Royal Frost® BirchBetula hybrid ‘Penci-2'
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Betula hybrid ‘Penci-2'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Royal Frost® Birch is a striking specimen tree that has a bright white trunk and dark-purple leaves. The trunk stays white even when the tree is older, and the leaves keep their color well into the summer, before turning more bronze, and then yellow in fall. It grows rapidly, adding 3 feet a year when young, and reaches 30 or 40 feet tall and about 20 feet wide. Plant it as a showy specimen on a lawn or against a backdrop of plain-green trees. Grow it by water or on a rocky slope.
Full sun gives the best foliage color with the Royal Frost® Birch, but it will grow well in light partial shade. It is completely hardy in zone 3 and grows best in areas with cooler summers. It should be grown in moist but well-drained soil, preferably neutral to acidic sandy soils or loams. Mulch well and water regularly, especially in summer and when young. If given some care it will be unlikely to be troubled by birch borer, and it has natural resistance to Japanese beetles. Deer don’t normally eat it.
Gardeners in cooler parts of the country will be familiar with birch trees. You might also know, and love, trees with rich purple foliage – they make such striking specimens and are so appealing. Now, with the Royal Frost® Birch you can enjoy the graceful beauty of a birch tree along with the stunning impact of purple leaves. This gorgeous tree has the fabulous white bark we all love in birch trees, combined with deep-purple leaves in a slender, upright tree with graceful weeping branch tips. Drop-dead gorgeous is really all we can say about this amazing combination. As a striking lawn specimen it’s a winner for sure, or plant it by a stream or pond, or at the edge of a wooded area. Best grown in cooler zones, this tree takes away any reason for gardeners in cool areas to be jealous of the trees growing in the South.
The Royal Frost® Birch is a deciduous tree that grows rapidly, especially when young. It can add 3 feet of growth in a single year, so within a few years it will make a statement in your garden, maturing into a tree 30 to 40 feet tall and around 20 feet wide. The trunk is relatively slender and vertical, and it features beautiful white bark marked with horizontal rows of dark-gray spots, called lenticels. Even older trees have good white to light-gray bark color, and the bark is smooth and doesn’t peel much. Young branches tend to be semi-weeping, giving this tree a very graceful look. The slightly-glossy leaves are up to 3 inches long and 2 inches wide, rounded, tapering to a long, pointed tip. The edge of the leaf is irregularly toothed. In spring the leaves are an incredibly bold deep purple, and this color holds well, becoming more bronzy during summer. With the arrival of fall the foliage turns a wonderful glowing yellow. In spring the bare twigs carry hanging catkins of two kinds. Male catkins can be 2 to 4 inches long, and turn golden with pollen. Female catkins are 1 or 2 inches long and greenish, developing into cone-like fruits with many tiny winged seeds.
Using the Royal Frost® Birch in Your Garden
This tree is a great choice for a striking lawn specimen in a smaller garden, and with its fast growth-rate you won’t be waiting long for it to look great. Plant it alone or in a cluster of 3 or even 5 trees, planted about 3 feet from each other. Grow it at the back of a shrub bed or beside water. Planted against a backdrop of green trees it looks terrific.
The Royal Frost Birch is very hardy all the way through zone 3 and thrives in areas with cold winters and cool summers. It grows through moderate climates too, into zone 7, but in zones 6 and especially 7 it needs attention to watering in summer, and can suffer heat stress which in turn may lead to insect problems.
Full sun will give the strongest foliage colors with the Royal Frost Birch, but it will grow in a little shade too, developing some greenish tones in summer if it is too shady. It grows best in moist but well-drained soil, preferring sandy or loam soils that are neutral to acidic. It doesn’t have very much drought tolerance.
In all but the coolest areas this tree should be mulched thickly over the root system and kept moist, especially during the summer months. Give it a little attention and you will be rewarded with good health, vigorous growth and a beautiful tree. Use compost or rotted leaves as mulch, and spread it widely over the root zone, but not touching the trunk. Little or no pruning will be needed, but if you do prune do this in late fall or the middle of winter, as once the sap begins to rise in late winter cuts will bleed, weakening the tree and opening it to disease. This tree does not have high resistance to bronze birch borer, but this is usually only a problem with stressed trees. It is resistant to Japanese beetles, and deer don’t usually bother it.
The Evergreen Nursery Company, Inc. in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin, was founded in 1893, and back in the 1970s Thomas Pinney Jr. the owner at that time, began breeding birch trees. He created several varieties, such as the Renaissance Reflection® Birch, that have good resistance to birch borer. He also created a plant called ‘Penci-2’, which is a complex hybrid between three species. One parent is Betula populifolia ‘Whitespire’, from which it inherits the beautiful white trunk. The other parent is a purple-leaf beech called ‘Crimson Frost’ which is a hybrid between the Sichuan Birch, Betula szechuanica, from western China, and a purple-leaf form of the European white birch, Betula pendula ‘Purpurea’. In 2000 the nursery registered it with the trademark name of Royal Frost®, but never patented it.
This highly-regarded variety is often recommended as the best purple-leaf birch tree, and we agree with that. So will you when you see it growing in your yard. Order now, while our supplies hold out, because they will soon all be gone.