Many homeowners choose birch as an ornamental tree but quickly find that they are difficult to maintain. They often begin to decline early, expiring before they reach maturity. Birch trees are predisposed to many different stresses and diseases.

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Many landscape birch trees die before reaching 20 years of age.

Growing Conditions

Birch trees have shallow root systems, so they are especially sensitive even to short droughts or heat waves. They prefer cool, well-shaded, moist soil with part or full sun on their leaves, which can be a challenge. They prefer slightly acidic soil that is moist but not soggy. Birch trees will die if these conditions are not met.

Pests and Diseases

Most types of birch trees are susceptible to insect damage from leafminers and bronze birch borers. Leafminers weaken the tree's resistance to the bronze birch borer. Bronze birch borers tunnel under the bark and eat the living tissue, which eventually kills the tree. Canker diseases are characterized by sunken rings that grow in the bark. They kill trees by cutting off their nutrient supply.

Prevention/Solution

Plant birch trees on the north and east sides of a home so that they can benefit from shady soil in the afternoon. Use an appropriate pesticide to control leafminer populations. Since bronze birch borers tunnel inside the tree, pesticides are ineffective. Prune out diseased branches and cankers, and water the trees weekly.