Landscape Design

How to Create Clumps of Birch Trees

By James R. Fazio | July 7, 2010

Paper Birch and River Birch are some of the most popular landscape trees.  These deer resistant trees have gained popularity due their unique bark and great yellow fall color.  You may notice that some yards have a single tree birch tree while others have clumps or multiple birch trees.  If you enjoy the multi stem look here is how you can do it yourself.

Many people find that clumps of river birches or other birch trees are more attractive than single trees.  This may be because birches are often found growing with multiple stems in the wild.  This happens when the parent tree is cut or broken off.

There are several ways to imitate nature if you want a clump of birches.

1) Buy Pre-Clumped: Nurseries often sell birch trees already growing with multiple stems

2) Cut Back Method: You can create multiple stem birches basically the same way they are created in the nursery.  After you plant a single-stem tree, wait a season or two so the roots are well-established.  Then cut back to an inch or two above the ground.  The tree should respond by sending up numerous shoots from the stump.  Select 3, 4, or 5 to become truncks.  (Note: Do not do this with grafted cultivars).

3) Plant Multiple Trees in One Hole: Plant 3 to 5 single stem trees in a group.  They will grow away from each other slighlt as they mature, but you can also start them that way by planting them slightly at an angle.  Plant them in a single hole with the roots spread out and the stems spaced about one foot apart.

Hopefully one of these three methods will help you create a clump of birch trees.  Learn more about Tree Care.

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  • Reply Glenda scott August 4, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Are birch trees fast growers?

  • Reply Randy Umberger August 9, 2010 at 11:19 am

    How far apart should I space these “clumps” of Birch Trees?

  • Reply M.V. August 18, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I am thinking about planting some river birches 10-20 feet from my house to serve as a screen and to cast shade on our house during the summer months, but I am concerned that river birches might be too aggressive for that spot. (My house was built in 1945, so I can’t be certain that our pipes aren’t leaking a bit into the ground.) Will paper birches do as well in zone 7? I live near Washington, D.C., so it’s swampy weather in the summer.

    • Reply Ben August 18, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      River Birch are recommended for zones 4 to 9, so they should do fine in your zone 7. I am not sure about ground pipes issue. Robert?

  • Reply hightechlandscapes August 26, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Please provide some advice and tips to create some clumps of Paper Birch and River Birch.. Would be very thankful to u..

  • Reply Jackie April 17, 2011 at 7:51 am

    The roots on my river birch have come above ground…it was planted close to my house..will the roots do damage to slab?

    • Reply Ben April 20, 2011 at 10:00 am

      @ Jackie. I would contact a local arborist that is certified to asses the situation.

  • Reply Mark May 6, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Ben, I want to plant Clumping River birch along a long drive, I purchased 60, 3 ft trees from a wholesale nursery. I want to clump them in pots and grow them to size before planting next year, spot not ready for them yet. I see planting them in the ground about a foot apart is recommended. Does that hold for containers as well? They’d be large containers!
    Also, between deciduous and conifers, which produces more oxygen. I live in a pine wood that is about 100 years of growth. Some of my pines are in their last gasp of life on earth. I have mixed hardwoods replacing the pines and millions of baby white vying for space among them. In good stewardship I’d like to thin the young plants to grow sturdy new trees. Would like to know which would be more efficient in oxygen production and a general good choice for my forrest.

  • Reply Linda May 7, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    I purchased a foreclosure home recently and there are three paper or river birch trees in the front yard that appear to be dead? The trees did not receive any supplemental water for probably a year. There are no signs of budding leaves and the twigs are brittle. Is there any way to tell if they are in fact dead?

    • Reply Ben May 9, 2011 at 8:09 am

      @Linda. Trees have different timing of when their leaves come out. Is there any other River Birches in the neighborhood? If they have leaves on them then yours is probably dead. The other way to know for sure is to ask an arborist.

  • Reply Karen August 9, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Ben, I have a mature clump of river birch trees but one of the trees is dying. I suspect a disease. How should I diagnose whether this is an insect or mildew problem? And what home remedy could you suggest.

    • Reply Ben August 9, 2011 at 11:57 am

      The Tree Care section of website has a section on How to Identify Pest and Disease. But basically it recommends reaching out to the local Cooperative Extension agent. Just google it for your state.

      Good Luck Hopefully you can save them.

  • Reply Cinetube December 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Remarkably well written post!

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