumn leaves
Birch Trees: A Field Guide
Birch is a handsome opportunist that springs up in neglected places even as its beautiful, textured bark makes it a favorite of designers in search of an ornamental tree.
A fast-growing tree (reaching heights of 40 feet), birch is unfortunately relatively short-lived; Betula rarely has a life span of more than a hundred years. Among the most beautiful cultivars are the silver birch (B. pendula) and the white birch (B. pubescens).
There are dozens of varieties of birch but many are susceptible to pests such as the Agrilus anxius, a beetle also known as the bronze birch borer. To prevent infestation, site a birch tree in a well-drained, moist spot with protection from harsh summer heat.
One reason garden designers love to incorporate birch trees into a landscape because there is a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and forms. “Birch trunks may be slender or wide, single or multiple; crowns may be narrow, or broad and spreading,” writes Anna Lewington in Birch (Reaktion: 2018). “Leaf size and shape, color, and texture vary too, from the triangular double-toothed outline of the silver birch to the almost circular or kidney-shaped leaf of the dwarf birch, which has distinctly rounded teeth.”