How to Grow and Care for Himalayan Birch

Himalayan birch

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Looking for a fast-growing tree that offers interest all year long? Himalayan Birch has a pyramidal shape, with branches that extend upward and open. In spring, yellowish-brown male flowers appear in drooping 3- to 5-inch catkins. Greenish female blooms create smaller upright catkins, followed by drooping fruits that contain small, winged seeds in early autumn. Leaves resemble slightly rounded ovate wedges, 2 to 3 inches wide. Catching the breeze and the sunlight, leaves are dark green above and lighter underneath and showcase glorious golden fall foliage. To brighten the quietude of winter, this deciduous tree reveals its gleaming white bark along the trunk and young branches. Commonly referred to as white-barked birch, the thin peeling bark was used in ancient times as paper for Sanskrit scripture.

Botanical Name Betula utilus var. jacquemontii
Common Name Himalayan Birch, West Himalayan Birch, White-barked Himalayan Birch
Family Betulaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 40 ft. tall and 25 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, Partial
Soil Type Loamy, sandy, clay, moist but well-drained clay
Soil pH Acid, alkaline, neutral
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow, brown, green
Hardiness Zones 4, 5, 6, 7
Native Area Asia
Himalayan birch foliage

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Himalayan birch leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Himalayan birch bark

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Himalayan Birch Care

This deciduous tree is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 7. To welcome Himalayan Birch into your garden, plant in cool weather. It quickly spreads 25 feet wide and grows 40 feet tall. When cared for properly, it can reach up to 70 feet. Provide plenty of space to let it grow freely and adorn the garden with its constant snowy white framework.

Light

Plant in a sunny location. Himalayan Birch prefers full sun, but it will grow in part shade where it can receive direct sunlight for two to six hours of the day. Afternoon shade can be beneficial in shading the shallow roots especially in the hotter areas of Zone 7. Native to the Western Himalayan Mountains of Kashmir and Nepal, it does best in not-so-hot summers and throughout the cooler winters of zones 4 through 6.

Soil

Give the birch moist soil. It will thrive in just about any soil type, from clay to loam to sand. Like other birches, its roots are shallow. Plant in a low-traffic spot.

After planting, cover the area near the trunk with mulch. This will keep the roots cool and moist. Consider a companion plant such as an evergreen groundcover, which will protect and shade the roots further.

Water

Himalayan Birch can tolerate very wet soil; wetland restoration sites managers have been known to select this type of birch while planning new sites. Though in well-drained soils, it can grow up to 18 inches per year. Use a soaker hose to establish strong roots during its first year.

Temperature and Humidity

Birch trees prefer a bit cooler weather; something in the 65-to-80-degree Fahrenheit range is ideal for them. Extremely hot weather, such as that above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, can be enough to damage the tree and stunt its growth. These trees thrive in average humidity.

Fertilizer

Birch trees are hardy enough to withstand a variety of poor soils but can grow stronger with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Choose a slow-release formula with added iron.

Pruning

An established Himalayan Birch requires little maintenance. If necessary, prune when it is dormant in very late fall or winter. Do not prune in spring when the sap could be running.

Propagating Himalayan Birch

Himalayan Birch can be propagated by softwood cuttings or grafting. Choose a stem that is still green and pliable but beginning to turn brown. Dip the cut stem into rooting hormone then plant it in sand in a small cup or pot. Keep the rooting mix moist. It might take several months for the new stem to sprout fresh leaves and for roots to develop. Plan on keeping the new plant indoors for the first season. Acclimate it slowly to the outdoors over the span of two or three months, then plant the sapling in the ground in autumn.

How to Grow Himalayan Birch From Seed

In the summer, choose soft and green comes from the tree. Let them dry out for two weeks or so in a paper bag. Shake the bag vigorously to loosen the winged seeds. Sow those seeds in 5-inch pots in a mixture of peat, potting soil, and coarse sand, pressing them just below the surface. Water the seeds thoroughly.

Cover each pot with a plastic bag and place the pot in the refrigerator for two months. Check periodically to make sure the potting mixture stays moist.

Move the plants to a sunny, warm location of about 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds will germinate in four to six weeks. When the saplings are only about 1 inch tall, move them outdoors to light shade. Keep them sheltered from strong rains or winds. Slowly acclimate them to direct sun over two or three months. Plant them in the ground in autumn.

Overwintering

An established birch tree will handle winter just fine. Smaller trees can benefit from several inches of mulch to help protect the roots during the first several years of growth.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

This deciduous tree thrives in the cool summers of the northern United States. Birches are often weakened by overly hot or humid conditions. A weakened birch is vulnerable to the bronze birch borer - a wood-boring beetle that girdles the trunk. Japanese beetles can also damage the foliage.

Aphids, birch leaf miner, and birch skeletonizer pose minor and less frequent problems. (If the ground is sticky beneath the tree, this could be excrement from aphid feeding.) Generally, when a birch tree is stressed by insects, it is more susceptible to cankers.

FAQ
  • How long can Himalayan birch live?

    A well-tended birch tree can live between 30 and 40 years.

  • Can Himalayan birch grow indoors?

    During the first season or so, keeping it indoors for warmer temperatures is recommended. After that point, however, it needs to be planted outside so it can spread a wide root system.

  • What are alternatives to Himalayan birch?

    There are numerous other varieties of birch trees that might be even more pest and disease resistant than Himalayan birch. These include the paper birch, sweet birch, yellow birch, and grey birch. The water birch is especially hardy and almost immune to infestations of boring insects.