Betula pendula

Family: Betulaceae

Countries: Africa, Albania, Americas, Argentina, Asia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Corsica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Europe, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Middle East, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, North America, North Korea, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Siberia, South America, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tibet, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Wales, Yugoslavia

The Silver Birch (Betula pendula) is one of our most recognisable UK native trees with its glorious silvery-white bark and dainty green leaves.  We’re not the only ones to have an affinity with Betula pendula, this stunning tree is a native plant of many countries in Europe and Northern Asia.  Betula pendula is a deciduous tree, its leaves turn from green to a buttery yellow before falling in autumn.  This tree supports over 300 insects, as well as a wide range of birds, fungi, and wildlife, making Betula pendula an ideal choice of tree to plant in a community or wildlife garden.  Betula pendula is such a beauty and should be considered in all gardens that can accommodate it; we all need to grow more native plants to help our insects and wildlife.

If you’re wondering where to plant Betula pendula, this tree is perfectly suited to growing in bright sunshine or partial shade.  Betula pendula thrives on light, free-draining, sandy soils and is often seen growing on heathlands.  It’s an easy-going tree that will grow in almost any moist but well-drained soil, but Betula pendula really flourishes on free-draining, acid soils.  The Silver Birch is an easy to grow and drought-tolerant tree, making it very useful for gardeners.  Betula pendula (the Silver Birch) is best grown in well-drained soils, if your soil is heavier or more water retentive, try planting another of our native trees – the Downy Birch, Betula pubescens; as this close relative of the Silver Birch thrives in moist soils and will even grow on clay.

This is a monoecious plant; Betula pendula produces both male and female flowers on the same tree.  Betula pendula will soon colonise an area of ground, rising up from seed blowing in on the wind from local trees in autumn.  Growing Betula pendula trees from seed that’s scattered on the breeze from trees growing in the same vicinity is the best way to cultivate naturally strong and healthy, resilient plants.  Why not allow Betula pendula to colonise an area of your garden rather than buying and planting a container grown tree?

If you’re considering planting Betula pendula, it’s worth remembering that these trees can grow up to around 25m (80ft) tall.  However, it will be a long time before a seeding reaches this height and your plant doesn’t have to grow this tall.  Betula pendula trees grow more rapidly during their first 15 years of growth and then their growth rates slows; these trees can also be grown as multi-stemmed trees or grown as attractive groups of multiple seedlings.  Many years ago, I grew a multi-stemmed Betula pendula tree in one of my gardens – I absolutely adored this tree!  Avoid pruning Betula pendula whenever you can; these trees don’t generally require pruning and they bleed heavily if pruned in springtime, or during the growing season.

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