The birch tree…
A large, sometimes small, and often white-trunked tree it’s impossible to ignore.
You’ve seen it in real life, in movies, and in paintings (ARTISTS LOVE IT).
And it’s not a secret why… The tree is GORGEOUS!
But the birch tree comes in many sizes, shapes, and colors.
It also grows in different environments, so there’s a chance it will grow in your garden.
But for that, you need to be aware of the types of birch trees out there, so you have an easy time planting them in your garden.
Anyway, let’s show you the most common and exciting varieties out there below. Check them up below (WE HAVE PICTURES)!
16 Types of Birch Tree Species to Plant in your Garden
1. American Dwarf Birch (Betula glandulosa)
It’s less of a tree and a bit more of a shrub, yet still worth considering.
The American Dwarf Birch (also known as the Resin birch) is one of the smallest species. It’s actually closely familiar with the Dwarf Birch (we’ll talk about it later).
How small is it?
Well, it can grow a maximum of 10 feet or so. But most likely to reach between 3 and 6 feet. In fact, it’s expected to grow sideways more than upwards, sometimes taking several feet in diameter (like most shrubs).
Because it’s small, the guy has a slim trunk as well. If it gets to 4 inches in diameter, that would be a lot. But it’s not as dull as you think. The bark is actually reddish-brown so it looks fantastic.
As for the leaves, they are green in the summer and brown the rest of the year.
Because it mainly grows in cool temperatures of really northern places like the Arctic and high-altitude areas from the East and West of North America. For that reason, you can call it a winter hardy plant ready to withstand below-zero temperatures.
You can grow it almost anywhere as long as the soil is humid enough. It loves moist places close to swamps.
INTERESTING FACT: Many mammals use this tree’s leaves as a food source, so it may become a target if you live close to elk, deer, caribou, and even BEARS!
2. Bog Birch (Betula pumila)
Another swamp-loving birch – the BOG BIRCH.
This one is a tiny bit larger than other small birch species, growing to about 13 feet given the right conditions (tons of humidity from the grossest bodies of water).
It is also short-lived. While the plant grows almost anywhere (alkaline soil, clay, road, nutrient-deficient earth, and sometimes just whatever), and it resists flooding as well as severe winter climates, it rarely survives more than five decades.
The excellent part about bog birch trees?
THEY LOVE WATER. If you have a water garden, then it will likely thrive around it.
And best of all, they make for excellent full-sun plants without ever burning (unless you set them on fire, of course).
Overall, they’re exceptional trees. And good-looking too (a bit shrubby like other small birch trees).
BY THE WAY: You can grow them anywhere from hardiness zones 2 like the north of Canada or warmer, louder, and more humid places like Mississipi.
3. Chinese Red Birch (Betula albosinensis)
It’s not a coincidence the tree has red bark and originates in the Western part of China.
RED. CHINA. The perfect combination.
But it’s not a communist tree. No tree is. It’s actually gorgeous. And one of the most exciting birches to have in your garden regardless of your political affiliation.
When it’s blooming in the warmth of summer, it produces green-to-yellow leaves. Then, the fall arrives, the green disappears completely, and the tree becomes yellow. Come the winter, and the leaves disappear to make it a red bark tree only.
But the trunk and branches are not entirely red. They also hold a few white spots and layers that set it apart (and make it more beautiful).
However, in contrast with other birch trees, this one prefers warmer climates (but not so warm). It grows in hardiness zones going from 5 to 8, so it’s unlikely to survive below zero temperatures.
As for soils, it likes anything. As long as it receives tons of sunlight and the soil is relatively moist, the tree will grow to over 50 feet tall and take over 20 feet in diameter.
WORTH KNOWING: This is a drought-tolerant tree despite being water-loving (it loves ponds, rivers, and lakes). It will survive in dry seasons.
4. Downy Birch (Betula Pubescens)
Think your backyard gets too cold come winter for a birch tree?
That’s because you don’t know about the downy birch, a variety that can withstand temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yes, you read that right.
You can find it pretty much in any far northern place where humans struggle. This includes Canada, Russian, Greenland, and cold Eastern Europe.
It can grow to about 40 feet in a typical environment. If the conditions make it possible, it can reach over 60 feet.
To grow it in your backyard, you will need to ensure full-sun exposure as well as moist soil. It still thrives almost anywhere with little to no output, as long as the conditions are there.
It has a unique feature that sets it apart from other birches: the bark grows tiny hairy-like fibers from time to time. That’s why it sometimes gets the name of hairy birch.
INTERESTING TO KNOW: This birch’s bark can be used as a diuretic, astringent, and even as an anti-inflammatory medicine. It’s amazing.
5. Dwarf Birch (Betula nana)
At first sight, you’ll think it’s more of an herb than it is a birch tree. But you would be wrong.
This small yet good-looking shrub gets the name of dwarf birch for its size. It can withstand the coldest temperatures. And it is likely to grow even in the most challenging situations.
You’re likely to find it in areas as cold as Greenland and Iceland and relatively warm as Western Europe and Northern Asia.
It still needs a lot of sun exposure to reach 5 feet of height. Most likely, it will reach anywhere from 2 to 4 feet and look more like a shrub than a tree.
Also, it hates shade, so you’ll have more success growing in the inhabited areas of your garden.
CONSIDER THIS: It thrives in rocky environments as long as the humidity is there, so you can grow it on rock gardens without problems.
6. Erman’s Birch (Betula ermanii)
One of the most unique trees out there, the Erman’s Birch boasts exciting bark colors and a tall body.
A typical Erman’s can reach 70 feet in the ideal place: moist but well-drained soil. Temperatures below zero will make it struggle, but it won’t die.
There’s something you’ll love about it: its leaves are heart-shaped and get a yellowish color when fall arrives. In the winter, these leaves turn reddish before they fall.
Have we mentioned the bark’s tones?
A soft creamy white color, sometimes greyish tone makes it a sight to behold.
You can find it in many different places: Siberia, Japan, Northern China, Korea, and North America.
THIS IS AWESOME: It has a peeling bark that adds a unique texture to its trunk, making it even more attractive.
7. Gray Birch (Betula populifolia)
You can guess what colors it features by its name.
But it’s not entirely gray. The bark also has black V-shaped markings all across, giving it an interesting look. These marks tend to grow over time, making the bark a lot darker as the tree ages.
As for the leaves, they’re dark green in the summer and spring, getting yellowish in the fall.
It is not the biggest of all birches, growing to about 30 feet. You can find it taller than 40 feet, but that’s rare. Its trunk can reach over 15 inches in diameter.
Like most birches, it prefers moist environments where the soil stays humid for most of the time. And you can grow it without problems as long as it receives full sun to partial shade.
DON’T IGNORE THIS: While other birch trees can reach 100 years of age without problems, the gray birch rarely lives more than 25 years.
8. Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii)
Want a tree with the whitest of barks? The Himalayan birch is your best choice.
Its trunk is as white as milk. The leaves are light green and large. Combined with the pyramid-like shape it gets from its branch growth, the tree tends to be impossible to overlook.
When it grows in the right environment (a lot of sun exposure and humid climates), it can reach over 50 feet of height.
As you can guess by the name, it is mainly found in the Himalayan area in Nepal. Temperatures can reach -10 degrees Fahrenheit, and the tree won’t struggle.
LEARN THIS: It is one of the longest-lived birches, reaching 140 years in the best-case scenario.
9. Japanese White Birch (Betula platyphylla ‘Japanica’)
Another white-barked tree, the Japanese White birch is one of the most unique varieties.
What makes it different? At first, it is the trunk shape.
In contrast with other birches, this one grows only a few branches from the main trunk. This trunk can reach over 50 feet by itself. The white bark with dark marks makes it almost impossible to ignore.
Its main feature is growing in extremely cold areas: Northern, high-altitude Japan where temperatures reach -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
As long as it receives full sun exposure or partial shade, the soil is decently humid, and nutrients are enough, the birch won’t mind. It can get to 140 years old.
THERE’S SOMETHING MORE: The bark becomes reddish in warm areas.
10. Paper Bark Birch (Betula papyrifera)
You could say it is like the Japanese White birch but from North America.
First, because the white bark and think trunk are super-similar.
Second, the trunk grows almost individually, with only a few branches growing on top.
And third, you’ll also find the black V-shaped marks all across the bark.
But there are a few dissimilarities to consider.
For one, this variety typically grows in colder temperatures up to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. This includes parts of Alaska, Canada, and other Northern American states.
Then you’ll find its growth capacity. In the right conditions (moist soil and full-sun exposure), it can grow to 100 feet quickly.
And lastly, it ages to about 80 years old.
WORTH TO KNOW: This tree was used by Native Americans as material for canoes and hunting tools.
11. River Birch (Betula nigra)
The River birch stands like an attractive choice among those that LOVE humid environments.
You’ll find several exciting parts about it.
For example, the bark often gets a brownish-red tone. It is a peeling bark that reveals a salmon-pink bark under the peeling skin in the warmer seasons.
Its leaves are dark green, yet they get yellow when fall comes.
The tree can reach 70 feet as long as it’s exposed to full sun and moist soil. So it can actually grow close to rivers and lakes. That’s where its name comes from.
It is native to the eastern US and will likely grow in areas where temperatures go as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 30 degrees. You can consider it a relatively warmth-withstanding birch.
ALSO IMPORTANT: It grows super-fast, reaching full mature height within 15 years (it lives to about 80 years).
12. Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
The name comes from the white-grayish bark color.
This variety grows to about 80 feet with a thin trunk and several branches growing from it.
The leaves tend to be light green in the summer and spring. In fall, these leaves turn brown.
It can grow in a slightly warmer environment than other birches, yet it prefers temperatures between -40- and 20-degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher than that will reduce its typical 100-year lifespan to about half.
You can find it in many parts of the world, yet it is native to Asia and Europe. Most of the time, it grows in cold areas even if there isn’t much humidity. For that reason, it prefers full sun exposure over any shade.
TO MAKE IT EVEN BETTER: It develops dark marks as it grows, changing its white bark into a silver one when it matures.
13. Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)
You can find it with many names, like Mahogany, Virginia, Spice, Black, and Cherry birch.
The reason for so many names is the appearance. It resembles many other trees while still holding key birch features.
For example, the bark boasts cracks all across the trunk. This trunk also grows scales and peeling skin. Also, the trunk is among the thickest in birch trees, reaching over 25 inches in diameter.
In the right environment (temperatures over 0 degrees), it can grow to about 70 feet.
When the summer arrives, it boasts beautiful light-green leaves. In fall, the leaves turn yellowish.
It prefers full sun over partial shade but grows well in both.
AWESOME FACT: It is one of the longest-lived birch trees, reaching 250 years old in some cases.
14. Water Birch (Betula occidentalis)
Read its name. Now guess WHERE it prefers to grow.
You guessed it right. Close to water bodies.
Any place with tons of humidity (lakes, rivers, ponds, swamps, etc.) will be an almost perfect place for the water birch to grow.
This includes anywhere with mountains, hills, and even plains.
It’s not only its love for the humidity that makes it easy to identify.
This is also one of the smallest birch trees. A typical specimen grows to about 25 feet (sometimes over 40 feet, but that’s rare).
As for its appearance, you’ll find it with white bark. This bark tends to have black marks all across. Sometimes, the bark grows red and boasts crack-like marks.
FUN TO KNOW: Beavers and other tree-eating animals LOVE this variety (they also use it for building lodges).
15. Weeping Birches (Betula pendula var.)
Even though it is a variation of the “Silver Birch (Betula Pendula),” this one has a unique feature: its leaves tend to grow like a pendulum with limped branches.
Meaning the tree looks like it’s “weeping.”
There are many types of Weeping birches to consider. From the Curly birch (Betula pendula var. ‘Carelica’) to the Purple Weeping birch (Betula Pendula ‘Purpurea’).
A typical weeping birch grows to about 50-80 feet. It can live to 80-120 years. And it prefers humid areas, including cold environments reaching -10 degrees Fahrenheit.
THIS IS IMPORTANT: It is the same as Silver birch in many factors. But not all Silver birch trees grow the “weeping” leaves and branches. That’s why we consider it a different variety.
16. Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
Last in our list of birch trees, we have no other than the Yellow birch – given the color of its bark.
This tree grows slightly different than other birch varieties: an individual trunk gets to over 48 inches in diameter, making it one of the thickest.
Such a thick trunk makes it one of the longest-living trees from the birch varieties. In suitable environments, it can live over 200 years.
While the bark tends to be yellowish or light bronze in tone, you may also find it with a dark brown color. It’s also one of the hardest barks and woods from the birch family.
The tree loves environments that reach no lower than -10 degrees Fahrenheit and can grow to over 80 feet if it receives enough sun exposure.
AMAZING FACT: This is an essential variety for the lumber industry in North America. You will find many furniture pieces, veneer, and even hardwood floors made with wood from this variety.
What do you think of so many exciting types of birch trees?
There’s a birch tree for everyone – that’s for sure!
Better yet, it is a tree not only you will enjoy, but also your children and even your grandchildren.
So, what are you waiting to plant one of these at home?
GET THAT BIRCH NOW!