Your USDA planting zone will largely determine what species of birch will thrive and when the birch should be planted.
Choose Your Tree
Your latitude (USDA planting zone) will largely determine which of the several genus Betula species you will plant. In zones 2 through 5, you will likely plant the paper birch, B. papyrifera. Mature paper birch trees, which grow to be up to 40 feet tall, have white outer bark with black horizontal stripes called lenticels; the bark peels easily to show the inner bark, which is reddish-orange. Paper birch leaves are dark green, and in autumn, they turn golden. This is the most common variety, and the one most people picture when they think of birch trees. In USDA zones 5 through 9, a better choice is the river birch, B. nigra. It is a large tree, 40 to 70 feet tall at maturity, with cinnamon-brown bark. Its leaves are medium green, and turn brilliant yellow in the fall.
When to Plant Your Tree
Your planting zone will also determine when to plant a birch tree. In most northern latitudes–zone 7 and northward–spring is the best time to plant most trees, so that they have the entire summer to develop well-established root systems before winter dormancy. If you live in or south of zone 8 you can plant your tree in the fall. In zones 5 through 7, some trees can be planted in the fall; in these zones a birch tree can survive fall planting, but spring is still best. In and north of zone 4, it’s best to not even attempt to plant a tree in the fall; it likely won’t have time to become established before the cold of winter sets in.