How and when to prune birch trees


The birch is a tree that can exceed 20 m in height and its normal diameter reaches 50 cm or more. It is a leafy deciduous that sprouts in March (northern hemisphere), blooms in the month of April, also a time of pollination. It is a plant native to Central and North Asia, widespread in Europe, as well as in the northern United States and Canada. In South America it is on a smaller scale. It is grown as an ornamental species for parks and gardens. In this article we will see how to carry out the pruning of a birch trees, we will explain how and when to carry out this task and with what tools. We will also take the time to talk a little about the basic care you need to perform in your birch tree.


Note: Please note that the advice given here is general, this blog is consulted from many countries in the world, with totally different characteristics, what not all tips will be adapted in the same way in all cases. Once you finish reading the article it will be necessary to analyze all the information and apply what you have learned in the best way. If you have any questions, remember that you can contact us to make your inquiries.

1. How to care your birch trees


Although the central theme of this article is clear that how to prune a birch, we can not fail to notice that pruning is nothing other than a care or maintenance technique. Therefore, we will begin by briefly seeing the most important care you should take to this tree.

  • Soil: Requires fertile soils and acidity (<6.5). It depends on birch species, the characteristics may change. There are varieties that hold well the semi-wetlands and very acidic pH (Betula pubescens).
  • Irrigation: We usually associate the birch with river banks. The reason is that the superficial roots that it possesses have to have a constant humidity. It is an essential factor for the correct development of the tree. Therefore, if the birch is in a garden, it will require frequent watering in areas of low rainfall.
Birch trees
Birch trees
  • Sun: Although it is a tree with great cold weather, it needs moderate sun exposure. Too bleak areas are not the ideal place for optimal growth.
  • Sowing: It should be run preferably between April and May, months in which there is no risk of being affected by low temperatures.
  • Fertilizer: Nothing better as a fertilizer than using wood chips or leaves and bark.
  • Pests and diseases: You should keep in mind that the birch tree may have weaknesses before some pests, so it is recommended that you use an insecticide that allows you to protect it, preferably apply it in the tree’s bark or in the soil where it is found.
  • Pruning: this point could not be missing in the list, in what follows we will develop it in depth.

2. What tools to use for cutting back Birch tree


There are several tools available for pruning a birch tree, you will have to choose between one or the other depending on several factors, the most important is the age (height) of the birch. Among the tools you can use are the following:

  • Hand Pruning Shears: Stems up to half inch in diameter can be pruned with hand shears.
  • Lopping Shears: It is suitable to use on stems between half inch and 2 inches in diameter.
  • Saws: A number of pruning saws are available. These saws come with either curved or straight blades and of variable lengths and points. Curved blades that cut on the draw stroke are easy to use.
  • Chainsaw: for the thickest branches the most recommended is the use of these saws with motor, in adult birches you will surely need them.
  • Ladder, crane, scaffolding: since once adults these trees become very tall, you will need some strength that allows you to rise to perform pruning in height. Against this we always recommend that whoever is going to perform pruning tasks at height be a professional in the field.
  • Elements of personal safety: any pruning task entails risks, and if it is also carried out at height the risks increase. Keep all the protection elements available (helmet, harness, gloves, glasses, etc.). And as we noted in the previous point, try not to take risks and hire a pruning professional for risky tasks like this.

Keep in mind that you must disinfect all the tools before pruning your birch. This will help prevent disease transmission, you will have to do it before you start pruning and every time you change plants.

2.1 Necessary care for pruning tools

If you want to extend the useful life of your pruning tools there are some basic care.

  • Use the right tool for a job and avoid twisting or straining it.
  • Clean and oil tools regularly by wiping an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces.
  • Keep cutting edges sharp by regularly using an oilstone.
  • Wooden handles should be varnished or regularly treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking or splintering.

Carry out the previous care on a regular basis and you will be saving good money on tools. 🙂

3. Why prune any birch tree


Regardless of which birch varidead is concerned there are some reasons why pruning is necessary. We can summarize these reasons in the following:

  • Every dead or sick element in the birches interferes with its nominal growth, occupying space and resources. Therefore proper pruning encourages growth.
  • It is possible to avoid incidents with falling branches. In large plants such as birches, seeing a strong medium can cause the detachment and fall of branches.
  • As with any plant, pruning is often the best treatment against diseases and pests. On the other hand it also exposes some parts of the tree to sunlight, which helps minimize the incidence of the disease.
  • Improves the aesthetics of the tree. In birches located in gardens, pruning will always be necessary to improve the aesthetic appearance of the plant.
  • There is no doubt that the shade that a birch plant can give is excellent, a shadow that you cannot take advantage of if its surroundings are full of low branches. Eliminating these low branches will improve the use of your shadow.

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4. When to prune Birch trees


Keep in mind that in the winter months, the birch can lose sap from pruning wounds, so it is preferable to delay it until after buds sprout. Thus, the recommended time for birch pruning is between May and August (North Hemisphere).

If it is a pruning where only totally dead material is trimmed, you do not have the problem of losing sap, therefore you can carry out the trimming of dry branches at any time of the year. Something similar happens with diseased branches since you should not wait for an adequate time to cut them, but it is preferable to prune them just the detected ones to avoid a greater spread of the pest or disease.

5. Pruning Birch trees – How to prune


In birch tree there is five types of pruning that can be carried out. The first is that which needs to be carried out from the plantation and during the first years in search of a correct formation of the structure, the other pruning will be necessary during adulthood.

  • Training.
  • Thinning.
  • Crown reduction.
  • Rising crown.
  • Cleaning crown.

We will develop below how these five types of pruning should be carried out.

5.1 Training

As we said, the formation pruning the birch trees are necessary from the plantation, therefore we can conclude that the formation and planting prunings come hand in hand. So let’s talk a little about the planting of these birches.

The recommended age for planting is known as two sap (the first in nursery and the second already transplanted). At that age the seedling will be 70 to 100 cm high and a good radical system.

The ideal planting season is between November and March (northern hemisphere). The plant must be at a vegetative rest, without leaves. At that time it is convenient to carry out a conditioning by pruning of formation and elimination of branches, mainly, and cutting of the radical system.

Pruning birch formation, made in the first three years after planting, are indispensable. What should be done is to avoid double guidance, favoring the most vertical and best made so that the tree grows straight from the beginning. It is also necessary to eliminate the thickest branches seeking a balance in the arrangement of the branches in the plant.

5.2 Cronwn Thinning

This pruning that we titled as de thinning is the one we carry out when the crown of birch tree is very dense. Very dense crowns have the problem that they do not let in the amount of light necessary for proper development.

When this happens I recommend that you take some time to analyze the birch crown, and define which branches you can eliminate to lower this density. Try to cut the weakest branches allowing stronger branches to sunbathe and develop even better. Try never to prune more than 20 percent of birch tree branches.

5.3 Crown reduction

In this pruning, what is sought is to reduce the height of an adult birch, cutting large branches from the top. It is not a very recommended pruning since it impacts negatively on the health of the plant.

Although it is not a recommended pruning, in plants such as birch tree that can reach great heights may become necessary. When are they necessary? On multiple occasions such as:

  • Birches located on public roads that disturb the power line.
  • When a storm has spoiled the plant leaving a large number of upper branches with danger of falling.

In case of carrying out a pruning like this, do not forget to place healing paste in the pruning cuts, since you will surely have cut branches of significant thickness.

5.4 Rising crown

When we talked about the reasons why pruning should be carried out we said that it is needed to improve the use of the birch shade. With this pruning known as the rising crown, what we will do will be to eliminate all the annoying lower branches, this will not only benefit the best use of the shadow, but also redirect the energy towards the upper branches, producing an rising crown.

Birch tree height
Birch tree height

5.5 Cleaning crown

This is the pruning of the birch tree that is carried out to eliminate diseased and damaged branches and branches that have developed in an unwanted direction. By removing these leftover branches, it will expose the remaining branches to more air and sunlight and improve the structure and definition of the plant.

As I always say, before you start trimming, take some time to analyze the plant carefully, then you should eliminate the following:

• Cut any branch that is growing in a direction that does not go hand in hand with the development you want to give your birch.

Cutting completely dry branches, it will help the aesthetics of the plant.

• If you find branches attacked by a pest or disease, it is time to cut it.

Once the pruning is finished, you should study what to do with the waste. If you have not cut diseased branches or attacked by pests, you can use them in your garden (for example, compost), otherwise, try to remove those wastes from the garden to avoid spreading diseases or pests to other plants.

6. Pruning birch trees height video


In this website we like to finish the articles with an explanatory video, this always helps to understand the concepts in a more graphic way. In this case, we will use this section to provide information on the pruning of a high-height birch tree. As you can see the pruning of a tree of these characteristics requires knowledge and tools that not everyone has, and since it is a risky task from here we recommend that you hire a professional for pruning like this.

We have taken this video from the YouTube fourwalk channel.

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So here we are, I hope that everything was clear about how and when to prune birch tree, and do not have any doubt at the moment that you should take your scissors and trim.

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