When a new hedge is created, different beeches come into question. The hobby gardener asks himself whether he should plant a hedge made of hornbeam, copper beech or red beech. The differences between the various plants can be quite large. Not every type of tree is equally suitable for every garden. The following article should help to make the decision easier.

Hornbeam is a birch plant

Probably the biggest difference between hornbeams and red beeches or copper beeches is, on the one hand, the color of the leaves, but on the other hand, a hornbeam is not a beech, as the name might falsely believe, but a birch plant. This is why it has a white wood, which has also given it the name of white beech. It has the following properties:

  • strongest wood of all European trees
  • hence also known as stone beech
  • has green foliage
  • turns yellow in autumn
  • Height 20 meters
  • sunny to shady location
Tip: Compared to the hornbeam, the red and blood beeches are real beeches. The red beeches have a reddish wood and are often used to build furniture. The copper beeches got their name from their red-brown foliage.

Which tree for a hedge?

It depends on various factors whether a copper beech, copper beech or hornbeam is better suited for a garden hedge. So beeches are generally more sensitive, especially when choosing the location, it must be carefully checked whether it is suitable for beeches at all. Beech trees therefore need more sun, whereas hornbeams can also cope well with mostly shady spots. The following criteria and differences should be observed when considering the purchase of copper beech, copper beech or hornbeam for a hedge:

  • Choice of location
  • Color of leaves
  • Color of wood
  • there are children or animals in the household
  • Space available
  • Beeches can get very big
  • Hornbeams generally stay smaller
  • Request for privacy protection even in winter
  • Prices of trees

Since both the European beech and the copper beech usually do not shed the dried leaves over the winter, they are popular in the local gardens as a hedge, because they offer good privacy even in winter. The leaves usually only fall when the new shoot comes. Hornbeams, on the other hand, let the withered leaves fall before winter. You can look through the hedges.

Tip: Another very important aspect is definitely the price. Because hornbeams are usually cheaper than the copper and red beeches. Depending on the desired length of the hedge, this can make a significant difference.

Differences between the beeches

The common beech and the copper beech differ in appearance, but in terms of care they are the same, since they are beeches and thus also the same genus. So the two only differ in appearance in color, but not in shape. They both reach the same size and the shape of the leaves is also the same. Contrary to its name, the common beech has green leaves, whereas the copper beech has red-brown leaves. The care for both trees is as follows:

  • sunny to partially shaded location
  • too much darkness cannot be tolerated
  • Soil not acidic
  • slightly damp
  • no waterlogging
  • many nutrients desired
  • comes out as a tree without pruning
  • cutting is required in the hedge
  • hardy and deciduous
Tip: The autumn leaves are also the same for both, because they turn red-orange in autumn. They are not evergreen trees, even if the leaves often remain on the shrub until they sprout over the winter.

Caring for the hornbeam

Care should be based on the birch family, not the beech, even if the difference is not that big. So the ideal care of the tree looks like this:

  • sunny to shady location
  • keep moist
  • fertilize little
  • only fertilize young plants
  • only cut into shape as a hedge plant
  • very easy to cut
  • can be cut into any shape
  • Solitaire doesn’t need a cut
  • are hardy
  • shed leaves in winter

Since hornbeams are deep-rooted, they can even be planted on a hillside without them slipping away in too much moisture and heavy rain. Beeches, on the other hand, do not hold up well on a slope because they are shallow-rooted.

Appearance and growth

Hornbeams form the new foliage earlier in spring and thus sprout earlier. The hornbeam hedges look fresher in early spring than the beech hedges, where the old, dried-up leaves hang over the winter and only fall off when new shoots are later. If you want a high hedge quickly, you would be better off with the fast-growing hornbeam. Because even if the copper beech and copper beech grow larger, they still grow more slowly, a crucial aspect for the choice of plants, especially in the first few years after the hedge has been cultivated. The leaves of the different trees also differ as follows:

  • young beech leaf prone to burns
  • Beech trees are bright orange-red in autumn
  • Hornbeam yellow foliage in autumn
  • falls off early before winter
  • Hornbeam always deciduous foliage
  • European beech also has deciduous leaves
  • Copper beech has red-brown foliage in summer
  • Beech leaves shiny and smooth
  • Hornbeam leaves deep-grained and coarse


Another big criterion for the choice of plants for a hedge is certainly which of these trees have poisonous plant parts. This consideration is particularly important when there are small children or animals in the household. Therefore, with regard to toxicity, the following must be observed:

  • Beechnuts generally poisonous
  • Copper and European beech fruits
  • the leaves are also slightly poisonous
  • Hornbeam nuts are not poisonous
  • Hornbeam not poisonous even in leaves
Tip: Since small children like to put everything on the ground in their mouths, in a household with small children it is better to forego a copper or red beech hedge and to plant hornbeams here.

There are many criteria and differences between copper beech, common beech and hornbeam, all of which will help determine which plants in a hedge the hobby gardener should now choose. It starts with the color and structure of the leaves and branches and ends with the price. In addition, the family situation must also be included in the decision, because if small children or animals are in the household now or in the near future, then it makes more sense to create a hedge from the non-toxic hornbeams.

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