The river birch is definitely worth trying to propagate for your garden for many reasons.
- First of all it can be done! While I’ve tried propagating several kinds trees unsuccessfully (like maples ~ seeds: no problem ~ cuttings: not so good ) this is one that can be done fairly easily.
- Secondly they are fast growing trees and you will end up with a sizable tree in just a few short years.
- They also are worthy plants in the landscape for use as privacy screens, in rain gardens, and to create dappled shade.
- They are trees that offer 4 seasons of interest, 3 with nice foliage and 1 with awesome bark!
How to Propagate Birch Trees:
What should you looking for when taking a cutting? Two things: the nodes and the bark. I’ve read where you can take greenwood cuttings early in the springtime where the greenwood joins the old wood but I did my cutting a little differently. I took a 4 node cutting from semi-ripe wood in the late summer. The only problem I can see with this method is encouraging the root system to completely develop before cold temperatures set in for the winter. Fortunately I can nurture this cutting inside the house until its roots are sufficient to move into the garage and then maybe, if I’m daring, I can acclimate it to the great outdoors.
Originally I took about five cuttings from two of my birch trees. Each of the cuttings varied in size and thickness but only one developed a good root system. The one that survived was the largest of the group with a diameter about halfway between a toothpick and a pencil. How’s that for a technical measurement? I took the various sized cuttings on purpose to find out what worked, if anything, and then to see what worked best.
- I took a 4 node semi-ripe cutting which I cut just below the bottom node.
- I left one leaf on the cutting and removed all others.
- I treated the cut end of the cutting with rooting hormone.
- I buried the cutting with two of the nodes in the sand inside of a thoroughly cleaned out yogurt cup. Recycled plastic containers are great for plant propagators!
- Then I waited while the cuttings rooted. I kept the rooting mix wet since birch trees like the moisture.
- I watched for new leaves to form which can be an indicator of good rooting.
Today I was pretty happy to pot up my new birch tree. Now I’m curious if hardwood cuttings will work over the winter. It’s worth a shot!