The Best Birch Trees to Grow in Georgia
Over the past few years, tree planting has become a common habit. However, not all trees are good for every region, and with the lack of knowledge on what tree would be suitable for their locality, people find it hard to plant and manage trees.
Birch trees are deciduous hard wood trees it of the Betulaceae family under the genus Betula. Some of the most common trees planted in regions with cold climates. These trees were believed to have been first planted in North America, but Europe has also grown them to a certain extent. There are many kinds of birch trees that grow rapidly, so they are among the most popular ornamental trees. You will easily find several birch tree specimens planted in parks or public areas. While it is speculated that most birch trees will not thrive in a warmer climate, some species may just beat this speculation with the proper care and attention. Here are six types of beach trees that you may grow in Georgia:
River Birch (Betula nigra)
Native to the eastern region of the United States, this is one of the birch trees that may survive in Georgia. The river birch is adapted to all types of climate and has a strong tendency to thrive. The most common outdoor specimens are the hybrid varieties because they tend to grow taller and more robust than other species. They are known for their beautiful, dark green foliage, which turns to buttery yellow during Fall. The river birch is a deciduous tree that flowers in the spring and are covered with small white buds. The flowers are so small that you would hardly see them unless you are looking for them. The red berries are edible in the summer and produce a good amount of natural food during their ripening period. The tree grows to a height of 40 – 70 feet, so it can easily be planted as small ornamental trees in your front yards.
The tree can thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9 and is the only known true heat tolerant birch. The birch tree has beautiful thick, leathery, dark green leaves. The berries are red or purple and not edible. The bark is gray and furrowed, while the wood is light yellow-brown in color with a reddish tinge. It’s very easy to transplant, and the root system seems to be rather healthy after transplanting. In some areas, it is also referred to as the Red birch, water birch, or black birch.
Bog Birch (Betula pumila)
The bog birch is native to North America but can also be found in Europe and has been introduced over time. It grows in the moist areas of Flatwoods, bogs, swamps, and streams. It is also known as the swamp birch or the dwarf birch. While it will not survive in climates with extremely hot or extreme cold, it can grow well in USDA zones 2 through 9. The plant can also tolerate extremely salt or alkaline conditions, flooding, and even clay soil. The bog birch also produces abundant seeds spread by wind, water, and animals.
The branches droop towards the ground and look like they need to be pruned or supported. The bog birch spreads its roots wide until it forms a mat on top of wet soil. The growth is slow unless it’s provided with rich soil and other nutrients.
It has a short trunk, which is usually between 15 – 20 inches tall and slightly swollen at the base. The leaves are arranged in an alternate pattern, with both the leaf surfaces being green. The tree can grow to a height of around 8 feet and develop branches that grow out of the trunk. The seed cones have winged scales and turn from green to brown when they mature. When planting it on residential areas, it will thrive well around bodies of water or areas with a lot of water (Boggy areas). This will make it perfect for rain gardens.
Paper Bark Birch (Betula papyrifera)
Native to northern parts of the U.S., Alaska, and Canada, this is another common tree that can be grown in Georgia. The paper bark birch is a deciduous tree that grows to a height of 100 feet, and although the bark is not smooth and furrowed, it looks leathery and has a light-colored surface of either white or yellow during Fall. The tree is named the paper bark birch due to the thin bark that often peels to form paper-like layers. The paper bark birch has a distinct, shrubby, broad crown with spreading branches that sprout from the trunk and foliage. It has small leaves, which are green when they are new and turn yellow-brown when they age.
It can grow in USDA zones 2 through 7. The paper birch has a large root system, which is very suitable for erosion control. In some older specimens, you may also find an area at the base where the bark peels back to reveal the red surface of the tree. This is a common characteristic of paper birch. Its leaf shape and color vary with location and climate. The paper bark birch thrives well in areas with high moisture or damp soil, thicket habitats, and can tolerate full sunshine or a shady environment.
Historically the paper birch was used to create various items from canoes to footwear. The flavorful nuts were eaten by Native Americans and can be found on the foraging list of squirrels, bears, raccoons, and foxes. The paper birch also produces edible nuts and is considered a good tree for wildlife.
Silver Birch (Betula pendula or B. verrucosa)
Native to China, Japan, Korea, and Siberia, the silver birch is a deciduous tree that grows rapidly. It is also known as the weeping birch or European white birch. The tree will grow to a size of 40 – 80 feet in height and can spread to about 5 feet in diameter. It is widely used in landscaping for utility or ornamental purposes. The silver birch needs to be planted in USDA zones 2 through 7, but it can also survive in zones 8 and 9 even though it will have a shorter lifespan. The bark of the silver birch is white and smooth at first, but it starts peeling when trees are older than 5 years old. The branches are long and drooping. The tree has small, shiny green leaves that are spirally arranged. The glossy silver or hairless bark is thick and smooth. The branches have a dense canopy of foliage and are covered with small, white, oval-shaped flowers, which are sometimes fragrant. The tree grows rapidly and produces abundant flowers, which drop in the winter months.
The silver birch grows vigorously and is easy to transplant. It has a distinctive appearance and can grow well in open areas as well as forested areas. The tree’s trunk is pyramidal when growing but will take on a rounded shape as it matures. It needs ample watering to survive and thrives in moist soil conditions.
While the silver birch was used for landscaping and ornamental purposes in the past, its susceptibility to the bronze birch borer has limited its application to such purposes in recent years.
Japanese White Birch (Betula platyphylla ‘Japanica’)
Native to the Japanese archipelago, this deciduous tree grows rapidly and can grow to a height of 50 feet and a diameter of 1.5 feet. The bark is grey, and the bark often hardens to a darker shade between its branches. The tree has leaves that are dark green in color and grows a slender trunk that often has several branches emerging from it, giving it an umbrella-like look. It’s very tolerant of harsh weather conditions such as heat, cold or wet soils and can be grown in USDA zones 3 through 8 but prefers to grow in moist soil or full sunlight.
Like most birch trees, the “Manchurian birch” will thrive better in cooler climates and will not become as tall in warmer areas. It is a good tree for landscaping and ornamental purposes. It can grow very fast in its early stages and is commonly grown in urban areas because of its tolerance to pollution. Its bark has a unique texture to it that makes it popular with landscape designers.
The Japanese birch also has a large root system that makes it suitable for erosion control. It is also a good tree for wildlife and will attract deer and birds. It is easy to transplant, shape, maintain and propagate but compared to the other types of birches; it does not have the same ornamental quality.
Cherry Birch (Betula lenta)
Native to the Eastern U.S., from Maine to northern Georgia, the cherry birch is a deciduous tree that grows to a height of 40 – 70 feet and can spread to about 5 feet in diameter. It is known for its striking shiny red-brown bark and yellow foliage, which makes it suited for home lawns and decorations. The bark has a different texture from the other birches, and as the tree matures, it develops vertical cracks to form scaly plates. This leads to a close resemblance to the cherry tree hence the name. The bark also has a medicinal value and was used by the Native Americans to heal coughs and sore throats. The leaves of the cherry birch are dark green in color and oval-shaped, which turn yellow on maturity. It is one of the hardier trees on this list and can be grown in USDA zone 3 through 8.
It produces fruits in the form of catkins from August through to October, and the fruits make for a source of food for various animals, including deer, rabbits, moose, and birds. The fruits and flowers of the tree also attract butterflies, thus making it a good ornamental tree for landscapes. The root system of the cherry birch is very deep and extends in a zig-zag pattern. What’s more is that the tree is resistant to the bronze birch borer, which affects many birch trees planted in warmer regions. This makes the tree one of the best birches to propagate in Georgia.
How to grow and take care of birch trees
Growing birch trees from seed is not a difficult task but one that requires patience. Birch trees do not grow from seeds fast, and it may take almost two years for them to germinate. As such, it is more advisable to propagate them from cuttings which will take a fairly shorter time to root.
The soil is one of the crucial factors to consider when propagating these trees. It should be kept moist and well drained. Most birch trees will thrive in almost all soil types, from clay soil to sandy soil, but for the best results, you should consider loam soil. Be sure to check on the best soil for the particular species you choose.
Be sure to water your birch trees daily. The right amount of water will vary depending on the species you are propagating, although most birch trees prefer moist soils; hence regularly watering them is recommended. If a birch tree is well watered, it will have a lush green appearance which will bring out its beautiful foliage. However, if they are not watered, they might wither and die in no time. While watering, be sure not to overwater as this could promote root rot.
The amount of sunlight that these trees receive depends on the species, but most require between 6 and 10 hours of direct sunlight per day for good growth.
Most birch trees do not require fertilization. However, in case you find it necessary to fertilize your tree be sure to apply a natural fertilizer that contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Applying organic matter like compost or leaf mold will suffice for other users.
Pest and Diseases
Birch trees are susceptible to diseases and pests. Most of the diseases that affect birch trees include dogwood anthracnose, spruce budworm, birch leaf miner, and others. Pests that affect these trees include the bronze birch borer and the moth.