Birch trees are glorious when healthy and thriving, yet these unique, distinctive, ornamental trees have acquired a reputation as difficult to grow and care for; pruning your river birch is essential to keeping it healthy and looking great.
The importance of employing proper pruning techniques while pruning birch trees can not be overstated. In the tree family, the birch tree has a particularly shallow root system, and roots count on proper coverage and shade from the overarching tree canopy for protection. Pruning away too much of the tree canopy (more than 25 percent is considered excessive and unnecessary) puts the entire root system at risk of scorching, pests, and damage.
Best Times to Prune a Birch Tree
Birch trees benefit the most when pruning is performed in late spring to early summer only. Delaying the pruning allows leaves to reach their full growth potential and reduces risk of depleting the sap the tree relies on for nourishment.
Dangers of Pruning a Birch Tree
Birch trees are very susceptible to wounds caused by pruning, and not much is commercially available that can assist with wound closure and sap cessation. The best a grower can do once the wound is inflicted is to keep the tree hydrated to minimize moisture loss while the sap runs out. Since birch trees tend to hold to a specific shape as they grow, and thus typically only require minimal pruning of natural growth, any necessary cuts to remove damaged or dead limbs should be performed with care.
With the proper location, care, and pruning techniques, growing lovely, long lasting birch trees can be successfully accomplished. Under the best conditions, birch trees have been known to survive and thrive for forty to fifty years, providing shade, beauty, and enjoyment to their caregivers throughout their life cycle.