If you chose a paper or cluster birch tree for your landscape, you have made a fast-growing, small-scale, beautiful choice. Birches have delicate branches, a unique bark pattern, and they mature quickly, making them a great addition to a landscape that needs a fast completion. However, birches are more susceptible to certain diseases and can be sensitive to environmental elements, especially if they are not planted or cared for correctly. Here is what you can do to make sure your birch tree stays healthy.
1. Care for the root system.
You will need to make sure the roots are watered often and well. Birches have shallow root systems compared to most trees, which means they will not survive through dry seasons. If you are not getting much rain, make it a point to water your birch tree often to keep the roots from failing. You can also care for the roots by planting the tree in a place where it will be protected from the elements. Choose a north or west-facing direction for your birch; south and east can often offer too much heat from intense sunshine.
2. Properly prune.
Birch trees have a beautiful, graceful look that depends on a strong central leader that supports graceful, flexible branches. This leader is essential to the overall health of the tree. Try to protect the leader from damage and never top the leader of a birch tree to restrict the height of the canopy. The tree will almost certainly die. Instead, thin the canopy occasionally by removing old, dead, or diseased branches. If some portions are too thick and leaves are dying from not getting enough sun, remove some of the thickest growth by cutting single branches as close to the mother stem as possible.
3. Protect from pests.
Birch trees attract borers, specifically the Bronze Birch Borer. The larvae bore into the trunk and leader and prevent nutrients from flowing up the tree. Eventually, the top of the tree will begin to look dead because of starvation. You can prevent borers by spraying an insect barrier around your birches periodically and by making sure the tree is properly pruned. Improper pruning leaves wounds that make it easier for borers to infiltrate. If you are an inexperienced pruner, it's best to leave this task to a professional tree service to make sure that you do not accidentally shorten the tree's life.