How to Grow and Care for the Yellow Birch Tree

Yellow birch tree with bright yellow leaves on thin trunk and branches

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) is a large stately tree with dramatic coloring. Its leaves turn a brilliant golden yellow in fall, and its shiny bark peels to create a beautiful texture. The bark's color is a deep yellowish brown when young, shifting gradually from a silvery grey to a deep reddish brown over time as the tree matures. The yellow birch should be planted in the spring or fall and is considered slow-growing.

Common Name Yellow birch, golden birch
Botanical Name Betula alleghaniensis
Family Betulaceae
Plant Type Deciduous tree
Mature Size 60 in. to 70 in. tall
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial sun
Soil Type Fertile sandy loam, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral, acidic, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 3-7 (USDA)
Native Areas North America

Yellow Birch Care

Because of its vast canopy, choosing a suitable location is important when planting a yellow birch. You should ensure plenty of room and ample sunlight to accommodate its canopy. The soil around a yellow birch should be well-drained and water only in times of drought. Prune yellow birches lightly to maintain healthy growth. You don't need to fertilize yellow birches once they are established, but saplings may benefit from light fertilization.

The yellow birch is prone to insects and diseases common to all birches, such as birch borers and root rot. You can avoid issues with your tree if you provide it with adequate care throughout its life. You can propagate yellow birches using cuttings or seeds to create uniformity in planting.

Yellow birch tree with wide spreading branches full of yellow leaves against blue sky

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Yellow birch tree branch with yellow circular leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Yellow birch tree trunk with shiny reddish-brown bark with yellow leaves above

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


Full sun is ideal, but if grown in a woodland landscape or near buildings, it can handle partial shade. Seedlings will not germinate in full shade.


The yellow birch will grow in soil with a wide-ranging pH, and while it tends to prefer slightly acidic soil, it tolerates alkaline soil well. The soil should be rich and well-drained. Sandy loam is ideal, but like other birch trees, the yellow birch is adaptable to varying soil conditions.


The yellow birch doesn't require watering beyond rainfall. In times of drought, however, it will benefit from a weekly deep watering at the roots.

Temperature and Humidity

Sandy loam is ideal, but like other birch trees, the yellow birch is adaptable to varying soil conditions. The yellow birch will grow in soil with a wide-ranging pH, and while it tends to prefer slightly acidic soil, it tolerates alkaline soil well. The soil should be rich and well-drained.


A newly-planted yellow birch benefits from light fertilization. You may use liquid, granular, or stake fertilizers around the base of the tree, either applying into 6 inch deep holes or applying 2 pounds or 2 pints per 100 feet of soil.

Types of Yellow Birch

  • B. a. var. alleghaniensis
  • B. a. var. macrolepis
  • B. a. var. fallax 


Pruning is recommended to keep the tree in good health, but wait until after the growing season (late November through early December). The primary reason to wait for pruning is that the bronze birch borer is active in spring, may be drawn to fresh cuts on the tree, and can cause damage.

Propagating Yellow Birch

You can propagate the yellow birch using cuttings. Propagation helps create genetic uniformity in your trees and is an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative to buying new trees from a nursery. Here's how to propagate a yellow birch:

  1. Use shears to cut 4 to 6 inch stem sections.
  2. Fill a pot with a well-drained rooting medium. Ensure that the pot has good drainage.
  3. Mist the rooting medium until water exits through the drainage holes in the pot.
  4. Poke well-spaced holes in the rooting medium and plant the cuttings, pressing the soil around the base of the cuttings.
  5. Prune any leaves off of the bottom of the cutting.
  6. Mist the medium again, and do so consistently throughout the rooting period. You may cover the cuttings to help retain moisture.
  7. Place the pot in indirect, bright light.
  8. Using your fingers, transplant the cuttings once they are 1/2 inch long.

How to Grow Yellow Birch From Seed

In addition to propagating, you may grow yellow birches from seeds.

  1. Collect seeds from an existing tree.
  2. Plant the seeds into a pot filled with compost or humus.
  3. Sprinkle a thin layer of soil over the seeds and lightly water.
  4. Cover the pot with a plastic bag to help retain moisture.
  5. Place the pot outside in a covered area or garage.
  6. Allow the seeds to germinate for six months.
  7. After six months, move the pot to a sunny spot and maintain good moisture.
  8. Plant the seedling outside once spring arrives.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

The yellow birch is susceptible to insect infestations, mainly birch leaf miners, birch borers, and birch skeletonizers. Still, the tree is relatively resistant to insects, though it's best to exercise caution and prune when its growth has gone dormant. Canker and dieback are the most common diseases to affect yellow birches. This fungus usually enters saplings through minor wounds and cracks, causing damage that weakens the stem and can lead to wind breakage.

Common Problems With Yellow Birch

Yellow birches can be affected by problems common to all birch trees. However, with attentive care, you can get ahead of issues that may damage the structural integrity of your birch and prevent the further spread of disease to surrounding trees.


Pruning wounds or root rot can lead to the discoloration of yellow birches. The discoloration can be seen in browned leaves or dark brown branches, limbs, and trunks. Under the discolored bark, you can sometimes see white fungus growth. Prune carefully to avoid wounds on your tree. While root rot is hard to prevent, remove the affected tree before the disease spreads to surrounding birches.


Like discoloration, decay is usually associated with wounds on a yellow birch. This is most common in wounds older than 20 years old, and frost cracks older than 10 years old. Pay careful attention to your tree's health to prevent longstanding injuries, and prune dead branches as necessary. Healthy trees can usually heal wounds on their own.

  • How long do yellow birches live?

    Yellow birches are long-lived, with an average lifespan of one hundred and fifty years, and some old-growth forest specimens yellow birches are over three hundred years old.

  • Does the yellow birch have practical uses?

    The bark of both trees contains essential oil used to produce birch beer, and the sap can be boiled down to a syrup with many culinary uses.

  • Does the yellow birch attract animals?

    Various birds enjoy eating the buds of yellow birches, and the yellow-bellied sapsucker will drill holes in its bark to collect the sap. However, these holes are not considered to be wounds.