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Birch Downy (Betula pubescens) autumn Img 5Birch Downy (Betula pubescens) autumn Img 5Birch Downy (Betula pubescens) hedging 1Birch Downy (Betula pubescens) catkin Img 2Birch Downy (Betula pubescens) hedging 3Birch Downy (Betula pubescens) nest box Img 4

Downy Birch Sapling Trees

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The details

Betula pubescens

Sapling Trees
  • Native. Similar to silver birch.
  • Not for hedging. Good screening.
  • Max. Height: 25m
  • Bareroot Delivery Only: Nov-Mar.
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£ 2.52

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Betula pubescens: Downy / Common White Birch, Sapling Trees

Delivered by Mail Order Direct from our Nursery with a Year Guarantee

The Downy, Hairy or Common White Birch is an upright native tree with pale grey mature bark. It grows in any soil apart from chalk and especially likes damp sites. It has good autumn colour and its leaves support several species of butterfly caterpillar.

This tree is very similar to Silver Birch. The most obvious difference is that the young twigs of White Birch have downy hairs on them and feel smooth to the touch. The tree's canopy is also more upright and narrow than silver birch.

Betula pubescens is very fast-growing and makes a good screening tree up to about 20 metres.
Browse all of our Birch tree varieties.


  • Only sold as young sapling trees
  • Native. Upright habit
  • Pale grey bark, warm yellow autumn colour
  • Loves damp sites, prefers acidic soil
  • Wind resistant, but not suitable for the coast
  • Not suitable for hedging
  • Bareroot delivery only: Nov-March
  • To 20 metres

Growing Downy Birch

It will grow on any soil that is not dry, but it really loves neutral to acidic conditions close to water, and it will probably struggle on shallow chalk, which tends to be pretty dry. It is very wind resistant, but not suitable for the coast.

Did You Know?

In the past, birchbark was very valuable because it is oily, waterproof and flexible when heated. It was used to make all sorts of items related to water, from boats and buckets to roofs and hats. Birch was associated with fertility, and bundles of birch twigs were preferred in Medieval times to flog criminals. You will find birch twigs in a properly traditional Swedish sauna to lightly whip your back with, which is supposed to enhance your detox. Birchwood isn't that commercially valuable these days; it is mostly used for paper pulp and disposable things like toothpicks and matches. It burns well, if a little quickly.

Standard trees are measured by their girth in centimetres 1 metre above ground level: their trunk's waist measurement. Unlike sapling trees and hedge plants, standards aren't measured by their height, which will vary quite a bit both between and within species.
So, a 6/8cm standard tree has a trunk with a circumference of 6-8cm and an 8/10 standard has a trunk 8-10cm around. This measurement makes no difference to the tree's final height.
On average, standard trees are 2-3.5 metres tall when they arrive, but we cannot tell you precisely how tall your trees will be before we deliver them.

Planting Instructions

Notes on planting Common White Birch:
Common White Birch trees will grow well in most conditions where there is full sun. They prefer moist, heavy clay but they will also grow on quite poor, dry soils. Birches are hardy trees, but they will get twisted out of shape on exposed locations with strong winds.
They will not grow well if the site is chalky or shady.

Prepare your site before planting:
It is good to dig over the area where you intend to plant several months in advance. Destroy the weeds first. Then dig the soil over; remove rocks, roots and other rubbish. Mix in well rotted compost or manure down to the depth of about 2 spades.
If you have a heavy clay soil, it might be too difficult to dig over for most of the year. Heavy clay is fertile soil, so you don't really need to improve it; killing the weeds is still necessary.

Remember to water establishing plants during dry weather for at least a year after planting.

Planting accessories:
Prepare your site for planting by killing the weeds and grass with Neudorff WeedFree Plus.
If you are planting in an area with rabbit and/or deer, you will need to use a protective plastic spiral for each plant, supported by a bamboo cane.
If your soil quality is poor, we recommend using mycorrhizal "friendly fungi" on the roots of new trees and shrubs.
You can also improve your soil with bonemeal organic fertiliser and Growmore.

After Care

After you plant your White Birch saplings, the most important thing to do is water them in dry weather. You will also need to weed around the plants. Both of these will be necessary for at least a year after planting.
Water thoroughly but not too often: let the soil get close to drying out before watering your plants again.

Special notes on caring for Common White Birch:
Common White Birch is a very tough plant that shouldn't need special attention once it has established.
If possible, do not prune birches.
If pruning is necessary, it is best do it in winter. Always hire a tree surgeon to remove large branches.

Hygiene & Diseases:
Dead, damaged or diseased wood can be pruned off as soon as it appears.
Disinfect your pruning tools between every cut if there is any sign of disease.
Burn or dispose of any diseased material, do not compost it.