Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a versatile, hardy, sophisticated, tall tree, capable of forming a hedge, supplying privacy, reducing noise pollution and providing cover for local wildlife. Here at Hedge Xpress, we class Beech (Fagus sylvatica) as semi-evergreen as in sheltered positions it is capable of keeping its old leaves until May (a process called marcescence), when the new green leaves push off the old, coppery brown leaves. This ensures screening is maintained throughout the year. The leaves are ovular shaped with a criss cross pattern but are much smoother than Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus).
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is capable of growing up to 50m tall and forms the world’s longest hedge in Perthshire, Scotland stretching 530m in length and 30m in height. This stunning native tree has been an essential part of British landscaping for years and was incredibly important in the 17-19th century until it became almost as popular with the Grey Squirrel. It is possible to pollard and coppice Beech (Fagus sylvatica), as a result of this it will become much wider. The widest of these stretch up to almost 10m wide at chest height and is capable of surviving a hard pruning, making it easily manageable and can be maintained easily between 1-5m. As a hedge, prune in August so it will keep its leaves better. Alternatively, as a specimen, prune in late Autumn or winter to avoid the plant bleeding.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is generally not fussy about the soil type, whether it be chalk, loam or sand providing it is not heavy and waterlogged. Beech grows very straight and has noticeably smooth, grey bark and when established, it can grow between 30-60cm annually. You can expect between 10 x 6m over 20 years in good growing conditions. Though it can take a while to establish, it is much quicker to do so when planting potted beech; try not to move the plant around the garden much as you may be waiting a while for it to get going again.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) makes for a resilient plant or hedge, capable of being exposed to harsh winds , making it a perfect windbreak supplying shelter for your garden and local wildlife. It can withstand frosts down to -20C, having a RHS hardiness rating of H6. It is native to much of Europe and Turkey, making its way to Southern England in the last Ice Age it is suited to full sun or shade, though growth will be much slower in deep shade. Many of the Beech forests of Europe have been deforested over the years. Beech is monoecious, meaning it has both sexes of flowers on the tree, producing catkins in the Spring.
Interestingly enough, Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is edible and can be eaten raw in a salad whilst the leaves are still young. The leaves can also be used to create alcohol called Beech Leaf Noyau. Beechnuts or mast can be eaten by birds or other animals and is considered to be friendly to horses and other livestock.
- 30-60cm per anum
- Full sun to dappled shade, can grow in shade
- Prefers free draining soil
- Max height 50m+
- Max width 8m+
- As a hedge, prune in August to help retain the leaves better
- As a specimen, prune in late Autumn to winter
- RHS Hardiness rating H6 (-20 to -15C)
- Not toxic to animals or humans unless in huge quantities
Buying a hedge
There are many benefits to buying a hedge, which many people forget. For more information on why to buy a hedge, visit our page on why buy a hedge?
When buying a hedge it is important to know the different forms of hedging. For more information visit our page on Bare root, root ball, potted plants.
When purchasing a hedge it is important that you give it every chance it can to thrive. For more information on planting visit our Planting page. Though how you plant a hedge will depend on how thick and large you’re hoping for it to grow. 1.5 plants per metre will work for a single line hedge and 3 for a double row. Having the plants spaced 66cm apart and offsetting them by around 30cm, creating a ‘W’ shape, should leave you with the perfect setting for a dense hedge.
Beech Hedges and Wildlife
Birds: The Beech nut is an important food for many species including Great Tit, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Siskin. These are produced on female plants and appear after around ten years.
Mammals: The Beech nut is equally popular with small mammals including mice, squirrels and – importantly -rare voles.
Insects: Beech foliage is eaten by the caterpillars of several moths, including the barred hook-tip, clay triple-lines and olive crescent.
Birds: If trimmed in early August, a Beech hedge will keep its leaves, offering privacy to humans and an excellent habitat for garden birds.
Mammals: The thick shelter of an established Beech hedge offers a wide variety of mammals both temporary shelter or a home
Insects: Over 60 insect species have been recorded living in Beech
If you are planting a longer Beech hedge, then do consider letting one, two or more of the plants grow as a tree. A Beech left to its own devices will reach c.4m after ten years. Not only will your hedge become a domesticated hedgerow, once the trees grow taller than the hedge, they will start to provide an even richer habitat for hole-nesting birds, wood-boring insects and a home for a broad selection of fungi, mosses and lichen.