The silver birch -- tall, slender and pale -- is called the Lady of the Wood in folklore. It is a hardy pioneer, one of the early trees to cultivate burnt-out forest areas. However, its shallow root system makes it a difficult ornamental tree.
The roots of the silver birch spread wide but close to the soil surface. For this reason, silver birches require cool, shaded soil to thrive. Direct sun heats the roots and kills the tree.
Protection From Soil Disturbance
The shallow roots of the silver birch make it susceptible to damage by soil disturbance. Driving -- or even walking -- over the root area can kill a silver birch. Homeowners should not plant these birches near paths or roads.
Silver birches are sensitive to even short periods of drought. Their roots do not have access to water below the surface soil and dry out easily. To help your silver birch thrive, mulch around the tree and water deeply at least once a week.