Behind the mystical-sounding name “blood beech” hides a natural mutation of the well-known red beech. The pruning-tolerant deciduous tree is common throughout Central Europe and is very popular as a privacy hedge in our home gardens. The plants, also known as purple beeches, enchant the viewer with the intense red coloring of their leaves.

General information about copper beeches

  • The trees only develop flowers and fruit after about 30 years.
  • The fruits of the copper beech are edible.
  • Belong to the fast-growing plants. – reaches an annual growth of up to 50 centimeters.
  • Are widespread deciduous trees throughout Europe.
  • In summer, the wood plays an important role in the brood care of birds.
  • The striking, dark red leaves of the copper beech lose their color over the course of the year and turn green.

Location and the optimal plant substrate

The densely leafy copper beech makes relatively few demands on its location. For this reason, the tree, with its striking autumn colors, is often found in the wild in forests, in parks and also on the edges of fields.

  • The copper beech prefers sunny places as well as very dark, shady locations.
  • Medium to deep soil is recommended to provide support for the heart roots of the tree.
  • The humus-rich substrate should contain small amounts of lime.
  • A clay soil retains moisture better.
  • A pH value of about 5.0 to 7.5 is optimal for the growth of the plant.
Note: Avoid locations that have too high a sand content. Because this substrate cannot store moisture for a long time.

fertilizing and watering

Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’ differs slightly from the requirements of many other garden plants when it comes to “fertilizing”:

  • Fertilize between the beginning of March and the end of July.
  • To avoid damage to growth, completely stop supplying nutrients from August.
  • An analysis of the soil is usually necessary for an ideal fertilizer composition.
  • Long-term fertilizers have proved their worth.
  • Small amounts of blue seed in spring promote the growth of purple beeches.
  • Mulch the soil around the plant in autumn or spring and fill it up with compost or horn shavings.
Tip: Fertilize in moderation and avoid getting the fertilizer in contact with the shoots and leaves.

Trees and shrubs in the home garden also need a regular supply of water, especially in the hot summer months. Copper beeches are no exception here either:

  • Long periods of drought damage the plant and can lead to shoots and leaves drying out in the long term
  • Water in summer as soon as the top layer of substrate has dried out. You can easily check the current moisture content with your fingers.
  • The plants are very susceptible to waterlogging.
  • To prevent root rot, you can mix larger pieces of clay under the substrate during planting. This ensures better and faster distribution of the water.
  • Copper beeches need a certain lime content in the soil. That’s why it doesn’t harm the plant if you water it with hard water.

planting distance

Copper beeches are large trees with dense foliage, even if they are often planted as ornamental hedges in domestic gardens. Stately specimens can reach a height of up to 45 m and a growth width of 15 meters with increasing age. When cultivating, a corresponding distance to other plants and buildings must therefore be planned.

  • Copper beeches that are used as a hedge require a minimum distance of about 50 – 80 centimeters.
  • Place a maximum of two plants per square meter. However, the deciduous trees should be trimmed back at a maximum of 2 meters in height.
  • If you do not cut regularly, the plant needs enough space. You should keep at least 15 meters to walls, house roofs, garden fences and other trees.

A rule of thumb says that half of the growth width should be maintained as a distance to other plants. Dense growth is intended for privacy hedges, which is why a few centimeters less in the planting distance often ensure opaque shoots.


The striking red coloring of the copper beech makes many hobby gardeners want to own such a tree themselves. Or maybe you just want to widen your own copper beech privacy hedge? Probably the easiest way of propagation is the sowing of beechnuts. However, copper beeches only develop flowers and fruits after 30 years and only then if they do not have to endure a pruning every year.

  • “Wild” copper beeches are often to be found in the forest and on field edges. Collect beechnuts there in autumn for your own rearing.
  • In order not to unintentionally serve as a winter reservoir for birds and mice, prefer the seeds indoors.

Cultivation of beechnuts

  • Like all types of beech, copper beeches belong to the dark germs.
  • The nuts or seeds must be stratified before sowing. To do this, place the nuts in a dark bag in the refrigerator for about 6 – 8 weeks.
  • Alternatively, you can put the seeds directly into a container with substrate and take them outside.
  • The cultivation substrate must be low in nutrients. Conventional sand has proven itself well.
  • Cover the beech seeds well with substrate.
  • The first shoot tips should appear on the seedlings by next spring at the latest.
  • After the first leaves have formed, you can transfer the young plants to a planter with humus-rich, loamy soil.
  • Immediate cultivation outdoors is also possible, but you have to watch out for pests such as snails.

Propagation by cuttings

Propagation by cuttings is also possible. Here, too, it is easiest if the shoot is taken from a free-growing copper beech. Varieties available in specialist shops are often grafted, so that propagating these plants often does not bring the desired result.

  • The best time for a shoot cutting is spring, before the plant begins to sprout.
  • Choose a two-year-old shoot and cut it off about 8-12 centimeters long.
  • At the bottom, the leaves are completely removed.
  • You have controlled conditions – and thus a better chance for rooting – with a planter.
  • Prepare drainage at the bottom of the vessel. This prevents waterlogging.
  • Without roots, the shoots are unable to absorb nutrients. Soil rich in humus is therefore unnecessary.
  • Use regular potting soil.
  • Put the cutting in and put it outside.
  • Water adequately in the coming weeks.
  • It can take up to two months before the first fine roots appear.
  • As soon as the young cutting begins to develop its own shoots or leaves, it can be cultivated outdoors as usual.
Note: Choosing the right location should be well thought out, because older plants can no longer be transplanted.


Normally this section is completely superfluous for the Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’. However, copper beeches are also suitable for growing as bonsai, which makes it necessary to move them occasionally.

  • Copper beeches are also in bonsai form quite suitable for cultivation in the garden.
  • The plant is transplanted every two to three years.
  • The ideal time for this action is early spring.
  • Choose a larger planter and also prepare drainage at the bottom.
  • The ideal substrate mixture consists of lava chippings, Akadama and humus.
  • Before the copper beech is transplanted into the new vessel, you should carefully trim the roots with sharp scissors.
  • Water sufficiently to facilitate the acclimatization of the plant in the new substrate.


As native deciduous trees, copper beeches are hardy and do not require any special protection in the cold season.

Copper beeches are very tolerant of pruning and can easily be kept as a 2 meter high copper beech hedge. Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’ needs pruning twice a year to maintain its growth height and shape.

  • The first cut takes place before the beech buds.
  • Cut back the plant to the desired height and width.
  • Strong pruning and pruning does not damage the copper beech.
  • If necessary, the second cut can be made at the end of June. However, this should only be moderate.
  • Undesirable side shoots can also be removed in September.

If you want to grow the trees as shrubs or copper beech hedges, start pruning the plants as early as possible. Beeches tolerate a strong pruning into the old wood. However, if a large part of the crown has to be removed, consequential damage can occur.

Even as a stately tree, the copper beech cuts a fine figure in the home garden. There is no need to cut back at a dizzy height.

  • The winter months are the best time for tree pruning.
  • Remove unwanted side shoots to maintain the tree shape.
  • Use pruning shears or a saw to remove branches that grow too steeply. These “water shoots” can damage main branches in the long run.

diseases and pests

Leaf Blight  – Wilted leaves in summer are often due to the fungus Apiognomonia. Wet weather favors the infestation.

  • Special fungicides are commercially available for effective elimination of the fungal disease.
  • Remove the fallen leaves immediately and dispose of them with the normal residual waste. Because this is a source of infection for the following year.
  • Leaf browning is only an optical flaw and does not cause any further damage to the affected beech.

Beech cotton aphid – These fascinating insect pests can reach a size of up to 3 millimeters and have specialized entirely on beech. The complete life cycle of the beech wool aphid, also known as beech aphid and beech ornamental aphid, takes place on a plant. The partly wingless insects pierce the cells of the shoots and leaves in order to feed on their phloemo juice. Excessive infestation manifests itself in the form of curled shoot tips and leaves turning brown.

  • Spray the infested plants with a nettle broth to remove small populations of beech mealybugs.
  • Rely on the natural predators of harmful insects, such as lacewings, parasitic wasps and ladybugs.
  • Only use chemical insecticides as a last resort. Mealybugs are useful producers of honeydew, which not only ants but also bees diligently use.

Beech leaf gall midge – Gall-like formations on the leaves of the copper beech are due to the larvae of the gall midge. These pests are often found on beech trees and feed on the cell sap of the host plant in the larval stage. Control is usually not necessary as the white to yellow colored galls are only a visual problem. Nevertheless, you can of course also take action against the beech leaf gall midge:

  • In late autumn, completely remove fallen leaves from infected beeches. The larvae overwinter in their galls and develop into adults in the spring.
  • In specialist shops you can obtain effective insecticides against the infestation of the beech leaf gall midge.

The trees with the magnificent leaf color do not require any special care. Discolored leaves and curled shoots are usually due to fungal or pest infestation.

You don’t always have to resort to flowering plants for a blaze of color in your own garden. The dark red leaf coloring of the copper beech conjures up a wonderful contrast and is also relatively easy to care for and tolerates pruning. A tree that also cuts a decorative figure as a hedge plant.

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