River Birch

Betula nigra

Family: Betulaceae (beh-tyoo-LAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Betula (BET-yoo-luh) (Info)
Species: nigra (NY-gruh) (Info)
View this plant in a garden



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round


over 40 ft. (12 m)


30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Bloom Color:

Pale Yellow

Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Pale Green

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring



Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From semi-hardwood cuttings

By simple layering

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Mobile, Alabama

Tuskegee, Alabama

Morrilton, Arkansas

Fremont, California

Green Cove Springs, Florida

Lady Lake, Florida

Atlanta, Georgia

Cordele, Georgia

Lawrenceville, Georgia (2 reports)

Algonquin, Illinois

Champaign, Illinois

Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Indianapolis, Indiana

Oskaloosa, Iowa

Andover, Kansas

Benton, Kentucky

Calvert City, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Bossier City, Louisiana

Gray, Louisiana

Plain Dealing, Louisiana

Severn, Maryland

Billerica, Massachusetts

Lawrence, Massachusetts

Gobles, Michigan

Brandon, Mississippi

Barnhart, Missouri

Saint Charles, Missouri

Helena, Montana

Lincoln, Nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska

Hilton, New York

Staten Island, New York

Highlands, North Carolina

North Ridgeville, Ohio

Perry, Ohio

Edmond, Oklahoma

Portland, Oregon

Cooksburg, Pennsylvania

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Lehighton, Pennsylvania

Schwenksville, Pennsylvania

Souderton, Pennsylvania

Belton, South Carolina

Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

Conroe, Texas

Denton, Texas

Houston, Texas

Jacksonville, Texas

Longview, Texas

New Caney, Texas

Port Arthur, Texas

Chesapeake, Virginia

Lexington, Virginia

Portsmouth, Virginia

Stanwood, Washington

Cambridge, Wisconsin

De Pere, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Dec 10, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

A pretty tree, but tremendously overplanted in the eastern US.

For decades, it has been promoted as a borer-resistant replacement for our native white-barked paper birch, which is susceptible to bronze birch borer and short-lived. And it is longer-lived and more heat tolerant than paper birch.

But river birch has aggressive, competitive roots like a maple, which makes it difficult to garden under. Worse, it's a dirty tree that drops leaves and small branches continually, almost like a weeping willow. I often see it planted too close to buildings, where it quickly outgrows its space---it easily reaches 70', and the national champion is 111' tall.


On Dec 3, 2013, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

River Birch is a fast growing medium-sized tree in most residential landscapes, usually getting about 30 to 40 ft high in such places. It grows about 2 to 2.5 ft/yr and lives about 100 years in nature. This birch does tolerate heat over 85 degrees F and so it does not get attacked by Bronze Birch Borer, unless it is very old and dying already. It does well in average well-drained soils or moist soils or draining wet soils that are acid about pH 5 to 6.5 as best, though it does fine up to pH 7, and a little more, but not much. It does get iron chlorosis in alkaline soils, as I have seen some yellow and die in the Chicago area from such; yet there are are good number doing well in the most common pH range of 6.8 to 7.1 in that area. This species does drop a lot of dead twigs and small branch... read more


On Sep 7, 2010, suentommy from Souderton, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

We planted two river birches by the side corner of our garage about twenty years ago. They are fast growing and have developed into two large multi-stemmed trees that soften the corner of our home. We have not had root trouble with them. The area we planted them in has major water issues - a lawn tractor sunk into the ground and left huge ruts even in the middle of rather dry weather. These birches fixed that problem - almost too well. They soak up so much water that a nearby dawn redwood had trouble growing in the early years of its life and we were afraid we would lose it. The only thing I can reliably grow under them are hostas - which don't mind the drier conditions as long as I give them a good soaking every other day. Huechera has done alright as well but I think the dry cond... read more


On Apr 9, 2010, Qwilter from Fleming Island, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I live in a development. The 1st 3 trees we had in front of the house never did well & we had them each removed.
Decided to try a River Birch 4 years ago. Got a 12', 2 trunked. We, and all the neighbors, love this tree. It is now as tall as our 2 story house, but because it is so "open" doesn't provide too much shade.
We did have a problem with aphids the 2nd year, so not get it protected every spring. The roots have not been a problem at all. It will drop its leaves during dry spells but then with rain, they come back.
Because the leaves are so small, raking in the fall is rather easy.


On Sep 10, 2008, Kelly333 from Longview, TX wrote:

I think the tree is beautiful. It provides shade, but dappled shade. I have had one of my trees for almost 20 years now. I would make sure you trim the lower limbs, so you can walk under the tree. I would not plant it right next to the house. The bark has a great texture, and color in the fall and winter. I have had borers get into one of the trunks of my older tree, which is a Heritage River Birch. The other tree I have is a native River Birch. It is just a few years old, and is doing great. These trees do like water, so I like to plant hostas under them. I would not let them dry out too much, because the leaves will turn yellow and drop leaves. I think it is a beautiful tree, and do not regret planting either of mine!


On May 21, 2008, mikey01h from Lawrenceville, GA wrote:

This tree was planted by the previous owner, my first impressions were positive because of the character of the bark. I have, over the years become quiet negative toward this type of tree and seriously considering having it removed. This tree is very messy, with small branches and leaves being a problem all year long. The roots are massive and very dense near the surface, starving peripheral plants of nutrients and water and choking their roots. I have many trees in my yard, of many varieties, and love them allexcept this one. I would defiantly not recommend this plant to anyone with a residential lot, I personally wouldnt even want it in my woods the bark indeed adds an interesting texture, but its not worth it in my opinion.


On Oct 16, 2007, rosemarylove from Barnhart, MO wrote:

This tree was planted by the previous owner of our home 18 years ago. In the spring it is a sight to behold with the catkins and peeling bark and beautiful branches swaying in the spring breeze. The owners had planted 2 birch only six feet apart and they were in the middle of the front yard and blocked the house numbers. I cut one down with my trusty axe and it wasn't too hard because it was only about 12 feet high. Fast forward 10 years after I cut the first one down. The tree is huge. Probably 35 or 40 feet high. There are big thick roots growing toward my front concrete porch and I am worrried about my foundation. Great to be online with other gardening lovers. Rosemary


On Jan 5, 2007, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

River Birch Betula nigra is Native to Texas and other States.


On Aug 30, 2005, sylvainyang from Edmond, OK wrote:

I got a river Birch from Wal-Mart 6 months ago. I has doubled its size. I water it almost every day. $10 for a 2 gallons shurb
size plant when I get it. Now its over 6 feet tall. Nice leaves and good shape.


On May 22, 2005, ellyssian from Lehighton, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

I've got two river birch, both planted alongside a stone stream that will deliver plenty of moisture to them.

The deer seem to particularly enjoy them, and I think the elder of the two I planted would be 10' tall if it weren't for the deer.


On Jun 11, 2004, lady_fuchsia from Clarkesville, GA (Zone 7a) wrote:

I planted two River Birch in my garden, but I have several big and little ones growing naturally down by the creek. I love the peeling bark and dappled shade.The ones I planted don't really get enough water and have a slight problem with pests, but the rains the past two years have helped them to get stronger. They are about ten feet tall and have a real nice shape. I wish I had the ability to take a good picture and add it here.


On Aug 27, 2003, goodnature wrote:

The River Birch's native habitat is on the river banks. In the landscape it does require a great deal of water to thrive, in fact, it is recommended to plant in problematic low areas of the property to improve standing water issues. It is rare that it can receive too much water. Signs that the tree is not happy are leaf drop and branch dieback. Several years of not practicing proper cultural maintenance will shorten the life of any plant. Plant this one where you can be sure it receives the required water and it will shine. You won't be sorry.


On Aug 27, 2003, Cyndi1 from Atlanta, GA wrote:

The good news: this tree is very fast growing and the peeling bark is lovely. It provides dappled shade. The bad news: Once the leaves appear in the spring, they start disappearing. This tree continuously drops leaves and small limbs. Its invasive root system can be hazardous to your foundations and decking. If you plant this tree in a landscaped area be prepared to rake leaves and twigs out of your shrubs and flower beds and sweep your decks and patios on a daily basis. We finally gave up and had our 40-ft tree removed.