The Fast-Growing Tree That'll Provide Natural Shade For Your Yard

Often overlooked, shade in your yard can make all the difference. While having a sunny yard is nice in the spring and fall, it can be unbearable in the summertime. Adding trees that provide shade can give you some relief from the intense rays of sunlight. Unfortunately, the amount of time it takes for most trees to grow doesn't really offer any quick relief. But there's hope. This fast-growing shade tree can give you shade in just a few years: the river birch.

River birch trees can reach between 40 and 70 feet tall and are commonly found growing in moist and damp landscapes and near river banks, hence its name. In just 10 years, it can reach as tall as 20 feet, making it fast-growing compared to certain species of arborvitae and other types of trees like juniper, spruce, and Japanese maple. The river birch has a sprawling canopy reaching up to 40 feet wide, offering plenty of shade below. Here, we'll help you determine if this tall, shade-casting tree suits your yard.  

Is the river birch a good yard tree?

If you're looking to add some natural shade to your yard, the river birch is a great tree to consider. It grows between 1½ to 3 feet per year. But, while it can provide shade for yards, it doesn't like growing in shady spots and needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Aside from being fast-growing, what makes this tree great for yards is the range of conditions it tolerates. It also grows in USDA Zones 4 through 9, giving it a better tolerance to warm temperatures, unlike other birch trees. It also does well in poorly drained clay and well-draining sandy soils and in varying pH ranges from acidic to neutral. 

One thing to keep in mind about river birch trees is that they require moist conditions and thrive in damp areas. This means your tree will need frequent watering, at least once per week. Additionally, the roots of this tree are constantly searching for water, spreading far and wide. For this reason, it needs to be planted at least 15 to 20 feet away from your house or sewer lines. While the roots are fairly shallow and are not as destructive as the stronger, deeper root systems of some trees, it's still best to plant them at a safe distance to lessen any chance of damage.

How tall do river birch trees get?

River birch trees are gorgeous, majestic deciduous trees reaching up to 70 feet tall with trunks of about 3 feet wide. Their graceful branching, distinctive peeling white and red bark, and large canopy give any yard interest throughout the year. Given their expansive size, these trees need ample amounts of space. For individuals with smaller yards, a full-sized river birch is probably not the best choice. However, another variety of birch tree called the 'Little King' only reaches 10 feet tall, with a canopy of 12 feet wide. Despite their diminutive stature, the great thing about this variety is you get all the benefits without the size and space requirements of the standard river birch. 

Remember that they can get messy as well. Throughout the year, birch trees drop catkins, branches, leaves, and pollen. So take this into consideration when deciding if the river birch is right for you. Still, it may be the perfect addition if you're looking for a fast-growing tree to transform your lawn with natural shade.