Hornbeam, a very beautiful tree

Hornbeam leaf and katkins in spring

Hornbeam or blue-beech is a common tree in our forests, and it also appears in many parks and gardens.

Major hornbeam facts

Name – Carpinus
Family – Betulaceae
Type – tree

Height – 30 to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters)
Growth rate – 1 to 2 feet/year (30 to 60 m)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary

Foliage – deciduous
Flowering – spring

It is just as interesting as as a standalone as it is when part of a hedge or even to form tree tunnels.

Planting hornbeam

Hornbeam can be planted both as a standalone or as part of a hedge.

To make a hedge, space trunks apart by 3 feet (1 meter).

  • Hornbeam will tolerate part sun perfectly.
  • It prefers cool locations to warm ones, and doesn’t like places with a high exposure to sunlight.
  • Soil quality isn’t really relevant, as long as it stays relatively cool.
  • Whatever your situation, check our guidelines for planting.

If the climate in your area is very hot in summer (South, South-East or South-West), try growing European hop-hornbeam instead, which is a similar-looking and very beautiful ornamental tree better suited to that climate.

Planting hornbeam

Pruning and caring for hornbeam

Note that hornbeam is a plant with what is called marescent leaves. This means that although the leaves die off in fall, they remain attached to the tree until the following spring. Though not an evergreen, it still lets you make a privacy hedge! Only extraordinary climate conditions like snow or strong winds will lead the leaves to falling off entirely.

Hornbeam care

Hornbeam is one of the pioneer trees: they’re among the first to grow back when a forest is cleared, together with birch. It grows relatively fast, at about One foot a year (30 cm) during the first 5-8 years.

  • Hornbeam hedgeWhen part of a hedge, there is no restriction on how much you can prune.
    Prune according to the shape you plan to give it and how much the tree has grown.
  • When the tree stand isolated as a standalone, it doesn’t need any pruning.
    It’s natural bearing actually looks quite appealing when left to grow on its own.

If ever you have to prune your hornbeam tree, best do it in fall when the leaves have dried up, it is the best season for that.

As for diseases, hornbeam is very resistant and will not show any particular weakness.

Learn more about hornbeam

Wood from hornbeamHornbeam is a common tree in our gardens and forests.

Often used in woodworking for its hard, white wood, it is also a very elegant tree bearing dense, green leaves as it grows in soft, soothing shapes. The trunk twists and bulges under the bark, like muscles under skin. If ever you purchase furniture made from hornbeam, you’re the proud owner of an item built from one of the hardest woods ever!

It is very easy to care for and won’t cause you any problems whatsoever. This makes it a very easy tree for any gardener to grow!

The Carpinus genus contains nearly 40 species, the most common of which is Carpinus betulus.

Note, lastly, that hornbeam produces excellent firewood fuel thanks to its elevated heat-producing properties.

Smart tip about hornbeam

Select young hornbeam specimens for your hedges or if you want a fast-growing tree!

Also check on the color the leaves take on, because some varieties grow green and others carry deep purple leaves. In both cases, they’re deciduous, and the dried-out leaves stay on the branch during winter and will fall out in spring under the gentle push of fresh spring sap.