Copper Beech Tree Tips

Copper or purple beech (Fagus sylvaticus 'Purpurea') is a variety of the European beech tree. Foliage is red-purple when young, changing over the course of the growing season to near green in the fall. The term "copper beech" sometimes also refers to Fagus sylvaticus 'Cuprea', which has somewhat lighter-colored leaves than 'Purpurea'. The trees are native to Europe and have been imported into the United States since Colonial times. A mature tree can grow 60 feet tall or more, with a full, rounded crown. The easily-recognizable bark is smooth and gray.


Plant young trees where they will have plenty of room to grow. Though the trees grow slowly, the crown of a mature specimen can be up to 45 feet wide. Trees develop wide, shallow root systems, so do not plant where roots will disturb sidewalks or paved areas.


If you have to transplant a young tree, do so in spring rather than fall to give roots a chance to get established. Always mulch transplants thoroughly, but do not allow mulch to touch the bark.


As the tree grows, its dense shade will discourage grass and other plants from growing underneath. Cover the ground with a wide swathe of mulch, or try growing English ivy, which sometimes succeeds under beeches.


Beeches like moisture. Water generously in times of drought, especially if trees are young.

Keywords: copper beech, Fagus sylvaticus, Fagus sylvaticus purpurea, purple beech, Fagus sylvaticus cuprea

About this Author

Elisabeth Ginsburg, a writer with twenty years' experience, earned an M.A. from Northwestern University and has done advanced study in horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. Her work has been published in the "New York Times," "Christian Science Monitor," "Horticulture Magazine" and other national and regional publications.