Which Beech to Choose: European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) or Purple Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’)?


The growing habits and preferred habitats of our two beeches are close enough that, as a general rule, where you can plant one, you can plant the other. There are, however, a few differences that may be important and so it is worth checking…
Here then is a comparison of the European Beech (bottom) and the Purple Copper Beech  (top)…
Foliage Type: both are semi- evergreen, but the European Beech is more likely to hang on to more of its leaves through autumn and winter – if the Purple Copper Beech is in an exposed situation, its leaves will tend to drop.
Colour: Take your pick – The European Beech offers new green foliage every spring which turns to a coppery brown in autumn while the Purple Copper Beech offers, not surprisingly, beautiful purple/copper leaves of varying and harmonious intensity that redden in autumn. If you can’t decide, there’s always a mixed hedge!
Hardiness: Both are hardy, though the European Beech is just a little more resilient.
Ease of maintenance: Both are extremely easy to maintain. We’ll be uploading a post shortly that will demonstrate just how easy.
Drought Resistance: Both are extremely drought resistant
Soil pH: Here we have a slight variance – the European Beech will be happy in any soil from acid through to alkaline while the Purple Copper Beech will tolerate neutral to alkaline soils. So, plant either unless your soil is acid, in which case stick to the European Beech.
Soil Type: Neither is fussy and will be happy in loam, sand or chalk.
Moisture: Both will tolerate moist or dry soils as long as they drain well – neither will tolerate being waterlogged. If your growing area tends towards the boggy, Hornbeam will be the better choice.
Light: Both prefer full sun but only the European Beech will tolerate light shade. Neither will thrive if placed in full shade.
Compactness: There is little to choose between them though the European Beech does grow tighter and may be preferred if you are looking for a barrier as well as a boundary marker.
Height: Both, of course, are trees and will grow accordingly if left unchecked. Both will provide a fabulous 2-3m hedge.
Rate of Growth: Neither is a slow grower, though the European Beech tends to be a little quicker