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Betula populifolia
( Old Field Birch )

Betula populifolia is a small to medium birch tree, 20-40' in height, 10-20' spread. Growth habit is narrow, with slender branches, open, in the wild it usually forms multiple stems. It is one of the smallest and shortest lived birches, averaging 15-25 years. Thin smooth bark is reddish when young, grayish white on mature trees, does not really peel. One of the earliest trees to leaf out, with pretty spring green foliage, and dark green summer foliage that turns yellow in fall. Male catkins are 2-3" long, borne singly at branch tips, one of the distinguishing features of this birch. Quite tolerant of poor soils, and either wet or dry conditions, but does not like competition. Subject to the usual birch problems. Best used for naturalizing, not in the formal landscape. Native from Nova Scotia to Ontario, Delaware.
Important Info : Susceptible to many pests and diseases; short-lived.


How to Grow this Plant:


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Characteristics
Cultivar:n/a  
Family:Betulaceae  
Size:Height: 20 ft. to 30 ft.
Width: 10 ft. to 12 ft.  
Plant Category:landscape, trees,  
Plant Characteristics:low maintenance, weeping,  
Foliage Characteristics:medium leaves, deciduous,  
Foliage Color:green,  
Flower Characteristics:pendent,  
Flower Color:greens,  
Tolerances:deer, rabbits, slope, wind,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range:Mid Spring to Mid Spring  
USDA Hardiness Zone:3 to 6  
AHS Heat Zone:Not defined for this plant  
Light Range:Sun to Full Sun  
pH Range:5.5 to 7.5  
Soil Range:Mostly Sand to Some Clay  
Water Range:Dry to Moist  

Plant Care



Fertilizing
How-to : Fertilization for Young Plants

Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Look for a fertilizer that has phosphorus, P, in it(the second number on the bag.) Apply recommended amount for plant per label directions in the soil at time of planting or at least during the first growing season.

How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants

Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.

Light
Conditions : Dappled Light

Dappled Light refers to a dappled pattern of light created on the ground, as cast by light passing through high tree branches. This is the middle ground, not considered shady, but not sunny either. Dappled remains constant throughout the day.

Conditions : Types of Pruning

Types of pruning include: pinching, thinning, shearing and rejuvenating.

Pinching is removing the stem tips of a young plant to promote branching. Doing this avoids the need for more severe pruning later on.

Thinning involves removing whole branches back to the trunk. This may be done to open up the interior of a plant to let more light in and to increase air circulation that can cut down on plant disease. The best way to begin thinning is to begin by removing dead or diseased wood.

Shearing is leveling the surface of a shrub using hand or electric shears. This is done to maintain the desired shape of a hedge or topiary.

Rejuvenating is removal of old branches or the overall reduction of the size of a shrub to restore its original form and size. It is recommended that you do not remove more than one third of a plant at a time. Remember to remove branches from the inside of the plant as well as the outside. When rejuvenating plants with canes, such as nandina, cut back canes at various heights so that plant will have a more natural look.

Conditions : Full Sun

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Watering
Problems : Creating a Water Ring

A water ring, sometimes called a water well, is a mound of compacted soil that is built around the circumference of a planting hole once a plant has been installed. The water ring helps to direct water to the outer edges of a planting hole, encouraging new roots to grow outward, in search of moisture. The height of the mound of soil will vary from a couple of inches for 3 gallon shrubs, to almost a foot for balled and burlapped trees, especially those planted on a slope. Mulch over the ring will help to further conserve moisture and prevent deterioration of the ring itself. Once a plant is established, the water ring may be leveled, but you should continue to mulch beneath the plant.

How-to : Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a method of planting which promotes naturally drought tolerant plants and water saving methods. Much consideration is given not only to the plants chosen for the design, but the design itself. Lawns are greatly decreased in size and usually located in the center of plantings at a lower grade as to catch any runoff. Shrubs requiring the most water, are conservatively used and thoughtfully placed, where they may be easily watered, preferably from runoff, and moisture conserved. There is a strong emphasis on using native plants, which a purist will do exclusively. At the very least, improved cultivars of natives are highly recommended.

Irrigation maybe used to supplement watering, but takes a creative turn in the form of drip systems and recycled catch water. Organic mulches in the form of compost, straws, and barks are also used to retain as much water as possible. In extremely dry areas, it is not uncommon for gravel and rocks to serve as the mulch.

A xeriphytic landscape is one that takes your particular site into consideration. A plant that maybe considered low water usage in one area of the country, may not be in another area, due to climatic stresses.

Tools : Watering Aides

No gardener depends 100% on natural rainfall. Even the most water conscious garden appreciates the proper hose, watering can or wand.

    Watering Cans: Whether you choose plastic of galvanized makes no difference, but do look for generous capacity and a design that is balanced when filled with water. A 2 gallon can (which holds 18 lbs. of water) is preferred by most gardeners and is best suited for outdoor use. Indoor cans should be relatively smaller with narrower spouts and roses (the filter head).
    Watering Hose: When purchasing a hose, look for one that is double-walled, as it will resist kinking. Quick coupler links are nice to have on ends of hoses to make altering length fast. To extend the life of your hose, keep it wound around a reel and stored in a shady area. Prior to winter freezes, drain hose.
    Sprayers: Are commonly thought of as devices for applying chemicals, but can really be a step saver for watering houseplants or small pots of annuals rather that dragging out a hose or making numerous trips with a watering can. The backpack sprayer is best suited for this. Take care not to use any kind of chemical in tanks used for watering!
    Sprinklers: Attached to the ends of garden hoses, these act as an economical irrigation system. Standing Spike Sprinklers are usually intended for lawns and deliver water in a circular pattern. Rotating Sprinklers deliver a circle of water and are perfect for lawns, shrubs and flower beds. Pulse-jet sprinklers cover large areas of ground in a pulsating, circular pattern. The head usually sits up on a tall stem, except for when watering lawns. Oscillating sprinklers are best for watering at ground level in a rectangular pattern.


Conditions : Water Conditions

When selecting Water Conditions, take into account the amount of water this particular area of your site receives naturally. If you have an irrigation system, select the default normal. Some sites may be naturally wet due to boggy areas by down spots or very dry due to a high sand content. By working with your site's natural conditions, you will reduce maintenance. Do note that even the most drought tolerant plant must first become established, so be willing to provide about 1 inch of water per week during the first year or two.

Conditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants

Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Conditions : Outdoor Watering

Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:

* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.

* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.

* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).

* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.

* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.



Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants

Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

How-to : Reduce Watering

This plant requires less watering during winter months, so reduce watering from late November through early March.

Planting
How-to : Staking Trees

Staking is done differently depending on the size and flexibility of the tree, and the windiness of the planting site. Generally only trees that are planted in windy, exposed locations need to be staked. For most trees, a low stake is preferred, to let the tree move naturally. For windy areas or flexible trees, use a high stake. For trees more than 12 feet tall, use two low stakes on opposite sides of the tree or several guy ropes. The ties used need to accommodate growth and not cause bark damage with friction. Buckle-and-spacer ties can be found at garden centers, they are expandable and have a protective spacer. Ties without spacers should be formed into a figure eight to create padding. Latest studies have shown that when staking a tree, provide enough leeway so that the tree can move back and forth in the wind. Stronger roots will develop this way. If the tree can not move back and forth, these important roots will not develop and the tree might fall over during a storm, once stakes are removed. When planting a tree, stake at the time of planting if staking is a necessity.

How-to : Planting a Tree

Dig out an area for the tree that is about 3 or 4 times the diameter of the container or rootball and the same depth as the container or rootball. Use a pitchfork or shovel to scarify the sides of the hole.

If container-grown, lay the tree on its side and remove the container. Loosen the roots around the edges without breaking up the root ball too much. Position tree in center of hole so that the best side faces forward. You are ready to begin filling in with soil.

If planting a balled and burlaped tree, position it in hole so that the best side faces forward. Untie or remove nails from burlap at top of ball and pull burlap back, so it does not stick out of hole when soil is replaced. Synthetic burlap should be removed as it will not decompose like natural burlap. Larger trees often come in wire baskets. Plant as you would a b&b plant, but cut as much of the wire away as possible without actually removing the basket. Chances are, you would do more damage to the rootball by removing the basket. Simply cut away wires to leave several large openings for roots.

Fill both holes with soil the same way. Never amend with less than half original soil. Recent studies show that if your soil is loose enough, you are better off adding little or no soil amendments.

Create a water ring around the outer edge of the hole. Not only will this conseve water, but will direct moisture to perimeter roots, encouraging outer growth. Once tree is established, water ring may be leveled. Studies show that mulched trees grow faster than those unmulched, so add a 3"" layer of pinestraw, compost, or pulverized bark over backfilled area. Remove any damaged limbs.

Problems
Pest : Aphids

Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.

Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.

Prevention and Control: Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Lady bugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.

Fungi : Rusts

Most rusts are host specific and overwinter on leaves, stems and spent flower debris. Rust often appears as small, bright orange, yellow, or brown pustules on the underside of leaves. If touched, it will leave a colored spot of spores on the finger. Caused by fungi and spread by splashing water or rain, rust is worse when weather is moist.

Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and provide maximum air circulation. Clean up all debris, especially around plants that have had a problem. Do not water from overhead and water only during the day so that plants will have enough time to dry before night. Apply a fungicide labeled for rust on your plant.

Fungi : Leaf Spots

Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.

Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.



Pest : Leaf Miners

Leaf Miner is actually a term that applies to various larvae (of moths, beetles, and flies) that tunnel between upper and lower leaf surfaces, leaving a distinctive, squiggly pattern. A female adult can lay several hundred eggs inside the leaf which hatch and give rise to miners. Leaf miners attack ornamentals and vegetables.

Prevention and Control: Keep weeds down and scout individual plants for tell-tale squiggles. Pick and destroy these leaves and take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps. Know the Growing Degree Days (GDD)* for your area to target insecticide sprays when most beneficial for controlling the specific leaf miner. Seek a professional recommendation and follow all label procedures to a tee. *GDD numbers should be available from your local Cooperative Extension office.

Miscellaneous
Conditions : Fall Color

Fall color is the result of trees or shrubs changing colors according to complex chemical formulas present in their leaves. Depending on how much iron, magnesium, phosphorus, or sodium is in the plant, and the acidity of the chemicals in the leaves, leaves might turn amber, gold, red, orange or just fade from green to brown. Scarlet oaks, red maples and sumacs, for instance, have a slightly acidic sap, which causes the leaves to turn bright red. The leaves of some varieties of ash, growing in areas where limestone is present, will turn a regal purplish-blue.

Although many people believe that cooler temperatures are responsible for the color change, the weather has nothing to do with it at all. As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, a chemical clock inside the trees starts up, releasing a hormone which restricts the flow of sap to each leaf. As fall progresses, the sap flow slows and chlorophyll, the chemical that gives the leaves their green color in the spring and summer, disappears. The residual sap becomes more concentrated as it dries, creating the colors of fall.

Glossary : Naturalizing

Naturalizing refers to planting in a random pattern, much as itwould occur in nature. If you spend any time in the woods, you've probably noticed that plants often grow in groups. The center of the group is dense and towards the edges, plants are located farther apart. Narcissus bulbs are easy to naturalize if you use this method: fill a bucket with bulbs and toss them out. Plant them where they fall. You will notice a portion of the bulbs are close together while the others have scattered farther away.

Glossary : Deciduous

Deciduous refers to those plants that lose their leaves or needles at the end of the growing season.

Glossary : Tree

Tree: a woody perennial with a crown of branches that begin atop a single stem or trunk. The exception to this rule is multi-trunk trees, which some may argue are really very large shrubs.

Glossary : pH

pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.

Glossary : Landscape Uses

By searching Landscape Uses, you will be able to pinpoint plants that are best suited for particular uses such as trellises, border plantings, or foundations.

Glossary : U. S. Natives

Native plants require lower maintenance and usually have less pest problems. They are key components in the xeriphytic landscape and backyard wildlife habitat. Select your region and the search will look for all plants in the database that are native to your area.

Glossary : Soil Types

A soil type is defined by granule size, drainage, and amount of organic material in the soil. The three main soil types are sand, loam and clay. Sand has the largest particle size, no organic matter, little to no fertility, and drains rapidly. Clay, at the opposite end of the spectrum, has the smallest particle size, can be rich in organic matter, fertility and moisture, but is often unworkable because particles are held together too tightly, resulting in poor drainage when wet, or is brick-like when dry. The optimum soil type is loam, which is the happy median between sand and clay: It is high in organic matter, nutrient-rich, and has the perfect water holding capacity.

You will often hear loam referred to as a sandy loam (having more sand, yet still plenty of organic matter) or a clay loam (heavier on the clay, yet workable with good drainage.) The addition of organic matter to either sand or clay will result in a loamy soil. Still not sure if your soil is a sand, clay, or loam? Try this simple test. Squeeze a handfull of slightly moist, not wet, soil in your hand. If it forms a tight ball and does not fall apart when gently tapped with a finger, your soil is more than likely clay. If soil does not form a ball or crumbles before it is tapped, it is sand to very sandy loam. If soil forms a ball, then crumbles readily when lightly tapped, it's a loam. Several quick, light taps could mean a clay loam.

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