Producing fabulous foliage, beech hedging is a really great screening plant, as even in the wintertime it retains most of its leaves. The fagus sylvatica, otherwise known as the European Beech or copper beech hedge plant, is one of the most popular beech hedging plants.
Hedging can greatly define different areas in your garden. This deciduous, perennial tree grows in most environments and has fairly straight forward care instructions.
Throughout this guide, we will show you how you can grow big, bold & beautiful beech hedges in your backyard. From learning how to propagate from seed to making sure you're planting your hedge correctly, we’ve got you covered. Plus, discover all the warning signs if your beech is dying.
Getting to Know Beech Hedging
Fagus Sylvatica - a deciduous, perennial plant - is best known for its foliage, not flowers or fruit. It’s leaves, which grow into a spreading canopy over the plant.
The beech forms part of the Fagacacae family. As indicated in its name, the European beech stems from the northern hemisphere – with first records coming out of Germany in the 15th century.
The copper beech hedge is a moderately fast growing tree, of about 40 to 60 inches per year, and can be seen in many landscapes across Europe and the globe.
If left to grow, the beech tree can grow as tall as 5 metres in height. Throughout the year, beech leaves change in shade from a gorgeous gold and green in the summer months and then a coppery colour in the winter.
Varieties like the fagus sylvatica purpurea produce darker more purple leaves.
Where to Grow Your Beech Hedge Plants?
Beech hedging plants can grow in most environments and do have a certain degree of frost resistance. However, it is not suitable to plant your beech in drought prone areas.
The Beech plant is not particularly specific when it comes to soil requirements and can tolerate sunny and semi-shaded areas.
The level of sun may affect the density of colour in your leaves. The most important aspect is to ensure you do not plant your beech in water-logged soil.
How To Grow Beech Hedging
Growing beech is fairly easy, whether you are propagating from a seed or purchasing a young plant. While it is able to grow in a variety of soils, including chalk soil.
The most important factor you will need to consider is ensure that your soil is well-draining.
Propagating Beech from Seeds
- Propagation from a seed is perhaps the easiest and cheapest way to start growing your beech hedge.
- Purchase seeds or simply collect ripe beech masts (nuts) in late summer and autumn.
- Sow straight away or store in your fridge (some experts recommend planting during the month of February).
- When sowing you can either plant them into Rootrainers or straight into a sandy seed bed.
Planting Your Sapling or Young Beech Hedge Plant
- Planting or re-plant of your Beech hedging plant is recommended during mild spells in the winter season as this is when the tree is dormant.
This can be anytime between October and February.
- You will want to allocate your plant adequate space for your beech hedge to grow. For ideal hedge growth, space plants about 18 inches to 24 feet apart.
- Planting a sapling into the soil is recommended to occur 18 months after germination. However, even if seeds were planted directly into the soil, it is still recommended to replant the soil.
This soil disturbance will encourage the growth of branched, fibrous roots.
- Cut away root hairs and then plant your beech into deep, cool soil. You will want to dig a hole that is roughly twice the size of the root ball.
- To aid with growth, you can plant a solid stake at the bottom of the hole.
- Fill in soil around the root ball then stamp around the soil in order to remove any air pockets.
- You can then bind your stake to your plant.
- Be sure to water your young plant regularly, however, be careful of overwatering.
Beech Hedging Care Guide
Once your plant has established itself, it is quite care-free. You will want to ensure regular and generous watering especially in the first years of growth. Thereafter, natural irrigation through rain should suffice, unless it is a particularly dry season.
Be sure to keep the base of your beech free of weeds as these can affect plant growth. To avoid excessive weed growth you can consider covering soil with a layer of bark or lead mould to deter weed growth.
Should you want to support your beech hedge plant with some additional nutrients, consider adding a organic fertilizer to the soil. Only do this during your plant’s second growing cycle.
Should you have made use of a stake, be sure to remove it 2 or 3 years into the growing cycle. Majority of your care will be around pruning and trimming your beech plant.
How to Prune/Trim Your Beech Hedge Plant
- Prune your beech plant regularly to regulate shape and size as well as to help deter pests and diseases.
- For ideal hedge growth clear lower sweeping branches.
- Pruning should occur annually either in August or February.
- Aim for a flat topped A-shape in the cross sections so as to ensure adequate light reaches even the bottom leaves.
- Depending on tree size, pruning is easiest performed with a hedge trimmer. (Check out our review of the best hedge trimmers for 2022).
- If your beech hedge plant is looking particularly sparse, consider shortening the leading an longer shoots by up to 1/3 of their size.
Problems Your Beech Hedge Plant might face
As with most outdoor plants, your copper beech hedge might be susceptible to certain pest-, fungus-, or bacteria-linked problems. While most are largely treatable, some can pose deadly for your beech plant.
What is eating my beech hedge plant?
Pests can be a common occurrence, with some have a greater effect than others. There are two types of pests that we have seen to be quite prominent of the beech plant.
Woolly Beech Aphids
- These tiny critters shouldn’t cause too much damage to your plant unless left unchecked.
- This insect is covered in a wool-like secretion and will nest on the underside of leaves.
- These aphids secrete a clear, sticky liquid which not only attracts wasps but promotes the growth of black sooty mould.
Beech Scale (Cryptococcus Fagisuga)
- This insect leads to bark disease, which means you may have an insect and fungal infestation on your hands.
- These insects are about 1mm long and are covered in a cream, cottony secretion which can cause lethal disease on your plant.
- If you are noticing milky, waxy spots on your tree. Take action immediately.
To take care of your pest problem, first spray down your plant with a garden hose to remove any excess pests. You can then treat your plant with natural insecticides to ensure you won’t have a continuous pest problem.
Why is my Beech hedge plant dying?
Disease can also become a problem in copper beech hedge plants. Some forms include cankers or a powdery mildew. These are generally easily treatable.
Unfortunately, your beech hedge plant can fall victim to Honey Fungus.
Tell-tale signs of Honey fungus include:
- Deep cracking bark
- Abnormal Leaf discolouration
- White fungal growth on bark close to ground
- Sometimes you may even find mushrooms growing from infected plant material
There is no known treatment for honey fungus and your best option will to remove the entire tree, including any and all root systems, and burning the plant to avoid further infection in your garden.
You can also prevent contaminants by building a physical barrier around plant or making use of raised beds.
Beech Hedging Frequently Asked Questions
When should a beech hedge be planted?
For the best growing results, you should ideally plant and establish a beech hedge during the dormant season between November and March.
Nurseries also tend to stock bare-root beech plants more during this time which will make it easier for you to find young specimens to grow.
How do you thicken a beech hedge?
During early spring, add some organic compost or well-rotted manure into your soil by mixing it into the top layer. You can also add some mulch around the base of your hedge for better moisture retention during the upcoming warmer months.
For an extra boost, you can consider also adding a little blood and bone fertilizer to the soil in late winter. If you choose to fertilize, be sure not to overfeed your hedge as beech can be sensitive to too much nitrogen.
How quickly will a beech hedge grow?
Being a relatively fast-growing plant, beech hedges will usually grow around 30 to 60 centimeters per year in good conditions.
Do beech hedges have deep roots?
The root systems are very shallow in the first couple of years after planting.
Wrapping Up Beech Hedge Growing Guide
So, there you have it. Everything you’ll need to know to ensure you have gorgeous growing beech hedge plants in your garden. Check out our Griselinia growing guide and list of fastest growing hedging plants for more options.
When planting, make sure you give your beech enough sun and space to grow. While it’s not needy on nutrients, at the very least, ensure your soil is always well draining so you never have your beech hedging in water logged soil.
Should your copper beech hedge be getting out of hand, make sure you keep up with regular pruning. Other than that, you’ll have great, green hedges that can keep you a little secluded from your nosy neighbours.