How close can i plant a silver birch tree to my house

Can I Grow a Silver Birch Tree in My Garden? – Garden Doctor

The silver birch tree is a common type of tree that can be found in many gardens and parks around the UK. It has a very distinct look with its silver bark and an easily recognisable shape, its long trunk, and branches that curve upwards.

Silver Birch are remarkably easy to grow and have many people asking “Can I grow a silver birch in my garden?”

Before you go out and plant one of these towering beauties, there are a few things that you should know about Silver Birch trees which should give you an idea if planting one in your garden is right for you.

What is a Silver Birch?

Silver birch trees, Betula pendula, are a common fixture in the forests of the UK and North America that belong to the Betulaceae family (the same family as beeches).

The tree is named for the silvery-white bark of its mature growth stage and can grow up to 100 feet tall with a circumference of 10-16 feet. It matures at 15-25 years, with height sometimes being determined by elevation i.e., taller at higher elevations due to lower oxygen levels in the air.

The Silver Birch is shade intolerant meaning that it demands an open space away from other trees or buildings where it will not be shaded out by direct sunlight during the warmer months of the year because these times are when it needs most light energy via photosynthesis for sustained growth and development.

Can I grow a Silver Birch in my Garden?

The short answer is yes, a silver birch can be grown in your garden but there are some considerations you should make before planting one of these iconic beauties.

Silver Birch Root System

The first thing to consider is the silver birch’s root system. The silver birch is a shallow-rooted tree with root systems that have been known to spread up to 10 metres.

Although silver birch roots are not considered to be aggressive, they have been known to cause significant damage to lawns, patios, and other structures.

Like most trees, you will need to consider the planting distance from any buildings or other structures to minimise the risk of damage.

Silver Birch Planting Distance

According to the subsidence bureau, in clay or peaty soil, a silver birch should not be planted within 4m of your property. This is due to the soil shrinkage that occurs in the summer months when the tree is absorbing water around its roots.

This soil shrinkage has the potential to destabilise and damage the foundations of structures around the tree which can ultimately cause subsidence to your property.

Silver Birch Roots in Your Lawn

Silver Birch roots in your lawn can be a real nuisance and lead to a bumpy and uneven surface.

There are two main reasons that may cause your silver birch roots to become exposed and ruin your lawn: the roots’ natural growth and erosion.

Natural Growth

Much like a tree trunk, roots will grow and thicken as the tree matures and due to the silver birch being so shallow rooted, it does not take much for them to show at the surface.

A good way to prevent this from happening is that when you plant your young silver birch, you plant it deep enough so that once your tree is fully grown, the roots remain deep enough to not cause any issues with your lawn.


In especially wet or windy areas, the soil around the base of your tree can naturally erode. Unfortunately, there is not too much that can be done to prevent this from happening but once the problem arises, it can be fixed.

How to Fix Silver Birch Roots Showing Through Your Lawn

Some people will advise that you can just cut away any unwanted parts of the roots, but this can be counter-productive and lead to a deterioration in the health of the tree.

The best way to deal with exposed roots, is to raise the level of your lawn enough to create an even surface. Personally, I would look to raise the level of the lawn at least 12-inches above the highest visible root.

It is important not to forget that roots serve as a vital part of a tree’s circulatory system. They transport minerals and sugars throughout the entire body of the tree, so any damage or disturbance to them has the potential to cause problems inside the tree.

Note: If the tree has still not fully matured, you may need to wait a few years to prevent raising the lawn again.

Size of Silver Birch

The next thing to consider is the size of a silver birch. Silver birches grow extremely tall and in the right conditions, they are regularly known to reach 100 feet tall.

Any tree of this size if planted in someone’s garden can pose a risk to people and property. There is the danger of the tree falling in high winds and the risk of dead or dead branches falling from height.

Much of this risk can be mitigated with the right maintenance but hiring a professional tree surgeon every couple of years could be awfully expensive.

Silver Birch Height Reduction

If you are growing a silver birch or plan to in the future, you may think about reducing the height of your tree with a technique known as ‘topping’.

Topping a silver birch tree is not an easy task and does not always produce the best results meaning that the tree may need regular pruning to keep it the desired shape.

Like many trees, when topping a silver birch tree by pruning the central leader (trunk), the tree will grow maybe 5 or 6 smaller branches from where the cut was made which can make the shape of the tree look a little odd and unnatural.

Topping a silver birch can lead to the overall health of the tree deteriorating so we recommend that you speak to a qualified tree surgeon for professional advice.

Growing Silver Birch in Containers

Yes, with the right care and attention, silver birch can be grown in containers and in fact, this is a great way to grow them in a small garden.

When growing silver birch in containers or pots, the overall growth of the tree will be stunted leaving you with a beautiful, small, and manageable tree.

The tree’s grown in pots can require a little more work than if they are planted in the ground – especially with watering.

If you want to purchase a young silver birch, you can do it here (amazon link – opens in a new tab).


Silver birches are big drinkers and pots will only hold so much water so for the tree to stay healthy, you will need to keep a tight watering schedule – especially during the drier months of the year.


Consider the location of the pot – even though the tree will be stunted and relatively small, it will still be extremely heavy. It would be a good idea to keep your tree away from any open spaces to prevent toppling in the wind – or you could try fixing the pot to the ground.

Are Silver Birch Trees Protected?

You may already have a silver birch in your garden that may be causing you some of the problems mentioned above, or you think that there is the potential for problems in the future and you are wondering if silver birch trees are protected.

The answer is no, in the UK silver birch trees as a species are not protected although there are instances where individual trees or whole woodlands containing silver birch are protected.

These protections are known as TPO’s – Tree Preservation Orders.

Tree Preservation Orders

A tree preservation order (TPO) can be issued for a variety of reasons so if you plan to fell your silver birch, you will need to check with your local authority regarding its status.

TPO’s for silver birch are uncommon but they do exist. Tree’s that are on an SSSI (site of special scientific interest) for example will likely have a TPO in place to prevent it from being felled.

There are also instances where a TPO might be issued for another characteristic such as being home to bats. Bats are protected in the UK, and it is extremely unlikely that you will be allowed to fell a tree with bats roosting in it.

If you do see bats in your silver birch, it would be a good idea to arrange a bat survey.


As you will know, silver birch is a beautiful-looking tree that makes a great addition to almost all landscapes. Can you grow a silver birch in your garden? Of course, you can as long as you are well prepared for any issues that may arise in the future.

If you do go ahead and plant a silver birch, remember to think about the full-size adult tree, the size of the roots, and the soil around your home.

If your garden is too small, it may be a good idea to grow your silver birch in a large pot or container so you can enjoy the beauty of the tree without some of the dangers that may come with it.

Garden Doctor Tips

“Think about the minimum planting distance when planting near your home, you wouldn’t want any damage to be caused by the tree whether direct or indirect!”

“Silver birch grown in containers require an awful lot of watering. If you want your tree to stay healthy, you will need to stay on top of it!”

“If you need to do any serious work to your tree, call in professional help – tree surgery is a dangerous pastime!”

“Consider the full size of the tree before planting – they may look small and cute when they are young, but they grow to be towering beasts!”

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Silver Birch Tree Roots Cause Problems?

Yes! Silver birch trees grow vigorously and have the potential for damaging structures in their vicinity – a common issue is with residential foundations.

This can be more severe when the silver birch is growing in clay soil. In drier months, the tree will absorb all of the water from the soil which causes shrinkage. This shrinkage can adversely affect the foundations causing subsidence.

How far from the house should I plant a silver birch?

It is recommended that a silver birch is planted a minimum of 4m from the household in loamy, well-draining soil and up to 8m from the household in clay soils.

The roots on a silver birch are known to grow up to 10m long so be sure to take this into consideration.

Do silver birch tree roots damage foundations?

Silver birch roots have the potential to damage foundations along with other structures.

As long as you keep to the safe minimum planting distance of 4m from your house, your foundations should be fine although if you have a new conservatory or small structure without deep foundations, the roots may well cause an issue.

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Birch Tree Distance From House: A Growers Guide

by Anastasia Malavolti

If you need something to increase the attractiveness of your yard and enjoy all-year-round beauty, there might not be a better choice than planting a birch tree in your garden. You’ll need to get the birch tree distance from house right to avoid issues in the future. 

Their gorgeous silhouettes, stunning peeling barks, and vivid colors contribute to spice up any landscape.

Additionally, these plants are native to the United States, making them an excellent option if you want to contribute to the natural ecosystem of your region. 

Of course, for these trees to thrive, you’ll have to make your garden’s conditions optimal for their growth. Also, you’ll have to pick a suitable location depending on the variety you choose.

Plus, don’t forget to monitor your trees and take action if you notice pests and diseases. Despite being native, these plants are susceptible to attacks. 

But how far away from your house should you plant your birch? And why? Let’s look at birch tree distance from house. 

What to Know About Birch Trees

Birch trees are versatile and will adapt to various conditions. Once established, they tend to grow fast. For this reason, gardeners looking to get immediate benefits for their garden should consider planting a birch tree as an option.

Despite living less than other trees (their average lifespan is between 20 and 30 years old), they will grow large. Most varieties will grow to about 60 feet in height (or more) and 40 feet wide.

Still, that doesn’t limit your options if you have a small garden: you can always find dwarf varieties!

These plants are not challenging to grow. To limit problems, plant them under the full sun in well-draining soil. 

Birch trees have a shallow root system. So, contrary to other trees, they are not aggressive growers and will rarely cause problems to foundations and walkways.

Still, to get the most out of your trees (and limit any possible damage), you must know where to locate the tree in your garden.

How far from Your House Should you Plant your Birch? 

As mentioned, birch trees are fast growers and usually require plenty of space. Plant your tree at least 15 feet away from your house to eliminate all problems.

But don’t forget that the final decision should account for other factors. For instance, the birch variety, its mature size, and the weather conditions all play a role. Also, you might need more distance if your land is prone to erosion. 

Don’t forget that the soil tends to shrink during the summer months. And the higher water needs might cause your birch to extend its roots. In turn, this might result in destabilization, which can damage the foundational structures of your property. But only if your tree is too close to the house. 

Also, as your tree grows, its roots will thicken and might surface. Their presence on your lawn might cause a bumpy and uneven surface, which might not be the best for your garden.

How to Deal With Exposed Roots in Your Garden? 

As we mentioned, exposed roots can be a nuisance. And that might happen regardless of how far away from your house you plant your birch. So, dealing with them might be crucial to limit possible issues. 

Despite some people claiming that you can safely cut away parts of the roots, we advise against that. After all, a tree’s roots are vital elements essential for its survival. They are crucial to the transport of water and nutrients: without them, your tree will eventually die. 

Instead, you can raise the level of your lawn to create an even surface and eliminate the problem of exposed roots.

While it might cost you some time and effort, it will save you many headaches in the future. Additionally, it will contribute to improving the aesthetics of your garden, which is never a bad idea. 

Related Article: Birch Trees in Winter

When and how to plant a birch

How to transplant a birch

The genus birch is very numerous and distributed almost all over the world - in Europe, Asia and North America. According to various sources, there are from 60 to 120 species of birch - there are undersized trees, shrubs and creeping ones. There are species with trunks of pink, yellow, cherry and dark brown color, with smooth, scaly or tattered bark. Birches are undemanding to ecological conditions. As a rule, they are photophilous, but tolerate partial shade. With a few exceptions, they are very winter-hardy, withstand severe frosts, do not suffer from sudden changes in temperature and frost. In landscape design, trees are planted as part of picturesque groups to create dense arrays, groves, alleys along roads or protective backstage. The most common birches will be interesting in a bouquet planting, and exotic species and decorative forms - in a solitary planting, against the backdrop of a lawn. Note that some types of birch tolerate urban conditions better than other trees, and are very undemanding. Therefore, before buying, take an interest in their features. You can also simply dig a small tree in the nearest forest and transfer the seedling to your site.

Before you start planting, you should be aware that birch, a rather "harmful" breed. The fact is that it releases substances that "poison" the soil for other plants. As you may have noticed, birches grow well with each other, but do not get along well with other plants. If you have a small plot, then you should only plant a small tree. Only owners of large country plots can afford real birch groves. How far apart should birches be planted? We recommend checking the distance between the trees with a tape measure. It should be no less than 3-4 meters between each seedling.

In the forest, birches grow in cool, moist soil. A very shallow root system makes them susceptible to even short periods of drought or warm soil, so they do not grow well in hot, dry soils. Thus, it is necessary to try to choose a place for the birch in a shaded area where the soil will be cool and moist. However, birches require full, or at least half, full sun for their leaves to grow well. You should choose a location where the soil will remain cool and moist, and where the leaves of the tree should receive sunlight for most of the day. An excellent place to plant a birch is the area on the east and north sides of the house, where the building provides afternoon shade. Avoid planting birch on the south and west sides, where the afternoon sun heats and dries the soil. The best time of day to find and evaluate a birch planting site is from mid to late afternoon. At this time, you should look for a suitable place.

Once you have determined a location on your property that meets your soil temperature and moisture requirements, there are a few other factors you need to consider. A common mistake is to plant young trees under strung electrical wires. Do not forget that most birches can reach 15-20 meters in height. Avoid planting birch in places where the soil can become more dense, such as along roadsides. Remember that birch trees have very shallow root systems that can be easily damaged by subsidence. Birches do best in slightly acidic soils (pH 5.0-6.5). Although white birches, especially paper birch or Japanese birch, can grow well in alkaline soils. Black birches often develop glandular chlorosis (yellowing of foliage) in alkaline soils when the pH is greater than 6.5. Slightly alkaline soil can be made more acidic by adding earth from coniferous forests, rotted softwood sawdust, or special preparations, although maintaining soil pH throughout the life of a tree can be difficult.

How often to water birch

Birches are not demanding on soil fertility, but when planting them on the site, one must remember that birches are very fond of water. So an adult birch in the summer draws an average of 20 buckets of water from the soil per day, that is, only about 200 liters. Therefore, do not try to plant a birch on a hot summer day, nothing good will come of it - the tree will most likely dry out. The best planting period is when the earth retains moisture well and the air temperature is low (up to +10). This usually happens in early spring and in the second half of autumn. However, large birch seedlings with an open root system, even planted at the right time, do not always take root - some of the trees die or their tops dry out. Therefore, it is better to buy seedlings with earthen clods or in containers. Winter planting with a frozen lump is possible.

Birch Care

If you want to plant a birch, then you will not need any special fertilizers - this tree species takes root and grows quite well without them. Take, perhaps, some compost. Trees should be planted at some distance from the house (at a distance of about 4 - 5 meters), making drainage. The dimensions of the hole dug under the seedling should be about half a meter in depth and the same in diameter. By the way, if the soil is sandy, then add a few buckets of humus to the bottom of the pit or a layer of clay fifteen to twenty centimeters thick. Usually planting pits for birches are filled with a mixture of garden soil, humus, sand and peat in a ratio of 2: 1: 1: 1. When spring planting young birch trees, complex fertilizer (150–200 g) can be added to the planting pit. When planting in autumn, you can use only phosphorus-potassium fertilizers. In the first few days, seedlings should be shaded. Do not forget to provide abundant watering to the birch.

It should be added that it is better to plant a birch with a closed root system, regardless of whether you bought it at a garden center or dug it up in a nearby grove. The chances of survival are greatly increased. Well, do not forget about the complex "energy world" of birch. By tradition, they were planted not near the house, but near the gate, at the entrance to the site. And they dug a bench under the birch, where you can slowly think and recharge your batteries.

signs and superstitions, objective reasons for the ban

The main symbol of our fatherland, the heroine of Russian fairy tales and epics, is the birch. Her snow-white bark and slender figure has always been associated with purity and innocence. Why does it sometimes cause negativity among those who decide to plant it on their site? Let's figure it out.


  • 1 Why it is not recommended to plant a birch near the house

    • 1.1 Objective reasons

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    • 2 Video: what trees can be planted near the house

    Why it is not recommended to plant a birch near the house

    The impeccable beauty of birch groves stretching across the vast expanses of our country has been praised by great painters and masters of the pen more than once. Birch looks attractive in single and group plantings.

    It is always lighter in a birch grove than in another forest, it is believed that birch gives insight and peace of mind

    Among compatriots, there is hardly anyone who has never heard of useful birch sap. Fans of baths and saunas are sure to prepare a couple of birch brooms for themselves, and birch firewood is not better for kindling. This tree culture is an excellent honey plant, valued in landscape design. Dense birch wood is an excellent building material, and birch tar is used in medicine and leather production.

    The upper layer of the bark of this amazing tree - birch bark - is extremely durable, it is used to make kitchen utensils, handicrafts, furniture

    But as an ornament in ornamental gardening, birch should be chosen with care.

    Read also - Why it is impossible to plant spruce on the site: prickly superstitions and sharp facts

    Objective reasons has a life expectancy of 80 to 150 years. This must be taken into account when planting in a garden plot or nearby.

    1. Birch pollen is a well-known allergen; in people with hypersensitivity, seasonal flowering causes pollinosis - an allergic reaction of the body in response to the pollen of various plants. This disease can provoke bronchial asthma.
    2. It should be remembered that birch wood is flammable, so it is extremely dangerous when there are dry old birches near the house.
    3. Due to its height and the flexibility of its branches, the tree can be a hazard to power lines, especially in bad weather. There is also the threat of a tree falling on the house.
    4. This tree culture is moisture-loving - if birch grows on the site, you must be prepared for the fact that it will take most of the moisture and nutrients from the soil. As a rule, within a radius of 3–4 meters from a tree, demanding plants, ornamental shrubs and exotics do not take root well.
    5. Birch is not recommended to be planted close to residential buildings, tree roots can damage the foundation and reach underground utilities. For safety, it is planted at a distance of 6–8 meters from buildings.
    6. Fallen inflorescences (catkins), small birch twigs, foliage - all this heavily clogs gutters and roof peaks.

    Signs and superstitions

    Our ancestors endowed this tree with magical properties. Pagan Slavs believed that only witches extract birch sap for “unclean” purposes, and if growths appeared on the bark, these were also witchcraft tricks.

    1. The Eastern Slavs considered birch a talisman against evil spirits: its branches were stuck in the barn, barn and field to protect the harvest, left in the attic in order to warn yourself against lightning, decorated the wedding cake for the newlyweds, predicting a happy family life for them.
    2. In other areas, this tree was not loved, they called the birch "weeping", attracting misfortune and misfortune. For example, the northerners believed that a house should not be built on the site of a birch grove - unfortunately.
    3. In Russia, it was believed that mermaids and drowned women live in curly birch branches, and the rustle of leaves is nothing but the whisper of dead ancestors.
    4. This tree was considered a guide to another world and was planted near the grave in the graveyard. And if the birch grew at the gate, its calling was completely different - to protect the house from evil spirits and evil eyes.

    But not all signs associated with birch are mysterious and scary. Russians considered birch as the embodiment of the Slavic goddess Beregini, they believed that the tree has female energy. So, a broom made of birch wood was placed at the head of a woman giving birth, this eased the pain of the woman in labor and protected her from death during childbirth. They also believed that if a birch tree is planted on a child’s birthday, it will become an invisible support and support for life.

    According to historical records, a birch amulet was made for a newborn, endowed with protective power from troubles and diseases, but even now Slavic amulets can be found on sale

    There is an opinion that a birch is a homemaker, if a tree grows in the yard of a house, then it will not work to build a strong family.

    Some harmless omens have survived to this day: gardeners still decide when to plant potatoes based on the blossoming birch leaves. And the winter planting of parsley and carrots begins only after the birch leaves fly around.

    Many believe that a birch planted by a pond helps to restore strength and peace of mind, and from the point of view of decoration, such a corner in the garden will always be a priority

    Decorate the area with thujas from a trusted supplier:

    • ? Thuja western Reingold - the birthplace of this culture is Southeast Asia, but today the plant has spread far beyond its borders. A strong dense shrub at first has a spherical crown, which becomes more oval as the plant matures. In spring, lush needles have a beautiful golden color, which gradually darkens, and becomes bronze by autumn. Spectacular coloration largely determines the increased popularity of this variety, both among professional designers and amateur gardeners.
    • ? Thuja western Danica is an evergreen shrub with a dense crown formed by flat scaly needles. The paws are located vertically and parallel to each other. By the age of 10 years, the plant reaches up to 80 cm in height and up to 1 meter in diameter. The annual growth is 3-5 cm. Thuja occidentalis Danica is not demanding on lighting and soils. However, it develops better on fertile drained soil enriched with compost or humus.
    • ? Thuja western Columna is an evergreen conifer native to the Americas. But today this unpretentious centenarian is grown almost everywhere. A slender pyramidal tree is no longer a rarity for city squares and parks. Spectacular culture and gardeners do not ignore.
    • ? Thuja western Smaragd is one of the brightest and most unusual cultivated conifers. It is very symbolic that the natives of North America called this unusual culture the "tree of life" - for its magical appearance and wonderful qualities. Europeans noticed a beautiful plant - this is how it got to the Old World, from where its procession began on other continents.
    • ? Thuja western Brabant - in terms of growth rate, thuja is second only to larch. However, unlike the latter, it does not shed its leaves and remains green all year round. The plant is densely branched and compact, dense lush crown often descends to the ground. The shoots are covered with brown bark with a beautiful reddish tint.

    Video: what trees can be planted near the house

    The amazing beauty of this tree will not overshadow the gloomy and ridiculous superstitions, there will always be supporters of unjustified signs.

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