Blog - Beech Hedge vs. Hornbeam Hedge



Landscape architects specifying hedges for properties most often select European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) or Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). The two varieties are similar in many ways, but European Beech creates a far superior hedge for a number of reasons:

  • Leaf retention: Beech retains its light brown foliage through early winter
  • Foliage: Visually striking, with deep, glossy green in the spring/summer to bright chartreuse or golden-yellow in the Autumn. Some Beech foliage color variants also exits—purple being most common.
  • Bark: The bark also has aesthetic value, being smooth and grey—even with leaf loss in late winter, a bare Beech is striking.
  • Value: Incredible longevity and subsequent value make them an asset to any property they’re planted in.
  • Longevity: Beech have lasted 200+ years in the same footprint in many parts of Europe. While specimen planting of beech can be massive, beech grown as a hedge are easy to maintain in the same narrow footprint they were planted in.
  • Soil and Stress Tolerance: Adapts much more quickly to mild environmental and urban stressors and better tolerates poorer soil conditions.
  • Pests and Disease: Significantly better natural pest- and disease-resistant qualities than the Hornbeam and one of the most resistant trees on the market.
  • Hardiness: European Beech is hardy in USDA zones 5-8.

The Hornbeam, while it makes an excellent choice for standalone topiary due to its general symmetry and architectural features, simply doesn’t have the longevity, pest- and disease-resistance of the Beech. Hornbeam typically is a tree with less visually impactful foliage and is a slightly more particular plant with higher maintenance needs and more thoughtful care:

  • Less tolerant of poorer soils, environmental stressors and colder climates.
  • Overly sensitive to transplanting.
  • Poorer leaf retention compared to the Beech; while mature foliage is an attractive bright green, autumnal leaf loss can be less attractive, typically yellow-brown or weak chartreuse.
  • Smooth grey bark is fairly similar to Beech, but a Hornbeam’s trunk is typically crooked and knottier, making is a less visually impactful bare tree in the winter.
Brent Markus