Plant Spotlight On Beech Tree

Beech trees (Fagus sp.) have smooth silver trunks that stand quite straight, with glossy green leaves which turn yellow, then brown in the fall. There are many varieties of beech and most prefer full sun to part shade. European beeches are typically taller than the American variety at up to 90 feet, with an affinity for full sun and browner autumn leaves. The tree is more tolerant of pollution than other varieties of beech. American beeches grow to a height of 70 feet, and while they prefer full sun, they will also tolerate part-shade. It is grown and harvested for flooring and furniture. As a native tree, beeches serve many positive purposes for the environment. Hollow trees house birds and small mammals. Interesting shaped triangular beech nuts provide food for wildlife.

When, Where, and How to Plant

When purchasing a beech tree, make sure you understand if the variety reacts more favorably to part shade or sun conditions before choosing a site. Beeches appreciate a rich soil that is well drained, with very consistent moisture. Water the root ball well before planting. Dig a hole the same depth as the root ball, but at least 2 times as wide. Balled and burlapped plants should have as much of the burlap and wire basket removed as possible. Do not add any amendments to the planting hole as fertilizers and some manures can burn the roots.

Growing Tips

Mulching the beech tree after planting with 3 inches of compost will help it get established. Beeches are susceptible to root area disturbances. Continue the practice of mulching annually to assist the beech's shallow roots to stay protected and hold more moisture. Compost or mulching material should be kept at least 3 inches away from the tree trunk to prevent rot.

Advice and Care

Do not plant beneath power lines as the tree grows too large. Aphids are easily dislodged with a spray of water from a hose. Beech bark disease happens when a tree is attacked by scale and fungus, there is no cure. It can sometimes be challenging to grow turfgrass beneath a beech tree due to its shallow root system and dense foliage growth.

Companion Planting and Design

Beeches do not do well in parking lots or along streets where their root structure cannot expand significantly. They are sensitive to salt as well, so should not be planted near sidewalks that are salted. Plant beech trees in an area where the roots will have plenty of space to expand such as large lawns, estate parkways, or as a specimen in a park.

Try These

‘Roseo-Marginata’ is a tri-color beech that has green, white, and pink leaves with copper fall colors. It is best suited to part-shade. ‘Asplenifolia’ has an interesting fine cut leaf with golden fall color. ‘Pendula’ is a weeping beech with astounding arching branches. ‘Riversii’ has deep purple foliage all season that fades to coppery-orange in the fall.  

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