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Lawn & Garden

Betula nigra, River Birch

Common Name: River Birch

Type: tree

Family: Betulaceae

Zone: 4 to 9     Find Your Zone

Height: 40 to 70 feet

Width: 50 to 60 feet

Sun exposure: full sun

Fall Color: yellow

Soil: acidic, fertile, wet to moist clay, sand, loam

Leaves: deciduous

Fertilizer: Vigoro Tree, Shrub and Evergreen or Miracle Gro Evergreen Tree Spikes


This tree is very adaptable. It grows naturally beside creeks and in moist lowlands. It can handle dry clay soils but prefers moist, acidic and fertile soil. This tree needs room to grow and can take over a landscape when put in the wrong place. It will shade its lower branches once it gets large enough, dropping dead branches below. This tree is tough as nails and known for its beautiful exfoliating paper bark. Not recommended near the house, septic tank or near a lawn that likes sun. This tree is considered a fast grower and usually presents as a multiple trunk tree. This tree has good insect and disease resistance. “Heritage” is recommended cultivar.


STEP 1: Digging the hole

  • Find a location that has suitable sun exposure for your particular type of plant.
  • Dig your hole an inch or two shallower than the rootball of the plant.
  • Dig the hole twice the diameter of the rootball.
  • Scuff up the sides of the hole with a shovel to help roots break through the native soil.

STEP 2: Putting plant in hole

  • When removing the plant from the pot, check to see if the roots were circling the pot.
  • If the plant is rootbound, gently break up the roots with your hands until loosened up.
  • Set plant level, in the center of the hole.
  • Make sure the top of the rootball is just above soil level.

STEP 3: Amending the soil and filling in the hole

  • Amend the soil with proper amendments for your soil type. 
  • Incorporate 50% native soil with 50% amendment soils like garden soil, composted manure or soil conditioner.
  • Make sure dirt clods are broken up or removed from hole along with rocks.
  • Fill the hole with soils to the soil level and pack down. Do not cover top of rootball with dirt.
  • Water in thoroughly to remove air pockets.

STEP 4: Mulching and fertilizing

  • Cover the planting site with at least 2 inches of the mulch of your choice (pinestraw, cupress mulch,etc.)
  • High Phosphorus root stimulator fertilizers like Quick Start from Miracle Gro are great to use at time of planting.
  • When planting trees, a tree stake kit may be required to prevent the wind from blowing over or breaking our newly planted tree until it becomes established.

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Posted 2015-05-10T14:11:16+0000  by Ingar_HD_ATL Ingar_HD_ATL