The European White Birch is a fast-growing tree for cold parts of the country, that is a great choice for a new, empty garden. It will look beautiful very quickly and bring a real presence you will love. This small tree can eventually become 30 or 40 feet tall, but it throws light shade, and never becomes overpowering in a smaller space. It has beautiful pure-white bark, that peels in strips, giving a lovely effect, and the heart-shaped leaves hang and rustle in the breeze. Even before the spring leaves appear, long catkins hang and decorate the tree to mark the end of winter. Plant this tree alone or in a group on a lawn, as a row to mark your property line, or near water. This lovely tree has a special charm that no other tree does.
- Beautiful pure-white bark with black markings
- Delicate hanging leaves rustle in the breezes
- Fast-growing tree for new gardens
- Very hardy all the way into zone 2
- Great choice for moist soil and near water
Plant the European White Birch in a sunny spot, or with some afternoon shade, especially in warmer zones. It grows well in any ordinary soil, and it does best with a combination of moisture and good drainage. Keep your tree well-watered during dry spells, and this is a great choice to plant near, but not in, water. We recommend this tree for cool zones, with good winter snow and cooler summers. For hotter zones, choose the River Birch instead.
When putting in a new garden, especially on a treeless site, planting trees is always the top priority. Since we want to see results fast, it makes sense to plant something fast-growing, that will soon become large enough to bring a real presence to your garden. If you live in cold regions, then the European White Birch must be a first choice. It grows rapidly, and even when young it has great charm, with its mottled white bark standing out beautifully. Its soft, rustling leaves throw only light shade, and its drooping branches give it a charming air – a great first tree for your first garden.
Growing European White Birch Trees
The European White Birch is a handsome small tree, growing rapidly to 15 or 20 feet tall, and ultimately reaching 30 to 40 feet in height. It can in time spread as much as 30 feet across, although usually it will be just 20 feet wide. Allow some distance from houses and buildings when planting, so that it does not become crowded. The branches are thin, creating an open rounded crown, with the young branches drooping a little, creating a graceful look. The leaves are heart-shaped, about 2½ inches long, with a tapering tip and serrated edges. They hang and flutter in the breeze, so this tree is always in motion, rustling gently. In fall they turn a cool pale yellow, before fluttering to the ground.
The bark is the main feature of this tree, and it give this tree its name, and its considerable beauty. It is pure white when young, with black markings, and it peels away in strips, giving a unique shaggy look to the tree. A young tree will be completely white, and older trees develop some gray and black bark low down on the main trunk, with deep furrows.
In spring, before the leaves appear, long yellow-brown catkins hang from the tree. These are about 2½ inches long, and they carry the male flowers. As well, shorter, upright green catkins carry the female flowers, which turn into small cone-like seed pods, visible after the leaves fall. The male catkins make the tree look like it is garlanded for a party.
Uses on Your Property
Plant the European White Birch alone or in a group on a lawn, or plant it along the property line. Use it at the edge of a woodland area, beside a stream or in low-lying wetter areas. This tree is incredibly hardy, all the way down to minus 50 degrees, so it is an ideal choice in northern areas, where tree choices are more limited – although a beautiful tree like this will be admired everywhere.
Planting and Initial Care
The European White Birch grows best in full sun or light shade, and afternoon shade is welcomed in zones 6 and 7. It will grow well in most soils, preferring a richer soil, rather than a dry, sandy one. This tree does not like growing in constantly-wet soil either, but it does need plenty of moisture, and it grows best in cooler zones, with snowy winters and cool summers with rain. Young trees should be watered deeply during dry spells and mulched to conserve moisture around their roots. Nevertheless, this is an easy tree to grow, and quickly becomes an attractive addition to any garden.
History and Origins of the European White Birch
The European White Birch (betula pendula) grows over an extensive part of the northern hemisphere, all the way from western Europe eastwards to central Asia, and into Siberia, Mongolia and China. It grows south into the mountains of northern Iran, Iraq and Turkey. It is a pioneer species, among the first trees to establish in disturbed areas, which is why it grows so well in new garden developments too.
This is a tree for colder parts of the country, as in areas that are hot and humid it becomes stressed, and this makes it susceptible to attack by the bronze birch borer, a beetle pest that burrows beneath the bark, and can quickly kill a tree. For hotter, drier and humid parts of the country, we recommend you plant instead one of our varieties of River Birch (betula lenta) which is not affected by the borer. That tree is much happier in hot areas, while still hardy all the way into zone 4. If you live in a cold zone, with snowy winters, then choose the European White Birch, and enjoy its special charm and beauty to the full. As this tree is relatively short-lived – 35 to 50 years – plan to plant other, slower-growing but longer-living trees too, like maple or oak, to build your garden for the future.
Our trees are grown from selected seed taken from the most beautiful and the healthiest trees, so you receive a top-quality tree that will take off rapidly, and soon be an attractive specimen.