Beech, a tall, smooth-skinned gigantic shade tree

Large, straight beech tree

Beech is a majestic tree that is common in most of Europe’s forests. Here are all out tips to grow beech well.

Key facts to remember

Name – Fagus sylvatica
Family – Fagaceae
Type – tree

Height – 30 to 120 feet (10 to 40 meters)
Climate – temperate
Exposure – full sun

Soil – ordinary
Foliage: Deciduous
Flowering – April May

Planting beech

Beech is, like most trees, planted in fall. If purchased in a container with soil, you’ve got a bit more leeway since you can wait until the end of spring to transfer it to the ground.

  • Beech seedlingBeech loves places with a very high sun exposure but still tolerates part sun quite well.
  • It is indifferent to the type of soil, whether rich or poor, chalky or acidic.
  • However, beech doesn’t like soggy terrain, so it won’t grow well near riverbeds that regularly overflow.
  • Add a healthy layer of mulch upon planting to enhance root spread.

Follow our detailed advice on how to plant a tree.

As a hedge, keep a distance of 3 to 4 feet (100 to 120 cm) between two consecutive saplings.

Pruning a beech tree

Old beech pruned too lateNow, it isn’t mandatory at all to prune your beech tree, and if you’ve got the space it will look really nice if you let it grow naturally. But it’s also possible to reduce and control the size of your beech tree if need be. In that case, the best time to prune beech is in fall or in spring, just take care to work on days when it doesn’t freeze.

Note that whenever beech grows alongside pastures and cattle or horses often graze its leaves, it tends to stay small and grow like a hedge, never really growing any taller than the animals themselves. Prune off old branches during winter, this will trigger branching out and increase the lushness of its foliage.

Caring for beech

Leaves and seed podsBeech is famous for the quality of its wood. Many people also love its seeds! The triangular beechnuts, when pressed, even produce an excellent edible oil. Since it’s indifferent to soil type, it should grow fine nearly everywhere. Once grown and settled in, no further maintenance is needed for beech.

The hardiness to freezing and cold of beech goes down to -4°F (-20°C), which makes it a hardy tree by any measure. Not often prone to disease, you might observe fungal developments and sometimes even scale insects, which tend to weaken the tree.

Good to know about beech

Smooth bark of a beech treeA very tall tree, it easily grows to over 60 feet tall (20 meters) and the lifespan of a beech tree easily lasts several hundred years. Beech bark is very easy to identify, especially in winter: it’s very thin, and stays very smooth at any age.

Beech is one of the most famous and oft-grown trees across Europe, specifically even now in forestry. It is quite common to find forests that are exclusively populated with beech trees, but it’s more generally planted together with other species such as common oak (Quercus), often just called oak.

Beechnut husk with a seed still insideIts wood is much appreciated in furniture making, sculpting and to prepare stable workbenches, and it’s an excellent source of firewood.

Fruits of the beech tree are called beechnuts.

Smart tip about beech

Beech leafage is dark and dense: the shade it provides is among the coolest of all shade trees. A welcome gift during sweltering summers! To further increase its ornamental appeal, in addition to the regular green color, it’s easy to get your hands on purple-leaved specimens.

When growing in a forest, beech tends to block light out, making the underbrush sparsely planted

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Peter Castleton
Pixabay: Hans Braxmeier, LoggaWiggler, Wioletta, Monika Schnabel, Jan Mallander
own work: Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois