The best birch trees to grow

Five of the best birches to grow

Birches are a firm favourite in the garden – we pick five of the best to grow.

Birches make great trees for a medium-sized garden, With their attractive bark, light canopy and elegant catkins, birches make great trees for a medium-sized garden.

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With a choice of 35 species globally, and many cultivars, there are options for both wet and dry soils. Birches grow quickly but never cast dense shade, allowing a wide range of shade-loving plants to be grown beneath.

In autumn, the foliage of many birches turns bright yellow and in winter the white bark shines in the sunlight (an effect enhanced by gently cleaning it with soap and water)

Birch roots tend to be shallow, so they take moisture from the root zone of shade-loving perennials beneath. Fortunately, their relatively thin canopy allows rain to reach the soil and light to encourage a wide range of dappled shade lovers.

More trees for the garden:

We recommend five gorgeous birch varieties, below.


Betula ‘Fascination’

Betula 'Fascination'
Betula ‘Fascination’

A cultivar of Chinese red birch, Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis, Betula ‘Fascination’ is relatively narrow and upright, and has long catkins. Its red-orange bark turns paler in spring. The Royal Horticultural Society has awarded it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Height x spread: 18m x 10m.


Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis

Betula albosinensis septentrionalis
Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis

Chinese red birch has beautiful greyish bark with pink overtones. It’s one of the best small trees for autumn colour – its bark gently peels while its leaves turn a bright and buttery shade of yellow.

H x S: 12m x 8m.


Betula utilis ‘Grayswood Ghost’

A cultivar of Himalayan birch, Betula utilis, ‘Grayswood Ghost’ is famous for its gleaming white bark in winter gardens, and also for its striking spring catkins. AGM.

H x S: 12m x 8m.


Betula nigra ‘Cully’

Betula nigra 'Cully'
Betula nigra ‘Cully’

A cultivar of river birch, Betula nigra, which is native to North America, ‘Cully’ is best for damp soils. It has cream-brown shaggy bark and glossy foliage. Like all birches, it has dramatic autumn foliage, too.

H x S: 12m x 8m.


Betula pendula ‘Laciniata’

Swedish birch has pendulous branches and colourful incised foliage in autumn. Its white bark becomes black and craggy at the base. AGM.

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H x S: 12m x 8m.