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How to Plant Hornbeam

By Barbara Raskauskas ; Updated September 21, 2017

The dense leaf structure of the hornbeam tree will grace your landscape, thriving in full sun to full shade conditions. Hornbeam is a deciduous, slow growing tree that will be content under the canopy of neighboring taller tree varieties. European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) grows larger than American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), with the European species reaching up to 60 feet tall and the American species reaching about 30 feet tall.

Select a location away from buildings and paved areas, like a patio or street. The heat generated from sun hitting a building can produce a situation too warm for hornbeam. Paved areas can limit the amount of moisture reaching the roots. The location can be anywhere from full sun to full shade. Contact your local authorities to determine if there are underground utilities, like gas or telephone lines to work around.

Measure the widest part of the rootball (the diameter of the rootball). Measure the height of the rootball from the base up to the widest point, not the top of the root ball. The rootball should be planted to the depth of the widest point of the rootball.

Dig the hole twice as wide as the rootball and one-and-half times as deep to loosen up the soil. Place the dirt in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp. For clay soil, you can mix up to 50 percent organic matter (like compost or leaf mold) to help reduce compacting soil. Partially backfill the hole to the depth measurement taken previously.

Place the tree into the hole by pushing or carrying the rootball. Do not carry the tree by the trunk. The trunk of the tree has been sitting on the rootball, and is not designed to carry the weight of the roots and dirt attached to them. Stand back and look at the tree, repositioning it if necessary so the best portion is facing forward. Also look at the tree from different sides to ensure that it is standing upright.

Backfill the hole halfway. Cut the twine or wire holding the burlap to the rootball and pull the burlap down halfway. Water to settle the soil and then finish backfilling the hole.

Water the planted hornbeam again, thoroughly saturating the soil. Using a slow running hose, you can better ensure that the water will soak straight down to the root area and not run off to the surrounding area. Buckets of water slowly poured around the rootball area can be used instead of a hose. Continue to water about every 10 days, spring to fall, if there is no saturating rainfall.

Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch to help retain moisture and to help control weeds.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow or tarp
  • Organic matter (optional)

About the Author


Barbara Raskauskas's favorite pursuits are home improvement, landscape design, organic gardening and blogging. Her Internet writing appears on SASS Magazine, AT&T and various other websites. Raskauskas is active in the small business she and her husband have owned since 2000 and is a former MS Office instructor.